Monday, August 08, 2011

The Doorstop

On the Trail of a Doorstop

Today, one of my cats brought the doorstop from my studio all the way across the house and deposited it on my bed. Made of heavy brown rubber, it is about four inches long, two inches high at the tall end, and an inch-and-a-half wide. DOORSTOP is emblazoned down its slope. This an industrial strength item which one of my cats picked up with his teeth and carried 30 feet or so.

I use the masculine pronoun because our only female cat, Trixie, is 17 and long past any activities except eating and sleeping. Of the three boys, Smudge, Frankie, and Baby, either Frankie or Baby is the likely culprit. Or should I say hero? For whichever one it is surely thinks that he vanquished a worthy opponent and he laid it on the bed in triumph.

I leave out Smudge, a well-muscled three-year-old tuxedo cat with a daub of black on his otherwise very pink nose, because he is the alpha cat and does not need to prove anything to anyone. And he apparently does not want to take any chances with his formal attire; he reigns elegantly over the premises and rarely engages the other two boys in play.

Smudge has dibs on me and likes to recline on my chest, where he rumbles deep, revved up purrs while I rub my chin on his head and cuddle him. This began when he was a sick kitten that I rescued after his feral mother abandoned him. A kitten on my chest compares in no way to a nearly-20 pound cat in the same place. By all descriptions, his snuggles closely resemble the medieval practice of pressing someone to death by piling large stones on their chest until they suffocate. I have never mentioned this to Smudge.

Frankie is Smudge's half-brother from a subsequent feral litter. He has not acclimated to people as well as Smudge, but he would like to overcome his fears. Not too long ago, the Houston Chronicle had a cat story that featured a photograph of a cream-colored, lightly striped Maine Coon cat. It looked like Frankie's twin. Their mother, known to us affectionately as Old Mom, has the same long, lightly striped fur in a styIish gray color. She has never let us close enough to know whether or not her coat is triple thick, soft, and silky, like Frankie's, or whether she has long tufts of fur growing between the pads of her feet, like Frankie does, but my bet is that she contributed the Maine Coon in his genes.

Frankie, who is two, likes me to brush him - as long as I stroke slowly and make no sudden moves. He likes one-handed petting, but becomes alarmed and bolts when there are two hands involved. Or a plastic bag swishes. Or someone speaks loudly. Or gets out of their chair. Or walks near his bowl while he is eating. What Frankie does like is to play with Baby, the youngest cat in our family at a year old.

Baby is a nephew of Smudge's and Frankie's. His mother was in the very first litter Old Mom produced. We call her New Mom, although neither of them will be moms agaIn because we trapped them, and a few other feral cats we feed, and had them all neutered. New Mom is even warier than Old Mom and taught Baby to be as well. He would bolt if he saw us through the window and his gray tabby top on a white bottom made him hard to see, but I kept as close an eye as I could on him. As soon as he started eating kibble, I began my cat whispering and, in a few weeks, coaxed Baby into the house.

We never intended to keep him and therefore refused to name him, a ploy that resulted in him acquiring the handle 'Baby Boy.' The problem with Baby was that he had unexpected charm and daring, and we couldn't give him away. The kitten who hid became the cat who wanted to know about everything in the house, including people. He had classic cat attributes, in particular curiosity and mischief-making. Even as a small kitten, he would take Smudge, or even-heftier Frankie, on in a friendly game of fisticuffs. And he frequently bested them.

aby and Smudge both like to be made up in the clean sheets when we change our bed. On one occasion, Smudge ended up under the bottom sheet and Baby ended up on top of it. And then the two of them chased each other back and forth, like two sides of a coin wrestling each other, until Michael and I dissolved in laughter. They didn't get the joke.

Baby also walked across the curtain rods in my studio, knocked knick-knacks off the top of my kitchen cupboards, and leapt from my dresser, across a huge gap, to the top of a seven-foot tower. Waking up to a loud thud and seeing the tower, with its shelves of keepsakes, swaying back and forth under Baby's feet terrified me, but not him: he continues to do it, usually in the middle of the night.

I have a Cat Game app on my iPad, which Baby enjoys playing. In it, a dot of light dodges and bounces along over any one of several floors, including wood, rocks, and grass among others. It responds to the pouncing paws that dance across the iPad glass so that the cat controls the game quite directly. If Kitty is getting too much dot-action, it slides to an edge and disappears. Baby soon learned to wait for the dot to 'escape' and then ambush it underneath the iPad. Such a good idea, although he hasn't captured the darned thing yet.

Frankie and Baby are my two playful fellows. When I contemplated the DOORSTOP in the middle of my bed today, I knew that either Frankie or Baby had nabbed it. I praised them both for their bravery and put the doorstop securely back in its accustomed spot, then went out with Michael to dinner. It had migrated to the living room by the time we got back home.

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