Tuesday, February 28, 2006

It Takes Four to Curl

Theo and Diego-san have a complicated relationship. Where Theo and Thompson can fight and wrestle one minute and sit there cleaning each other and sleeping next to each other the next minute, the usual interchange between Theo and Diego involves Theo entering a room and Diego then leaving. Theo chases Diego around but that usually ends with Diego hopping up somewhere high enough where Theo can't reach him.

There was one evening when Theo and I were playing fetch and after about a zillion throws I decided I needed to get some other work done. Theo dropped the ball at my feet and looked up. I refused to look back. Eventually he picked up his ball and brought it over to where Diego-san was lounging and dropped it at Diego's feet. He gave Diego the same look as he was giving me, hoping I guess, that Diego would play fetch with him. Wasn't going to happen.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Another Chance

This is Thompson's story. He was found in a park by a woman who fed him every day. One day she noticed that he hadn't been coming around as usual. He was later found in a trap, left front leg all but rotted away. But that's when fate smiled upon him a bit- he was brought to a no kill animal shelter. The vet who performed the surgery said that when Thompson awoke the first thing he wanted to do was eat. That doesn't surprise me.

I learned that at the clinic he was called "Tumbles." And from what the foster family that cared for him told me, it took a bit of time for him to learn to get around on three legs and not four. But now there's little he can't do that the other two boyz can.

After Max died I had doubts about adopting another cat. It's a hard fact of life that as a pet owner there is a significant chance you will outlive your pet (unless it's a turtle or a bird). I met someone who changed my way of thinking. Laura Lee told me that it wasn't just about me- that since I was a good cat person and there were so many cats out there looking for a good home, it was my duty to adopt another cat (or two).

I'm still not sure I would have adopted another cat if I hadn't met Thompson. There's something both sad and comforting about the look he gives you. And to watch him tear around the house and explore and make the most out of life is inspirational. Every day inspirational.

Lonesome Town

The late great Mr. Max was a solitary cat. I often thought about bringing in another cat into the household when Max roamed the halls (and rooms) especially the last few years of his life when I wasn't around much. But given that whenever we took a walk and Max would spot a cat blocks away and hiss and get his hackles (?) up, I thought it would be more stressful than companionship to try and introduce a friend into his life.

Now Max is probably rolling over in his urn given the population of cats that occupy HIS house.

I sometimes wonder how Theo, Thompson, and Diego-san would do on their own in a one cat house. Thompson dotes on the other two so I think he wouldn't be as happy. He often takes his cue from Diego- waiting to do something until he sees Diego does it first. Theo lived in a house with seven other cats before moving in with me and the boyz and he constantly is pestering the other two to play.

Diego-san I think would actually enjoy a few moments alone. There are times he just craves my attention and now that Theo follows him around like a little shadow Diego spends much of the day seeking a little peace and quiet. He's such an impressive looking cat I'm sure he would have had no trouble finding a house that would have gladly accepted him and lavished him with all the attention in the world. But he and Thompson got along so fabulously in their "foster home" that the shelter I got them from wanted the two to be adopted together. I'm forever grateful they did.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Whole Lotta Purring Going On

Being away from the boyz for two and a half weeks I came home wondering if I'd finally have the answer to a question- do Thompson, Diego-san, and Theo see me as much more than a great big food dispenser? Apparently the answer was decidedly yes. All three were extra affectionate throughout the evening and when I went to feed them they weren't all that interested in eating.

I was a bit surprised that Diego, usually the most grounded of the trio, seemed to have had the most difficulty in spending all that time mostly without human companionship. Diego didn't quite seem to know what to do with my return. He would follow me into whatever room I wandered but he refused to hop up on my lap. When he joined me in bed under the covers he was purring so loud that it sounded like I was with a den of lions.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Gowee Homee, Gowee Homey

My dog sitting days are over. Kurbie and Torii's regular caretaker got back in town early this morning. Torii tore upstairs to see her (2 a.m.) with such enthusiasm that it made me think that he thought I was rather boring. While she lavished Torii with lots of attention Kurbie waggled on over to me and gave me a kiss. I was actually rather touched.

My own boyz were a tad surprised to hear me come home (4 a.m.) They didn't know what to do. Theo wanted to snuggle and couldn't stop purring. Thompson ran to his food dish but ultimately came over and wanted his neck scratched. Diego-san bellowed, ran to the sink, watched the water flow, bellowed some more and eventually sat with his back to me looking out into the dark.

