Sharky’s Tail Of Woe

“Kittens believe that all Nature is occupied with their diversion.” ~ F.A. Paradis

And therein lies the problem. To inflict a kitten upon a grown cat is like asking a monk to share a cell with an over-active five year old. Neither creature benefits from the enforced togetherness. My neighbour Sharky is a case in point. In a previous blog post, I told you a little bit about my gingery friend’s Great Trial. The humans in his household decided to adopt a kitten and this has been a source of much angst for Sharky. Since he is, as yet, the only cat with whom I can have a decent conversation, I felt a certain measure of concern upon first hearing about his dilemma. You may ask why a cat such as myself would care about this. Logical answer: it is a feline rights issue. Slightly selfish answer: Sharky is good company.

Sadly, he hasn’t been out and about in the neighbourhood much since the troubles began, but I did run across him recently whilst investigating certain intriguing scents in our mutual back alley. It was trash collection day and you never know what treasures a cat may discover with a little judicious poking and prodding at improperly closed garbage bins. I was finishing my rounds without having found much of interest when I noticed a flash of movement behind the shed next to my house. Creeping cautiously nearer, I peered around the edge of the structure to see Sharky delicately pawing at a carcass of fish bones. He sensed my presence and froze. I sat patiently and waited until he realized I was friend rather than foe. With a certain telling flick of his tail, Sharky beckoned me closer. “Hello, Cato. Want some of this?”

After we’d polished off the remaining morsels of fish, we tucked our paws beneath us and settled in for a little chat. I enquired about his situation with the kitten, who he calls “Rat Tail”. I am quite sure that isn’t her real name, but Sharky tends to be vague about such things. He told me a sad story of harassment and benign neglect. Naturally I commiserated, but what else could I do about his situation? And then he dropped a wonderful bombshell into the conversation. He has learned to use a computer! Ariane leaves her laptop running when she goes out for the day and Sharky, having heard me talking about my own virtual adventures, has figured out how to use it. Oh, joy! Now we can communicate via the World Wide Web.

It seems that Sharky has been keeping a personal journal, which he stores on-line somewhere, out of the reach of Ariane’s prying eyes. I expressed my fervent interest in reading it and, if he was amenable, including some of it in my blog today. His tail trembled with excitement at the thought. So he memorized my e-mail address and has sent me some diary excerpts. I will warn you that they are a bit morose in tone, but surely this is understandable, considering Sharky’s unfortunate situation.

Our hope is that humans who read this blog will gain a better understanding of their feline companions and treat them with more sensitivity.

Without further ado, I present Sharky’s On-line Journal. For human interest, I have added some photos that Sharky found on his provider’s computer.

 

Recent entries from the journal of Sharky during the Civil War of 2012:

Day 3:  Stupid Rat Tail is in my litter box again. I can never catch her in the act. I know, though. This wasteland smells of death. [Editorial note from Cato: I did warn you about the tone of these writings.]

 Day 8:  Woke up again. Felt something batting my tail. WHEN WILL THIS HORROR END? The humans do not seem to notice. I know she is up to something.

 Day 11:  There are feces on my chair. The skinny human has cleaned it, but I know it is still there. I haven’t had a restful sleep in hours. Rat Tail has somehow managed to gain access to my upstairs sanctuary. I hope the climb down proves too difficult, bringing an end to this pain.

 Day 15:  I gained access to the main floor today. The smelly one seems to be trapped in a room. I am no hero and I fear she may get out and attack me. I am still much quicker on the ladder, but I do not know for how much longer. She is so spry. If only I had trained harder during my kitten years.

 Day 16:  Wet food was left for me and most of it was gone before I could reach it. I believe she is trying to starve me. I do not know what I have done to deserve this. I was as fluffy as I could be! And yet this intruder is here. This is my life now.  I still have the roof as a safe area, but I don’t know for how much longer. There are reflective sheets over the access points. I am cunning enough to get past them. Luckily, the kitten is not. Again…for how much longer? I don’t know.

