Friday, February 29, 2008

Talk to the Animals

I am the Cat Whisperer. Cats just like me; well, most animals do. The only cat I've ever met that didn't like me at all, ever was my mom's friend Andy's cat Dusty, but since I maintain that Dusty is a demon incarnate anyway, that works out for us. That cat has ruined more pantyhose of mine than you can possibly imagine - back when I wore pantyhose. I swear Dusty's bi-polar too; he'll gladly let me scratch him while he's curled up on the bed or couch, but as soon as Andy or one of his sons enters the room, it's all hissing and growling and swiping at my pantyhose. Fiend.

Every since I can remember we've had cats in our home. I really don't
know why; my mother has never been a pet person until recently. My dad enjoys them, though he's a dog person now, but it's really my sister who's responsible for the introducing the feline element in our home. The story goes (though Dad claims he doesn't remember this happening) that my then three-year-old sister prayed for a cat at evening prayers and the next morning, there was this tabby cat meowing on our front porch. When Nanje (my sister) saw the cat, she said "Mommy, Mommy, Jesus sent me a kitty." And that was that. It's not like you can tell the kid that she can't keep the cat that Jesus sent her. So Irving Katz entered our lives and maintained his dominion for the next 20 years.

I have a hard time existing without feline companions; I've done it for several years at a stretch, but it's not pretty. Currently I have a three cat household; two are mine while the third belongs to my mother. My two are calico twins, one with a black patch over the right eye and one with the patch over the left. I got them at St. Giralda's Animal Shelter two days after moving into my apartment seven years ago. I went in for one cat and came out with a pair because they were clearly very bonded, frolicking around in their cage and making my mom laugh. I've never regretted it.

They are both female cats as calicoes are only ever female, and their names are Baxter and Hollis after two minor characters in the great Silverado, but more because of the flawless Kevin Kline's delivery of "No, I'm not Holland," except when I was naming
the twins, I thought went "No, I'm not Hollis." I like Hollis better anyway.

Baxter (above right. I haven't figured out how to label yet; you're lucky to be getting pictures at all at this point) is the scaredicat of the two, jumping at the least sound or movement, transitioning from complete purring bliss to rocket launch across the room in a heartbeat. I have to hold her down when I cough or sneeze or she'll have a seizure from leaping straight up into the air with fright. She doesn't like to be held, but she'll lie next to me and curl herself around my arm or my head if I'm lying down, rolling around and purring with delight, so ecstatic with joy that she'll often roll herself right off the bed. Sometimes when she's curled into and around me, only the judicious placement of my arm prevents her from falling off the bed. Occasionally, I'll drop it out from under her quickly so she wobbles on the edge for a second and can see how close to the edge she is. Don't worry, I always catch her. And she always rolls right back into the same position.

Baxter doesn't meow a lot and so when she does it's more like a gurgle, as though her voice isn't used to the activity, so it begins as a "me" but gets caught in her throat halfway out so the "ow" is ragged and gurglish. She also has a butt fetish - thankfully, not mine. She loves to have her hind end scratched and patted, so much so that she literally backs it up into my face to the point where I have to swat it away and then reiterate the "no tushy in the face" clause in our cat/owner contract (you should see the fine print on that!). And she's tiny, no matter how much food I give her, she just burns it off like no body's business. Baxter employs the eat-a-little-
then-go-away-and-come-back-later-to-eat-some-more manner of supping. This poses a challenge as her sister eats anything that isn't nail down (and is very crafty in
how she gets it too) and makes meal time...interesting.

But for all her nervous issues, Baxter seems to be the dominant one because Hollis just can't do without her. In the early days when Baxter would sometimes get stuck in the bathroom, (oh the places you'll go!) Hollis would stand outside it and me
ow or track me down till I figured it out and released Baxter from her horrible imprisonment. And if Hollis gets into a scrape with Mom's cat Feaghan, it's Baxter who comes streaking in from three rooms away at the first cry to corner poor Feaghan in revenge. Do not mess with the Baxy.

