Out of the Blue
Always up to scratch
By Deborah Salomon
Welcome, fellow felinistas, to Cat Column No. 8. I limit myself to one a year, in January, or else you might shred this beautiful magazine for litter. In the beginning I promised only good news, which continues since my two kitties are still spry in old age, perhaps 14 or 15. Unlike humans and dogs, teeth don’t tell.
So far, they’re not misplacing car keys or forgetting a vet appointment, either.
Recap: The saga began in 2011 when a coal black (even whiskers) kitty with fur as smooth and shiny as satin turned up at my door. I was without cat companions — always two, sometimes three — for the first time in 30 years. Of course I fed him and, six months later, opened the door to the most amazing animal I’ve ever met. Neighbors said his family, who took the trouble to neuter and declaw him, had moved away, abandoning him.
Lucky was at home instantly. He knew how to repay my kindness with love. He is calm, thoughtful, stoic, brilliant. I adore him.
Some months later a fat, lumpy girl with patchwork grey stripes against a white background came begging. Her gait defines “waddle.” She was a neighborhood semi-feral, fed by many, obviously, with a notched ear signifying that some kind soul had her spayed. She was skittish, unfriendly, short on smarts. She hissed at me and, especially, Lucky. I thought about naming her Edith (Bunker) but settled on the eponymous Hissy, which became Missy when she wised up, realized her good fortune and became a sweetie. However, after nine years she still dislikes the world, loves just me . . . and Lucky. She became his handmaiden, deferring to him, washing his face, following him into the yard, respecting his nests.
That’s right: nests. Cats are nesters, especially my Lucky. They find quiet out-of-the-way spots to curl up and sleep, preferably a place with a familiar aroma like a half-full laundry basket. Lucky’s first nest, pre-adoption, was under a bush by my front door. Once inside, he found a flannel jacket that had fallen off the hanger in the back of my closet. After a few weeks the fabric had conformed to his curled-up shape and I had learned the hard way not to shut the closet door.
I had also installed towel-covered perches on two sunny windowsills, which don’t qualify as nests because of visibility.
Next came the cable box, which is warm but only semi-private. He hangs over the sides, so I laid a book of the same thickness next to it. Ahhh . . . his expression conveyed.
To lure him off that nest I put a round, fleece-lined cat bed in a living room corner, underneath a low window. Here, tucked away, Lucky can see what’s going on outside and inside. This was nap central all summer, especially days cool enough to open the window.
Well, Hissy/Missy wasn’t taking this best-nest thing lying down. She would sidle by, checking occupancy, claiming the prime space when available. So, to keep the peace I installed a second fleece-lined bed beside it.
Nests aren’t just for sleeping I discovered after putting down a cardboard box with an opening cut into one side, so Lucky could claim his fort, defend it from intruders. There he sits inside the box, smiling, while Missy attacks with swats and growls.
Such fun! Great exercise! Costs nothing!
When the game is over, Missy sidles up to Lucky and commences grooming him — a good thing, since arthritis prevents him from reaching nether areas.
I feel his pain in my own joints.
Last week, Missy displayed a rare intelligence. I brought out my suitcase in preparation for a quick trip to visit my grandsons for the first time in almost two years, leaving my kitties with a pet sitter possessing enough certifications to tend the Queen’s corgis. Missy became agitated. She napped less, talked more, even pooped outside the litter box, a sure sign of distress. Could she have remembered what the suitcase signifies? Decades ago we had an Airedale who went berserk, tried to destroy suitcases. A more secure Lucky reacts by curling up inside it, shedding on my new sweater.
A perfect nest, he purrs, albeit temporary.
But their ultimate nest isn’t a nest at all. My kitties found nirvana in full view, on the heating pad that eases my shoulder pain at night. I had to buy a double-wide second pad to accommodate us all. Talk about smart: On the first chilly day Lucky, followed by Missy, jumped on the bed, looking for it.
Sounds crazy, I know. Only animal people will understand my anthropomorphisms, let alone put up with Lucky’s insistent paw at 4 a.m. demanding breakfast and a spin outside before returning to the heating pad(s).
I could relate more but he’s sitting by my desk, giving me that look that says, “lap time.”
And people say cats are aloof and unaffectionate. Maybe, to aloof, unaffectionate people.
Same time, next year? PS
Deborah Salomon is a writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.