 Day 20:  It seems the bearded one and Ariane are gone. I have not seen them for over a day. They may have been here when I was asleep, though I do not sleep well any more. I keep waking, startled. I can hear Rat Tail. She is just at the bottom of the stairs. It seems nowhere is safe from her. I am heading back out to the roof. I will clear my head and work on an attack strategy.

 Day 22:  I finally attacked her! It was a short attack; two quick jabs to the head. I kept claws in, hoping not to anger the beast too much. Such ferocity! She seems to come from nowhere. She is dark in colour and I believe she must be made of smoke. However, when my paw connected with her head she did feel dense. I will have to continue to work on a better attack strategy with this new information.

 Day 26:  The bearded one and Ariane are back. I was sleeping, but I heard them come in through the door. Why did they leave me here for so long with no way to open the door and gain access to the outside world? The Rat Tail does not seem to be comfortable leaving the house. She was in my litter tray again. There was litter everywhere. I don’t know why she has to hate me so much and disrespect my space. I may set a trap in the litter for her. I found some things that resembled tools. They appear to be made for the humans. How I hate not having thumbs…

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And that is Sharky’s Tail Of Woe.  There is a flicker of hope that things may start to improve.  I think that the photo below hints at an ever-so-slight thawing of relations. Sharky sees it more as an armed truce. Only time will tell. One day, my friend may look back upon these days and smile. As one amusing human once said, “Time heals all wounds, unless you pick at them.” (Shawn Alexander)  

Sharky and “Rat Tail” vie for prime real estate on his provider’s sleeping area.

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Photo attributions (Creative Commons): Kitten peeking around corner – http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinlin1013/3469918524/  Fish bone graphic – http://www.flickr.com/photos/estherase/21963160/

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On Jacob’s Lap

People meeting for the first time suddenly relax if they find they both have cats. And plunge into anecdote. ~ Charlotte Gray

If you are reading this blog, then you may have noticed that I am an unusual sort of cat. How many other felines can read and communicate in human language, not to mention write their own blogs? However, aside from my literary pursuits, I am much like any reasonably intelligent feline. You have heard about my morning routine of watching the world from behind the wheel of a car and my afternoons are taken up with my work on Miranda’s computer. In between, I divide my time between eating and napping, the two main focuses of every cat’s life.

Evenings are fairly quiet around our house and are perhaps my favourite time of day. Miranda and Jacob are both home from wherever it is they go all day and they sit down to an evening meal together. I enjoy the odd delicious tidbit from Miranda, who is prone to spoiling me with small offerings of protein. Then, while they clean up the dishes, I venture outdoors for a final cruise around the property.

When I return through the cat flap, I usually find my providers relaxing in the sitting room together, drinking mysterious warm liquids that smell vaguely unappetizing but seem to be of comfort to them. As per my routine, I saunter past Miranda, who sits with legs curled under her on the sofa. She strokes my back and asks if I’d like to sit on her lap, but I have learned to resist that invitation. She is too likely to fidget and shift about or leap up to answer the telephone when it chirps, leaving me ruffled and bereft.

No, Jacob is the one whose lap is perfect for a cat. He has a certain stillness about him that bodes well for a peaceful nap. Not only that, he refrains from over-petting, leading to over stimulation, followed by a swift swat with claws ever so slightly extended. Miranda has yet to learn the value of circumspect petting and has experienced this process first hand. Since Jacob likes the recliner chair, he sits with his feet up and this provides a soft, warm spot for me on top of his legs. I circle to find the most advantageous sweet spot and then settle down, purring to let him know how pleased and thankful I am. He gently scratches my head and then leaves me be. Bliss!

Sometimes they turn on the television box, but I particularly enjoy evenings when they chat quietly and the drone of their voices serves as a happy background to my dreams. Occasionally, my ears perk up when they say something interesting. This happened yesterday evening and just thinking about it raises the fur on my back.

 The Incident

 

Both providers are sipping from cups and watching the evening sunset through the window. I am resting safely on Jacob’s lap, about to nod off, when a conversation something like this occurs:

 Miranda: I saw our neighbour from down the street today – Ariane, I think her name is. We were both grabbing a coffee from that kiosk near the Sky Train station.

 Jacob: Hm. Do I know her?