Hollis is our imp. Such a trouble maker. Her main nickname is Stinker because she is a crafty one when it comes to getting what she wants. She'll be eating Baxter's food when I'm standing right next to her and I'm all "I'm standing RIGHT HERE" and she's all "Glup, glup, glup, mmmm food".

Another nickname I call her is Pasha as she's always demanding to be adored. Never met a person she didn't demand love from, although some do take longer for her to warm up to than others. I get home from work and it's "ME - OW" I go into the living room in the morning and it's "ME-OW" all "you've been awake for 45 seconds now, why aren't you petting and adoring me?"

Since she eats everything she can get her paws on
, she's got herself a belly that still doesn't seem to slow her down. I laugh to see it wobble back and forth beneath her as she trots from one room to the other. She's agile and fearless, which sometimes ends with her head caught in the handles of a plastic grocery bag and when she can't get herself loose, she just drags it around with her until I set her free. Nearly every night, Hollis will inevitably, without fail, climb up the bed and onto my lap and settle on my bad knee like a heat seeking missile. I've had a brace on the dang thing and she's just climbed right on top of it.

She also head butts my chin for kisses and treats, which is our little trick together. Every morning when I get out of the shower, she comes up on the bed for about 10 minutes of nuzzling and sniffing. Apparently she really likes my shower gel, cause she'll sniff my arm a
nd then lick it a little to find out how tasty I am for that day (very). Then I get ready while she waits or at least until the blow dryer comes out. Soon as she sees it she's off like a shot for better things - like the food bowl - until I'm done drying, which is when she returns for the exit treats she gets every day as I'm leaving the apartment.

Last week after I came home from choir rehearsal and had managed to finagle a parking spot without too much of the usual drama, I'd already fed the little buggers and was in the living room talking to my mom and here's Hollis climbing up around me on the couch and meowing at me with such intent and focus you'd have thought I was wearing cat nip perfume.

She's such a talker, sometimes just wailing away in the kitche
n for no reason, just cause she's there and no one is rushing out to see to her needs. So she comes and finds us instead. There she was last night, emphatically demanding my attention. Mostly because she missed me, and it's always nice to know someone missed you.

And lest I forget, Feaghan is a tortoise-shell calico who keeps to herself a lot in Mom's bedroom because the twins tend to gang up on her, though I maintain that she gives as good as she gets. Poor Feaghan had a lot of upheaval with moving from MA to PA to MA to NJ all in the course of 3 years, so it's taken a little while for her to feel safe, but she's out and about without too much trouble most days now. Her claws are sharp and massive, mostly because I never cut them, which is her own damn fault as she's sliced up my arms on several occasions in my attempts to groom them, so she can just live with them now. She doesn't meow - she squeaks like a damaged squeeze toy. She loves having her ears scratched and spends most of her time lying on Mom's lap, keeping her company.

Feaghan is our hunter. She emits a very distinctive, low-throat growl that you can hear two rooms away. Always - always - this means that she has some toy in her mouth. She has amassed a collection of them - and helped herself to the twins' hedgehog, Montjoy. Feaghan's favorites are the blue fuzzy ball, the big, red, fuzzy ball, and of course, Percy, her hamster. Her hunting instinct has been cultivated by sheer bribery; Feaghan always receives treats as a reward for hauling her trophies from the bedroom to the living room. Basically, she gets treats for anything that she does because my mom has become easy in her advancing years. Nearly every day a parade of toys make their way from the bedroom to the living room, strewn along the pathway in places designed for me to trip over them. Then in the morning, they manage to migrate their way back into the bedroom again. The best is when I come out in the morning, or home in the evening, and find Percy on his hind legs, all prepped and ready to go, waiting for a call to arms to start marching.

An island of misfit cats.

No comments:

Post a Comment