Lucky Takes a Hike

The Kitty Chronicles, Chapter 4

By Deborah Salomon

Hello, January. Hello, annual kitty column. Don’t groan . . . my kitties provide enough material to fill a page every month. But, try as I may, I can’t convince the world how intriguing cats are. Also, that you don’t have to be crazy to tune in.

Recap: After a lifetime of rescuing and adopting animals, I had retired. Then, six years ago a coal-black kitty came to my door, friendly and hungry. Black cats are so special, needy and mournful. I fed him outside for months before letting him into my home and my life, later learning that he — a neutered male with front claws removed — had been abandoned when his family moved away.

I named him Lucky because any animal I adopt is.

Then I noticed another cat — mottled grey and white, cross-eyed, lumpy and grumpy — sitting on various porches. Neighbors called her “everybody’s” because she begged more than enough food. Her clipped ear indicated a spayed feral. I added Fancy Feast to the mix. One day she showed up with a bloody paw. I opened the door and that was that — except for her disposition, which prompted the name Hissy. Hisses quickly turned to purrs. Now, she’s Missy, Lucky’s devoted companion who mothers him, fusses over him, wrestles him and pushes into his food bowl.

Whereas Lucky possesses keen intelligence, deductive reasoning, powerful persuasion and the sweetest disposition I have ever encountered in an animal, Hissy’s a dingbat, always underfoot, forever wanting something.

Missy makes me laugh. I adore Lucky.

Both go out, but not far. They are content to luxuriate on porch chairs, and under the bushes. A few months ago, Lucky developed a worrisome habit: disappearing for 12 hours, sometimes longer. The first disappearance happened when a dog got loose and chased him down the hill and into the woods. I frantically combed the area with a flashlight, then made myself a chair bed near the window where he cries to be let in. Morning dawned, no Lucky. He did not appear until suppertime, tired and limping. Since then, he’s been on several jaunts. Could he be looking to retaliate against the dog? Has he found a second home? When he returns Missy goes into a frenzy of licking and rubbing against him. Something’s going on. What is he telling her? Cats meow only to communicate with people; they speak to each other silently, with scents and gestures.

Lucky also speaks with his eyes, which are more expressive than Kate Winslet’s. Sometimes, they look worried, frightened. Other times, content. I’ll never forget the look when I opened the door on a possum. “What the . . . ?” When Lucky wants something he will find me, paw my leg, speak plaintively and lead me to the kitchen, or the door or the sofa.

Lucky seldom goes out in cool weather. Instead, he has reclaimed the heating pad. I have severe arthritis in both shoulders. Sleeping on a heating pad helps. Last winter I bought a nice new one covered in flannel. Hmmm, Lucky thought, as he settled down by my shoulder. This feels nice. By morning, there was more of Lucky on the pad than of me. Soon, we were a two-heating-pad family. He loves the warmth so much that he naps there during the day, in a state of bliss.

What about poor Missy? Far as I can tell, Lucky has established an invisible wall around the pad, which she dares not cross, even when he is elsewhere. Trump could use his skills.

Having argued feline intelligence, I must now dispute the aloofness myth. I never met an aloof cat, which suggests the complainant is aloof, not the kitty. The minute I sit down mine come running for my lap. They nuzzle, they purr, they lick and “knead.” Pinned down, unable to move, I pet, rub and scratch under their chins. I have watched an entire Duke basketball game wedged between two happy cats.

Their personalities amaze more than anything else.

Lucky is a sedate gentleman of late middle age who walks rather than scampers, eats slowly, then repairs to his spring-ball toy where I sprinkle catnip, which he enjoys like an after-dinner cigar. He comes when called, welcomes visitors whether they appreciate his attention or not. Missy is a scaredy-cat. She dives under the bed when the doorbell rings or the lawn mower passes by. She’d rather chase her tail than an expensive toy. Occasionally, she lumbers after squirrels, while Lucky assumes a sphinx pose and watches through half-closed eyes. But since she loves lapping my homemade chicken soup I forgive everything.

Cats, obviously, are like snowflakes — complex, no two the same. In my foundlings I see the intelligence of a border collie combined with the devotion of a golden retriever and the loyalty of a German shepherd. But you have to sit still, observe and respond.

Now, if only I could find one of those “My Cat is Smarter than Your Honor Student” bumper stickers.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a staff writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

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