 Miranda: Probably not. I have a glancing acquaintance with her because we both leave for work around the same time every day. Anyway, she was brushing tufts of orange cat fur off her coat and we started chatting about our respective pets.  I told her about Cato rescuing Periwinkle from that tree and she was joking that they needed a rescue cat in their home.

As you might imagine, both my ears are now in full listening mode.

Jacob: Why? Is her cat prone to climbing trees without knowing how to get back down again?

 Miranda:  No, it’s more complicated than that. The orange cat – I think she said his name is Sharky – has a bigger problem. They got a new kitten recently and apparently Sharky spends most of his time hiding under beds or out on the roof trying to keep away from it. I think he’s frightened. Can you imagine? A grown cat afraid of a kitten.

 Miranda pauses to sip her drink while I quietly fume. Humans can be unbearably insensitive about the needs of cats.

 Miranda: Speaking of kittens, I was in the pet store last week and they had a homeless kitten up for adoption. I was so tempted to get it, but somehow I don’t think Cato would be pleased.

Jacob: OUCH!

Oops. In my distress at this last part of the conversation, I’d inadvertently sunk my claws into poor Jacob’s legs. He sits up quickly and I leap off his lap. As a calming measure, I turn to my left shoulder and start to lick furiously.

Miranda: Wow! You’d almost think Cato had some inkling of what we were talking about!

They both chuckle at that tasteless remark and I turn and leave the room in rather a huff. Hmph! They won’t see me again until bedtime.

Settling on the armchair in Miranda’s computer room, I think about what I’d heard. I remember Sharky. He’s one of the few cats I’ve come across who can carry on a decent conversation – at least for a minute or two. He spends most of his time on the roof of his house because they have a convenient skylight on the upper floor which is left open all the time. I rather envy him that rooftop view.

He does make occasional forays out into the neighbourhood and that is when we have our little chats – or we used to do so. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen him for a little while now. Well, it’s no wonder! He’s suffered a titanic disruption to his lifestyle, by the sound of it. How dare his provider – this Ariane person – bring a new cat into Sharky’s personal domain? It hardly bears thinking about.

I recall Miranda’s ridiculous comment about me acting as Sharky’s “rescue cat”. No, that is not going to happen. I may be an unusual cat in some ways, but that incident with Periwinkle was an anomaly and not to be repeated. I have more important things to do – like writing my blog. Having made this firm decision, I engage in some personal grooming, circle three times and settle down for a pre-bedtime nap.

The last thing I remember thinking before drifting off into dreamland is: “I hope Jacob lets me lie on his lap again tomorrow.”

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Addendum

 

A recent photograph of Sharky on the ledge of his rooftop skylight. It seems that Miranda and Ariane are now Facebook “friends”, so I snagged this from there. Notice the barely discernable but very real angst in his eyes.

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Photo credit – Cat on lap: Creative Commons/Photopin – http://www.flickr.com/photos/laflaf/6767210445/

Behind The Wheel

I love my watching place. It’s well situated, with a view of pedestrian and vehicle traffic coming from all directions.  Where is this wonderful observation post? It’s on our next-door neighbour’s property. They rarely use their car, being the type of eco-conscious citizens that seem to flourish in this community, so it remains parked very conveniently in their driveway. Thus, I can quite easily spend an hour or so most mornings sitting in the shadow of the front tire. I can slip into position with very little fuss and observe passers by without being seen myself. What more could an attentive cat desire?

After eating a hearty breakfast, followed by my usual morning constitutional around the perimeter of our house, all my senses are alert. I settle under the car, paws folded neatly beneath me, and notice things. Mornings are much better for observing the action on my street. People are focused on starting the day, eyes on the future rather than the present. They tend to walk by quickly, as if they can’t wait to arrive at their destinations. Children run and skip, apparently excited to reach their places of learning. Dogs trot past, taking their providers for the first walk of the day. Even those drooling, intrusive creatures rarely notice me lurking in the shadow of the wheel. They are too busy examining the markings left by their compatriots on bushes and fire hydrants.

Humans are creatures of habit, but they have nothing on cats in that regard. Periwinkle lives in the house across the street from ours. (Yes, Periwinkle. Sigh!) Large and gingery with a fluffy tail that looks rather like a duster stick, she sidles across the street each day, headed straight for my own front garden. I’d object to this on principle, except all she does is check out the scents around the front gate and move on. She is far too lazy to jump the fence.

Then she proceeds in my direction and plops down on the front step of the house, not five feet from where I am sitting in the shadow of the wheel. This is infuriating because no cat likes to share space with another cat unless they know each other and have formed a friendly alliance. Periwinkle and I have no such happy agreement. However, since there is more bluster than substance to her cheeky behaviour, she moves off quickly at the sound of my warning growl.

This happens every day, fair weather or foul, so imagine my surprise this morning when the routine changed dramatically.  Most of the usual crowd had passed by, including Miranda and Jacob (my providers). We have a most convenient cat flap in the back door, so I can slip back into the house when I’m ready for my first nap of the day. I was enjoying the sound of birds chattering in a very tall tree nearby and quite forgot to keep an eye out for Periwinkle. As I contemplated the idea of stalking one of those tempting feathered delicacies, a horrible sound erupted to my right.

A huge, black dog galloped past, barking furiously. I was so startled that I leapt up on all four paws and bumped my head on the car’s undercarriage. Retreating further into the shadows, I watched with horror as Periwinkle stood frozen to the spot on the opposite sidewalk, stunned at the approach of any cat’s worst nightmare. Then she turned and flew up the trunk of the nearest tree, narrowly escaping the slavering jaws of the monstrous canine. He leapt at the tree trunk, furious at losing his prey. A young male human ran up to the dog yelling, “Get back here, Damien!” He managed to grab some sort of chain around the dog’s neck and pulled hard. Amazingly, the dog squealed a little and submitted to being dragged back up the street again.

My heart settled down to its usual pace and I watched as Periwinkle’s provider ran out of her house and stood at the base of the tree, looking up. I could barely see the poor cat, who seemed to be swaddled in a nest of branches way, way up – almost at the top of the tree. Her somewhat frantic provider called out in that syrupy high voice that only cats and human infants seem to inspire. “Peri, baby – come down now.  It’s safe.”  “Peri” was having none of it and I heard a couple of pitiful “meows” float down through the branches. Of course, I understood what she was saying.  “How did I get up here?  Someone needs to save me!”

 Other people started to gather at the base of the tree, trying to coax the terrified cat to “be a brave girl” and move down to the next branch. To her credit, Periwinkle did stir herself enough to try and edge downward, but she is an innately silly cat and couldn’t seem to figure out how to organize her paws in the right way. She returned to her little “nest”.

This went on for some time and I began to feel irritated. I got up, stretched and was about to head back to my own house for a nap, when I heard a pitiful mewling sound drifting down from on high. It was the feline equivalent of a quiet sob.  Something came over me, and before I knew it, I was scrambling up the trunk of the tree next to Periwinkle’s. If you recall, I was born in the English countryside and am thus well acquainted with these types of endeavours.

I walked along a branch at about the same level as hers and caught her eye. Then I turned and jumped slowly from branch to branch, until I was halfway down my tree. Periwinkle watched closely. I climbed back up and repeated the whole process until my fellow feline got the idea that it wasn’t a death-defying stunt, but a rather simple procedure for any cat worth its salt. She got up, gathered her courage and copied what I was doing until we were both once more on terra firma.

Periwinkle’s provider enveloped her in a smothering embrace, and neighbours cooed and told her how brave she’d been. Having surprised myself with my own inexplicably altruistic behaviour, I headed quietly back to my house, where I indulged in a wee snack. And then, for the next few hours, I slept the sleep of the just.

I’m still not sure why I went to all that trouble for such an annoying cat. I’ll have to ponder that some more. In the meantime, I’ll be back behind the wheel again tomorrow.

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 Photo courtesy of Periwinkle’s provider, who e-mailed it to Miranda accompanied by many accolades for my own part in the rescue effort. I had to endure no end of hugs and sloppy kisses as a result. As I suspected all along, a good deed rarely goes unpunished.

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Real Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/piper/27080789/