Sign up for my newsletter

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Cat

Cat-Boy, seemingly your average if slightly more gorgeous than usual feline, has become more and more interesting to me over the years. When the Guy first came into the picture, Madison was a brown terror--likely to bite, fairly aggressive, and prone to pushing me around. Hungry at all hours of the day or night, he used to try to herd me to the kitchen when I was sleepwalking from the bedroom to the washroom. If I failed to go in the direction he wanted, he would bite at my ankle or calf. Since I'm blind without my contacts, I never saw it coming, and suddenly would be under attack from below. My nights were interrupted by pain and fear. It infuriated me.

I started out with the idea that this was not my cat. Any discipline he received should be at the hands of the one who brought him home as a kitten from the vet's so many years ago. But after watching The Guy and Cat-Boy together, I realized that the only way I was going to make this work was by becoming Top Cat. The next time Cat-Boy tried to bite me, I gave him a good smack and scolded him in the harshest terms. It took a couple of weeks, but he started to get the message. He was welcome to bite The Guy, who had always made roughhousing part of their play, but biting me was out of the question.

Next, I started reclaiming my space. Madison would take my seat on the couch and crowd me on the bed. I started pushing back. Then, Mike went on an archaeology dig for two months, and Madison and I were alone. I fed him, played with him, clipped his nails and yelled at him when he acted out. I held the phone out for him and he listened to Mike's voice coming out of the receiver. We fell in love.

It's been five years since I met the Guy and Cat-Boy. We have formed a happy family. The cat, who once couldn't be trusted if you petted his head more than two quick strokes, now rolls over, exposing his white-shirted stomach to be rubbed, sometimes even with strangers. He's still a little food hound who recently embarrassed us at a dinner party by eating the pate from the coffee table, but in general, the humans decide when he gets extra treats. He has learned a special, low-pitched trill, with which he asks for evaporated milk in his saucer. He knows that when he uses that trill, he is irresistable.

Okay, he's a cat. But yesterday, when we were eating dinner, I heard him bump his water bowl. A minute later, he did it again. When he did it the third time, I realized what he was up to. The light was behind him, and the shadow of his head was on the water. He couldn't see it very well, so he tried pushing his bowl across the floor to move the shadow. Of course, his shadow returned when he lowered his head, so eventually, he gave up and drank the water anyway.

For the first four years of his life, he wouldn't drink from a water bowl. He drank from faucets, which dripped in the old house. If we forgot and turned the faucet off extra hard, he would ask us to turn it on so he could have a drink. He ignored water bowls, except to drop toys into them.
Then, on the long car trip from California to Nova Scotia, we gave him a green ceramic bowl to drink from in the hotel room, We never dreamed he would use it, but he did, and he has used it ever since.

Not long after, we were still travelling when I had put down his water bowl in the motel room but not yet filled it. He stuck his face in it, and drew up looking as surprised as a cat could look. His face had touched the bottom of an empty bowl, and he felt a right fool about it. From that day on, he would either dip a paw in to check the water level before drinking, or would push the bowl and look for the movement of the water. He wasn't going to be caught out again.

It troubles me to know for an absolute fact that this cat is as conscious, emotional, rational and decisive as I am. I fear that he is smarter than most people. He has trained the Guy (no slouch in the brains department himself) to leave the door to the basement open for him all day, even though we lose heat by doing so.

He is trying to teach us to let him outside, but it's a lesson he believes we are too stupid to learn. We can't explain to him the dangers--the martens, minks, coyotes, fishers; the barbed wire, wild cats twice his weight. The four thousand miles we travelled away from the home that, for all we know, is magnetically and irretrievably fixed in his ganglia. He doesn't speak much English. I see his frustration that I speak limited Siamese. I see him looking at me with utter exasperation as I leave the house and shut the door in his cocoa-brown, pansy-shaped face. He jumps up on the sink and raps at the basement bathroom window, howling. We wave goodbye like we don't know what he insists on. Then we drive away, shaking our heads. Someone always says it then.
"Poor little guy".

No comments: