Shady Cat Pet ID: 2021
My hang out:  Melbourne, Australia

My mug shots …

Here’s my story ...

The vet had a fluffy, black, homeless kitten for inspection. He was irresistible! A kitten for Christmas? I hesitated over the kind offer. I had never raised a kitten, and my declining joints over the last sixteen years spoke louder than my fond memories of puppy training. ‘You need the company,’ my dear friend said positively. Living alone, I could not argue with that. We only argued about who would pay the bills.
He was home with me to enliven my quiet Christmas Day, cautiously learning a room at a time as he grew accustomed to the open spaces and new environments – of HIS new house. The last room gave notice of what was to come. I picked up the black velvet panther that ornamented the end of the guest room bed and showed it to him. I never dreamed that a fluffy kitten so few weeks old could leap so high, three or four paces – backwards!
So lively, so playful! My friends were in fits of laughter as they watched his antics: strewing his floor with giftedkitten toys, boxing with the dear old lost dog’s stuffed animals, and seizing my waggling fingers with his vet-clipped claws. A poor sleeper, I had to deny him my bedroom overnight. My laundry became his headquarters as he took over the dog’s basket and memorial china bowl. He demonstrated most admirably the use of the litter tray.
A bird-lover, I also had to deny him outdoor exercise. It felt strange and wrong when I walked in the garden without him. I still missed my dog’s devotion, her soulful gaze into my eyes, her company while shopping, her gentle, affectionate evenings on my lap. Still I automatically looked for her, where she no longer was. It was not long, however, before multiplying distractions dispelled grief.
How rapidly a kitten grows and develops! Gleefully he pursues his fluffy mice. Two he tosses from room to room; swipes one dangling from his scratch pole, another atop a flat box of spinning balls. His favourite is the fluffy duck that swings into the air on its cord as I twirl the handle. He took my breath away with his unbelievable leaps! So few weeks, and he was not merely jumping, but flying across the room. How high his aspirations! His house, of course, is his playground. All of it. Including the human he fastens with his predatory yellow glare when shut out of one of his rooms.
Who does she think she is? She was quite tame at first but as I jump higher the screams begin. Why won’t she play my games with me? Elbows are fun to claw when they appear over a chair arm as she taps away at the keyboard thing she won’t let me touch. She just yelps and pushes. More fun is all that electrical wiring that lives under the lamp table. She pokes with a rolled up newspaper, but she’s not getting away with that! I scuttle off once, but after that – if she wants war games, she’s got ‘em.
They mostly happen in this leather chair where I do some of my work, where he sharpens his claws on the leather in readiness. It’s quite touching when he jumps on the back of the chair to investigate my hair. But when he jumps down onto the antique lamp table to have fun with the hand phone, the remote control and a waterfall of papers, I go wild and bang him with whatever is in my hand. How can this tiny predator be trained? How obtuse he is at learning English, or even sign language. It seems that only screams will dislodge him from potential damage.
He is very forgiving, which soothes my guilt. Never in my life have I had to handle such an unresponsive animal. Yet, when he wills it, he comes to me of his own accord, purring, smoodging, and adorable.
My bad back suffers in my office chair, but most time is spent at my desk. Here the fascinating computer brings him to my knee to watch all the screen activity, until he decides whether this morning’s mood will be speed racing or purry cuddling. The fascination of this playroom however is usually much too great for sleep. For a short time I sometimes hold my elbows high to let him settle, until he stirs –
Mid-sentence, he leaps onto the great heap of tangled cords that enliven all my computer’s accessories. Mid-sentence I lose track, whilst joining willy-nilly an exciting game of hide and seek. He’s biting cords, retreating under cupboards, nestling in the box where hardware stands, dodging my groping to hide behind the desk, emerging and leaping to send papers from desk to floor, running across the keyboard to add to my half-sentence, leaping to the window sill where he knocks off kids’ presents, lurking in the unreachable corner where my desk nestles. How he adores games of chasey!
I abandon the office to seek instant coffee. I stand gulping, and turn to see an innocent kitten sitting neatly, fluffy tail curled around his feet, pleading eyes begging me to continue the games. When I retreat to my armchair for periodical back rest he wanders after me, grooming thoroughly before leaping up to purr on my knee.
As I put down the empty mug the movement disturbs him. Next moment the hand phone is on the floor, a rolled up paper is swiping him off the other wiring bundle, and he’s thoroughly enjoying the boxing match. Only when he eventually curls up on the floor beside me for a necessary rest can I manage any uninterrupted work.
Fortunately he begins to sleep for longer periods. I wall off the office wiring with my large back cushion and my small work suitcase. He leaps them, delighted with a new game of hidey, and it all begins again. Beside the recliner I hide the wiring under my sister’s crocheted rug. He still attacks the single cords hanging from the table and is obviously offended when I try a spray bottle. His claws draw blood as he expresses his indignation. As he decides again that I am providing new games – what fun! – I realize the moisture is not doing my antique family furniture any good.
Very quickly I learn that the screams I hear emerging from my mouth as things fall shock me much more than him. I have followed every inadvertent scream with a friendly invitation to come to my knees for petting… I have even had the impertinence to pick him up to divert him, and pet him when he his purring batteries are completely flat. I feel he is disappointed at my intransigence.
Training begins. He leaps off my knee in disgust. Only when he is in the mood will he voluntarily curl up on my knee to sleep. He prefers me to have my feet up. Sometimes he sleeps stretched out, with an ear tip touching my midriff, and the tip of his long tail almost touching my ankles. His growth is unbelievable. Unfortunately, if he reverses this position, with head down, he has a tendency to slide head first to the floor, which he finds off-putting. Soon he indicates a preference to sleep undisturbed beside me, often with one tiny paw resting on my toes.