Kind of glad to be home where things are back to the routine (things are never normal in the home for wayward kitties).

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Mindlessly Entertained

Theo has a couple of "stupid pet tricks" in his arsenal. The first is I'll sit him in my lap tummy side up. I'll bring his tail up in front of his nose and mouth and inevitably he'll begin mindlessly licking it like it's a great big lollipop. It's like a great big treat- he won't stop licking until I move his tail away. All the while his eyes are at their maximum size- a look that always gives him the appearance of being the owner of a completely blank slate.

Even more impressive is Theo's ability to play fetch. When he hears the sound of a ball (his favorites are the crinkly multi colored balls) he'll excitedly sit at my feet until I throw the ball. He tears after it with such fervor that Thompson and Diego-san have learned to jump up some place high and safe for fear of being run into by a whirling dervish. Theo then comes waddling back, drops the ball at my feet and if I don't continue repeating this process he'll meow until I get the hint. This can go on and on and on...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Hanging On

Diego-san's passion can lead him not only into strange pursuits but also into predicaments. One morning as I was taking my shower I noticed that there was a big shadowy figure walking back and forth impatiently on the vanity across from the shower. Since I didn't have my glasses on I couldn't really tell which one of the boys it was but still I knew the only one who would think to test whether the bathroom door was latched and discovering that it wasn't would actually come into the bathroom, was likely Diego. I tried to quickly finish up my shower but I noticed the shadowy figure had stopped moving. I just knew what was going to happen next.

I was hoping the figure was smarter than what I was anticipating his next action to be. Sure enough in a flash of a moment the figure launched himself off the sink and tried to land over the glass shower door. He wasn't even close although he managed to grab on to the top of the door. So there we were, the two of us- one in a running trickle of warm water, the other hanging on for dear life on the other side of the shower door. It was kind of amusing to see him all stretched out not knowing what to do next. I couldn't really help because there was no way I could pull him over and I knew if I opened the door he'd fall. I chose the second option hoping the landing would be soft enough not to hurt but scary enough where a repeat of this early morning activity would never be repeated.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Professional Napper

Most visitors to my house don't get the chance to see what a cat's cat Thompson is. He's got some trust issues and he startles easily so whenever someone knocks on the front door his inclination is to run and hide. But in the every day moments around the house Thompson is as friendly as can be. He loves to talk- he grunts when he walks and he usually announces his arrival into a room with a meow. When we nap together Thompson is the greatest ever at that craft. He'll lie on the side where his front leg is missing, rest his head snuggly on my chest and he'll sleep until I need to get up. He can lie there for hours, as content as can be. I love taking naps with Thompson. I love that I get to see a side of him most others miss.

Friday, February 17, 2006

And Down the Stretch They Come

About the only exercise I get these days is racing the boyz up the stairs. This particular routine started with Diego-san (as so many do). Theo quickly caught on, and Thompson joins in every now and again.

Two summers ago I had the attic of my house finished into a bedroom/bathroom. The 12 stairs are fairly steep. When the upper wing was brand new, every time I'd start the ascent upstairs Diego would go tearing on by me. When Theo joined the fold he made it a point to beat both Diego and me up the stairs. Now whenever I need to go upstairs I do so nonchalantly, not wanting to let the boyz get a head start. As soon as I hit that first stair I run as fast as I can. No matter where they are in the house Theo and Diego will try to be the first ones upstairs. It's like they are either playing for pride or they think there is some big treat awaiting for them on the other level.

Diego's gate is much more graceful. He'll even skip stairs on his dash upwards. Theo's style is more workmanlike but his diligence often pays off. He's often the winner.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cat Power

What goes around, comes around. During bouts of insomnia I used to annoy (frighten? piss off? torture?) Max the cat with impromptu midnight piano concerts. I haven't gotten up and tinkled (in that way anyway) since he died. One of the first few days Diego-san lived in his new surroundings I was awoken early one morning to the sound of seemingly random piano notes being played. I got up to see Diego strolling up and down the keyboard. I was gonna keep the keyboard cover closed but I figured the noise would discourage a return engagement anytime soon. Diego-san showed me the first signs of his persistent nature. I was woken up a few days later by a longer concert.

