Why I’m Running Away With the Cat Circus

ShadyCatsI’m thirty years old. I get blind drunk once a week because I’m too poor to do it more often. I frequently don’t wear real pants for weeks at a time. Some days the only conversation I have is with my dog.

I’m not just single but divorced and still fuming and sniveling inside about my last relationship. I keep reactivating my OkCupid account, trolling for some kind of unicorn-man to fix me, despite having no car, living with my father, and working fifteen hours a week tending bar at a pizza restaurant.

I like the Cobra Starship song “Hot Mess,” because I relate to it at a visceral level.

I am whatever the opposite is of having one’s shit together. In the previous forty-five minutes I’ve applied to be a trainer at Sea World, a Puppy Facilitator for Guide Dogs of Texas, for any job with “veterinary” in the title, and for seventeen restaurant positions. I am tired of saying that I have “over ten years of customer service experience.” I am tired of saying that “[animal care and/or hospitality] is my passion.” I am extra tired of saying I’m “very interested in the position you have available for [stupid shit].” So when I see this Craigslist ad, I respond, because why not. it reads:

Aspiring animal trainer/experienced animal caretaker (Chicago and US)

Aspiring animal trainer/experienced animal caretaker to travel the country with a troupe of trained cats. (plus a groundhog, a chicken and a few rats)

Looking for an outgoing person with a sense of humor, flexible personality and schedule (we will be sharing RV/hotel rooms) for a series of mini-tours across the country.

Must be comfortable on stage and engaging with fans and be detail oriented when cleaning cat areas. Social media/marketing skills a plus! Other production work with commercials, film and still photo work possible during off times. Job is very physical, so must be in good shape.

Expect tight quarters, craziness and a lot of fun as well as an experience of a lifetime. Pay varies, but includes per diem as well as pay on show days…plus tips! and needless to say, no cat allergies.

Next tour starts in March (eastern States) and usually runs 2 months on and 1 month off.

I do worry that I am going to die of responding to an ad on Craigslist. For some poorly explained job involving living with strangers, no less, not even for a date. But really, in my head, that “why not” echoes. Though I missed my window age-wise for Real World/Road Rules Challenge, one of my previous career aspirations, I am not dead yet.

I’m envisioning traveling around with some sort of illegal zoo in a dusty RV, shading my eyes from the hot sun as I scoop litter in the corner of a rural county fairground in Texas. I am wearing all black, except for my cowboy boots. They are red. A cat hisses behind me. I drawl, “Shutcha dang mouth, Princess Fluffy,” as I retie my jaunty bandana.*

Because of this, I tell my first interviewer that I imagine myself as “hot, sweaty, and covered in cat litter” when she asks what my fantasy about the job is. She laughs. “So you’re not a princess then.” I look down at my once-white and hole-riddled tank top. I pick a lo mein noodle off my chest. What is she saying?

When I mention this potential job on Crasstalk, PoBoyNation asks me if it’s for the Acro-Cats. “Impossible!” I think. “This is for something like that, only much, much less legit.”

After a couple interviews it becomes clear I really am interviewing for the Acro-Cats. For those of you unfamiliar with the rarified world of traveling trained cat troupes, there are only three in the United States. The Amazing Acro-Cats are one of them, and by default one of the most well-known.

Samantha Martin and her cats have been on “Must Love Cats,” the Jay Leno show, and have been featured on countless news programs. Martin and the cats also do work for film and commercial productions when not touring. In the show, she espouses the benefits of clicker training (my preferred training technique) as the cats pretend to play cat-sized instruments and run into the audience when they don’t feel like performing. They’re cats. They do what they want.

I need this job. I want to print up business cards that say “Professional Cat Wrangler.” I want to do a Harlem Shake video with cats. I want to know in my heart what the phrase “like herding drunk cats” really means, after an “incident” involving a water dish filled to the brim with vodka.** I want to know if cats are mean drunks.***

I want this to be “Eat, Pray, Love Cats.” I want to learn about life, love, and training cats. But it’s more likely that I’m going to be going to bed drunk and lonely every night with clay-based cat litter in my bra, having nightmares about fifteen cats who won’t perform on cue.

It is just another batshit decision in a long line of batshit decisions. Like the time I moved from Louisiana to Chicago with two days’ notice, the time I got married, the time I went skinny-dipping in the ocean in the middle of the night hours before Hurricane Wilma made landfall.

But here’s why I want to do it: You have all the trappings of a real life– an office job, a car payment, a mortgage. A nice big flatscreen and friends you see in real life. Two years left on your gym membership. A living room set. Nice dishes. A dentist you go to regularly. Clothing that hangs in a closet. You cook yourself nutritious meals. You go out for brunch with your boyfriend.

You have things you can’t leave behind, or things you don’t want to leave behind. I don’t have any of those things. I am floating untethered, blissfully free or crushingly alone, depending on what you see when you look at my life. I see a complex equation: unsimplified, unsolved. I assume that running away with the cat circus is going to be what solves my problems, because I assume that of every job and relationship and purchase and bet I’ve ever made.

So I’m going to do it. And you guys are coming with me.

*Alternate accessory: a bolo tie.

**I would never really do this. Or at least I wouldn’t admit to it in a public forum.

***They almost definitely are.

Photo via Flickr

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