Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wednesday's Words for October 22, 2008

Most humans think we’re at the top of the food chain; that we are in command of our lives, our homes, and our world. But I know differently.
We’re not in control at all. The cats are.

Anyone who has been adopted by a cat and permitted to remain in their presence (living in their house, sleeping in their bed) knows exactly what I mean. In the Ashbury household we’re doubly blessed, for when my daughter and grandson moved in with us they brought with them their cat.

Humans live by protocol. Though my daughter does feel quite at home here, as an adult woman she is very conscious that while this is home, it is not her home in the same way her last apartment was. When it comes to certain decisions, she of course defers to me.

Cats are not compelled by any such sense of social convention.

The new cat in our home is named “Crash”. My daughter claims that this has nothing to do with the feline’s lack of co-ordinated grace, but that he is in fact named after Crash Bandicoot which is, I’m told, a video game. I haven’t bothered to ask for the reasoning behind this choice of name. Crash is a cross between a Maine Coon and a Tabby with a coat in varying shades of brown and black.

My cat, Boots (who doesn’t, by the way, have any) has for the most part accepted the presence of this interloper in his domain. Boots is a completely black Persian with two extra-long fangs and a tongue a little too long for his mouth.

The two felines—both neutered males—have never gotten into an actual fight. The most they may do, from time to time, is to face off against each other, paws batting the air close to but not touching the other, and with claws in. I have on occasion come upon them fast asleep within fairly close proximity to each other—which in my mind pretty much discredits the whole competition thing.

Crash came with not only his own food dish, but also with an impressive array of toys. He plays often with these toys, amusing himself for long periods of time by batting around a tiny toy ball or catnip-stuffed toy mouse. Boots can often be seen looking down his nose at such frivolous and unbecoming activity. Boots will have you know that he has never played with a toy in his life. At least not when he was aware anyone was watching.

I can tell Crash understands that this is Boots’ house, and that Boots is the Top Cat—but he doesn’t really seem to care much about that fact. He’ll come over to me in full view of the cat who owns me and rub his head against my leg, an action, I’ve been told, equivalent to ‘staking his claim’ on me.

Crash is a generous owner, for a cat. Every other day or so, he goes out into the jungle of our suburban back yard, and hunts wild game. Then he brings it indoors and lays it at our feet. He’s totally impartial in this gift giving, too, bringing these poor victimized mice and moles to my daughter and myself equally.

Boots has taken note of this strange habit, one that he never had developed in the past, for which I am very grateful. However, just to show the interloper that not bringing creatures into the house was a matter of choice and not poor hunting skills, Boots decided to one-up the new comer and last week gifted us with a chipmunk.

Chippy, as we’ll call him, was not only not dead, he was not even injured and quickly managed to escape Boots’ grasp of him. Chippy screeched, Boots meowed, my beloved’s dog barked and tried to give chase, Chippy ran into the bathroom and I quickly closed the door behind him.

My grandson came downstairs and performed the search and rescue. You’ll all be pleased to know that Chippy was successfully repatriated to the great out-of-doors, where I have no doubt he quickly moved on to someone else’s back yard.

During this adventure, Crash was nowhere to be found.

Boots does have one characteristic that Crash lacks: while Crash does not wish to be held by anyone but my daughter, Boots demands to be picked up and snuggled on a regular basis, and he doesn’t care by whom. I believe he feels this bit of pandering to the humans in his domain is fair return for their being on call 24/7. Should he require any little thing, like having his dish filled or his chin scratched, he knows he has but to wake us up in the middle of the night and we will get out of bed and do whatever is required.

Yes, Boots has always understood the true meaning of the words “pecking order”: dogs have masters, cats have staff.


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