I learn never to leave a dish on the kitchen bench, or a glass of water beside my bed. I am growing tidier. He is very interested if I take lunchtime sandwiches to the armchair and turn on the TV news. I learn to eat from a plate held to one side at arm’s length, while using the other to defend my coffee mug on the table beside me. The presence of sandwiches is preferable to exploring the wiring. Children’s programs provide further distraction, as he launches from my lap to leap up and pat prancing cartoon characters and spinning balls.
From there, too, he gets a better view through the long windows. From the floor he waves his magnificent tail at the honeyeater rustling the grevillea, stalks the magpie pecking on the lawn, follows parrots from one window to another seeking seeds, freezes alert as heads pass. There is such a world to discover out there, that I so meanly keep him from. A moth at the top of the tall window perishes! Those tiny claws take him up the flywire faster than I can see.
He quickly discovers that things he sees cannot always be clawed. When he spots another kitten in my mirror-backed display cabinet, he cannot reach it through the glass door, so runs round the doorpost into the hall to seek behind it. He has had to endure this frustration from every point. He became frantic too when I first switched on the ceiling fan, seeking every height to reach it, even trying to climb the table leg.
It is very hard to focus my mind on work while this is going on. He prefers to stay close to keep an eye on me. As the weeks pass, he gives up on the office electrics in favour of the windowsill beside me. There is so much movement outside. Kookaburras dive from the pond railings below, ringlets spread across the water, cockatoos screech overhead, small birds rustle in waving trees. Across fences he hears dogs bark, sheep bleat, helicopters passing overhead. Yet he can’t go outside to explore, and meet them all.
His longing interrupts me. It also infects me with a longing to go myself, now, in the sunshine, for my necessary daily exercise. So out I go for my first garden break, feeling meaner than ever.
He is determined to supervise! Four or five times now, he has rushed between my feet out onto my verandah. He crouches enthralled, then scuttles to the rail and stands judging the distance to the ground. He has me trained – if I approach he will vanish. I walk away, towards the steps, with several changes of direction before I find a chance to grab him, and leave him inside to attack the door.
… Excuse me a moment …. I don’t know where he is …I’ve been concentrating on writing …
I didn’t know my house had so many hiding places. He is nowhere to be seen. I closed the door of my walk-in wardrobe very carefully so he will not unravel the balls of wool I have hidden there. The last one took me an entire evening to untangle and rewind. He is not on top of the piano, where he checks on me by sneaking his nose around the doorpost.
He is not on my antique sideboard, where a precious china ornament once stood for a century, its remains now lying in a never-used bowl; but he has been again and knocked over a photograph. He is not on the long mantelpiece whence a tiny china wedding present landed on the hearth. Nor in the spare room, where he has since boxed that black velvet panther all around the floor. He doesn’t pounce on my feet from under my bedspread, but he has been drinking from my bedroom water glass that I forgot to move. He’s not distributing hand towels over the floor in the guest bathroom, or turning somersaults in the bath, or standing on the toilet waiting to see it flush. I do dislike the necessity of having the house so closed up, but any door not firmly shut will soon be opened.
I had to move the big vase with its beautiful gifted geometric arrangement of dried flowers, that once stood on the high kitchen bench, also the pretty artificial flowers that attract him onto the dining room table. He doesn’t frequent his laundry headquarters during the day except to dutifully visit his litter tray, for he so hates being locked in there alone at night, of necessity. He has never even been caught on the laundry bench. All this is running through my mind as I search …
The crash tells the tale!
As I stride down the passage to his headquarters I encounter evidence scattering out of the laundry. Everlasting daisies are his fluffy favourite for carpet distribution, but he has batted bigger specimens around. Confronting me in the laundry are hirsute remains of dismembered paper daisies, with stems of waratah, bottlebrush etc. It was a big vase with no water to weigh it down. It survived the fall! Not so my dear departed doggy’s memorial china food bowl, smashed to smithereens. Could he have done that on purpose, resenting its picture and significance? Of course not!
The contents spread over the linoleum signify a lot of back bending to come. I return along the passage, still searching, until he strolls nonchalantly from wherever his present hiding place is, to follow me back. He kindly races out of my way, while disintegrating another paper daisy, and curls up quietly beside my armchair.
His House is so much more fun than his large collection of kitten toys, which now he mostly pats with a bored paw before turning his back. He exercises every morning, zooming around the house through every open door, over all the furniture, visible only as a blur.
He is growing up. At five months, we have worked out between us the shadow of a joint routine. Today, release from the laundry brings him joyfully to my lap for mutual caresses. As I start work he moves quite carefully between knees and window ledge. My back-rest morning tea time has been proclaimed Playtime, when I must twirl his fluffy-duck-on-a-string to enable his impressive acrobatics.
Now he lets me know it’s time to swing the duck for him, by patting the string and saying ‘Prrrrp?’ at me. He has come to understand ‘No!’, and delays the preferred activity until I am outside.
Reading a book frustrates him a little, but claws tell me to put it down. Visitors, however, insult him by completely diverting my attention, leading to short spells in the cat carrier where he can still watch, or banishment to his headquarters, where he continues to display his resentment by incessantly clawing at the sliding door. In spite of that, he is continually forgiving!
Look here, I finished a story! Or is it a memoir …Or should have been … no matter! It’s finished! Ow! It’s all right, sorry to disturb you; you didn’t draw blood, just a loop of wool from my jumper. Thanks for your congratulations. We shared such long caresses this morning, you asked so politely for your breakfast, and settled so quietly as I started the computer. You beautiful animal, lying beside me with your magnificent tail stretched straight, and your gentle paw resting on my instep, my morning cuppa will be early, for you will need your exercise. Spellcheck can wait.

Author:  Dorothy W.

Shady Pet Awards/Notes:

  • Rescue pet

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