Diego's music is more Bartok than Bach, more jarring than mathematical but I always get a kick when he feels the need to express himself musically.

So maybe it isn't a coincidence that my favorite CD of the year thus far is Cat Power's "The Greatest." I've read reviews comparing her to everyone from Dusty Springfield to the Cowboy Junkies. Whatever. For some reason her music really makes me miss Juliana Hatfield. My favorite song on the CD is "Empty Shell," a song that would do Juliana proud. It just kills me. "I love and and I miss you too... I really do love you and I really do miss you too..."

The CD is sparse in a subterranean way; the lyrics proving sometimes the less said the more effective. The backing is provided by Al Green's band (including horns) but they never overwhelm Chan Marshall's dreamy singing. "The Greatest" doesn't rock but it's as mesmerizing as watching a big black cat lose himself as he walks back and forth on a baby grand keyboard.

Cats and Dogs

My dog sitting duties of the past week and a half have been equal parts fun and stressful. Kurbie and Torii have personality coming out of their impressive sized ears. But they don't really get along- Torii is so playful but part of that playfulness is constantly getting into mischief and constantly knowing what buttons to push to irritate Kurbie.

As a kid I always thought I wanted a dog. My parents didn't let us have any pets given my sisters' allergies and the fact that there were already five of us who needed to be fed and put through college. One of the first things I did when I moved out on my own was to get a cat. Turned out to be the world's coolest cat ever (the late great Mr. Max) who taught me about all things feline and how any other species just wasn't quite as cool.

Taking care of Kurbie and Torii has meant leaving my own boyz by themselves for the most part. My niece is feeding them and I have tried to stop by for visits during my lunch hour. Theo looks confused (well I guess that's normal) and he remains as affectionate as ever. Thompson looks hurt by being abandoned and just wants to be fed while Diego saunters away as if to let me know he doesn't care one way or the other.

I'm looking forward to returning home but I know deep down I'll miss the two guys my friend affectionately refers to as her "lil assholes."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

That Wacky Wacky Kitty Behavior Vol. 1

For the last week and a half I’ve been away from the boyz as I’ve been dog-sitting two peppy Rat Terriers who live 23 miles or 36 minutes away from my house. Feeling somewhat guilty about disrupting the routine of our household I stopped by the pet store the other day and bought the boyz a fancy motorized mouse toy. The mouse is supposed to taunt and entertain cats by moving in an erratic fashion. As I got the gift assembled each cat had a different reaction. Diego was more interested in the box than the actual toy. Thompson stood off to the side, far off to the side. Theo watched as the mouse speedily bounced around. He didn’t flinch as the rubber rodent smacked him in the face repeatedly (albeit with time in between each blow). He wasn’t fazed although he seemed perpetually stunned, at this random punch in the snoz. Suffice it to say I turned the toy off and the boyz seemed much happier batting the now stationary prey.

Doin' The Thompson

My friend A- has many talents. Among these is the ability to perfectly imitate one of Thompson's idiosyncrasies. Thompson takes advantage of missing a front limb to freely roll from side to side on his stomach, lone front paw held high above his head. This is an open invitation to rub his belly and the longer one rubs his belly the longer Thompson does the Thompson. A- mimics the Thompson masterfully- most impressively capturing the joy and spirit of the dance/move.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Great Big Grizzly Bear by the Running River

Diego-san loves running water. As soon as he hears a faucet turned on he'll come prancing into the room. He'll hop up on to the rim of the sink. The routine then truly begins. He'll paw at the porcelain in a circular motion like he's digging for clams. Next he deliberately moves his head toward the stream of water. Then he'll drink. And look up at his surroundings. And drink some more. It's almost like meditation. I'm sure if he were allowed to roam in the wild he'd find himself a nice peaceful stream and that'd be his home.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Other Side

Theo has door issues. Whenever I close a door behind me and he finds himself on the other side he will meow his high pitch, tiny sounding mew. He won't stop until I open the door. To his credit he will always then either rub up against me or start climbing my leg as if indicating he wasn't trying to annoy me as much as he really did miss me in the twenty seconds he couldn't actually see me.

If I leave a door slightly ajar Theo will try to push it open. Unfortunately he doesn't quite understand the concept of how a door functions so he will try and open it by pushing his paws through the open crack and just by occasionally accidentally brushing the wood will the door begin to open further.