Archive for Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Life with these cats keeps humans on a short leash

December 27, 2006

I think it's fair to say that I live with cats.

They don't live with me. That would make them seem far too dependent. And while it is true that as house cats, they would be lost without my opposable thumbs, they are the true masters of the house.

My family and I are a bit like a lab experiment in which the animals have to figure out which buttons to push to get what they want. Each one has figured out the buttons to get out, to get in, to get milk, to get petted and to get their collars off.

Tawny has a completely different method for getting us to let her out than Zoey, Misty or Buffy. While Buffy will simply meow at the door, Misty claws my leg if I'm working at my desk, or claws on the wall, if I'm not. Zoey always claws on a corner of the rug making it flop up and down in the middle of the night, but Tawny does some fast paw action on the door or gets on the dresser to knock things off.

Getting in includes a whole different set of antics, and after leaping up to let one of the four in or out for the zillionth time, I wonder how on earth we ever got to this point.

Misty is the reigning queen, and one of the few cats of our brood that we actually picked out and brought home -- even though home was just across the street. She makes up for her small size with the attitude of a mountain lion and has been known to leap on the head of an intruding Rottweiler without a second thought. She likes to be petted right up to the split second that she doesn't. Then she bites.

Misty has the strange quirk of going through the laundry to find socks. Then she does that "I've got a mouse for you" call cats use with their kittens. In her mind it must be the perfect catch -- easy to run down, doesn't try to get away. Her people seem more pleased than when she drags in a two-pound dead rat.

There was a time when we put her and her two grown kittens out of the house -- permanently out. We were fed up with the lot of them clawing the furniture and the woodwork.

They became outdoor cats. Period. After a few days a sock showed up on the front step. And the next day, another. Was she raiding someone's clothesline, or had she charmed another household in the neighborhood for the sole purpose of lifting their socks? We decided it best to let her back in the house before the KBI got involved.

Picked up off the highway, where she must have been rolled but uninjured, Zoey spends most of the summer outside, but hibernates in the house during the winter. She gets the urge to "mix bread" on my pillow in the middle of the night -- right by my ear.

Personality plus -- that's our Buffy. My paper towel holder is empty -- the paper towel roll hidden away lest Buffy get a hold of it in the night and tear it to shreds. I make sure nothing valuable or breakable is on the table, because Buff might just do a tablecloth slide that sends everything on the table crashing to the floor.

He was part of an entire litter brought back from a trip to the Nebraska farm where I grew up -- a rescue mission of sorts. I'm his mommy and his nighttime snuggle buddy. Several times a night he curls up next to me and sticks his cold nose in my neck.

The worst nighttime offender, Tawny, migrated over from the neighbors', and is as lazy about washing her ultra fluffy fur as Buffy is fastidious about his sleek coat. He tries to hold her down and give her a good bathing ... at night ... on my chest. Oddly enough, Tawny is the only one that likes to bathe us ... on our faces ... at 2 a.m.

So why do we put up with it all? Wasn't getting two boys through childhood enough -- to get them through nightmares and potty training, ear infections and tonsillitis? What is this masochistic need we have to never sleep?

Maybe it's because the cats are so happy to be loved (even Misty when the time is right). They want to be close to us, they talk to us and they purr their contentment. When was the last time you got that from teenagers?

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