Monday, May 19, 2008

Meditations on cats, present and past

I've been sick with the flu for much of the past week, and spent a lot of time with our cats. Well, perhaps not much more time than usual, but instead of trying to get them to quit pawing at me and meowing to be let in and out and in and out, I paid attention to them.

Though tiny Kaylee still looks and moves like a kitten, she is beginning to show some signs of common sense. She has also recently become a bit more affectionate. Sitting still for more than a few seconds has always been a problem for her, but now she seems to be able to sit on a lap and have her head scratched for a minute or so. Oddly, in view of this, Kaylee is very good companion when I'm sick. If I run a fever, she is on me like glue. We've had cats like this before, that just "take over" when someone is significantly ill, and then wander off to resume an aloof lifestyle as soon as the owner recovers.

Large-tabby Zoe, who is perfect happy throwing her 13 pounds of fur and apparently un-retractable claws directly across my chest and going immediately to sleep, doesn't seem to differentiate between sick owners and healthy ones. They're all nice to sleep on.

Sheba, whose deafness contributes to her feline self-centeredness, didn't seem particularly concerned that I was sick. She snored right through some particularly miserable episodes.

But I noticed that instead of yowling and knocking things off the furniture to wake me up at the usual time, all three of the cats slept in when I did.

As the weather gets warmer, the tabbies are starting to refuse to come in at night. Sometimes one comes in, and in my sleepy and increasingly inept attempts to capture the one out on the patio, I let the captured one of the pair out again and have to start all over.

I was up quite a bit in the middle of the night this week. One night I found myself in the kitchen with the cats (they were hoping for a handout) and glanced out the glass door at the back garden. Suddenly a big fat raccoon ambled up the back stairs onto the little porch and put its nose against the door. Zoe hissed and whined. The raccoon was unimpressed. I walked over to the door, and it remained unimpressed. I think it was looking past me at the cat food bowls in the kitchen. It's probably going to report to its clan that they should try back in the afternoon when I'm out gardening and tend to eave the door open.

The lawn went unmowed much of the week (until Zorg got into gear on Sunday) and the tabbies were hiding in the long grass like lions, and springing out at each other. Sheba, being bright white, has no illusions about being able to hide in greenery.

This led us to think back on poor Socks, a big long-haired tabby we had at the old house in Wallingford. In Wallingford, we lived next to "the house" on the block — you know, the type of run-down, overgrown place with six cars that you'll find on most older North Seattle streets. The owner of the house (actually, the owner's black sheep son) went months, perhaps years, without mowing. The local cats, possums and raccoons (mice? voles?) had created a network of paths through the back yard. When we put a second floor on our house, we gained an aerial view of the feline Ho Chi Minh Trail and amused ourselves picking out the various cats hiding in the foliage.

One afternoon Zorg looked out the window of the upstairs office and panicked. The lawn had been mowed to a stubble, and what appeared to be the dead body of a cat — Socks — was in the middle of it. He grabbed binoculars and saw it truly was Socks. But when he rushed out the back door and into the neighbor's yard, he realized Socks was alive and perfectly fine — at least physically. Socks was laying out there in the sun because he thought he was still hiding; he was too dim to understand the implications of the grass being gone.

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