My cats are very unhappy today.
Until I lost my job and started spending every waking hour with them, I did not realize they were such custom-bound creatures of habit. The slightest deviation from daily routine seems to wound them, piercing them to their fuzzy little souls, miring them in confusion and grief.
They have their rankings and their geographical stations. Hermione is the undisputed doyenne, the head of the family, and the spokescat. It is she who approaches me in the morning, walking ahead of the other three, to inform me there is no food and/or water.Hermione’s expectations are few, but clear. Jeff belongs on the couch in the den; his job is to sit there and scratch the top of her head. I belong on the armchair in the living room. My job is to lean back so she can sit on my chest. Once a night, around 9:30 or so, I have another task: to open up an ice cream sandwich, scrape some vanilla ice cream onto my pinky, and let her lick it off. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Now stop. Back to the couch with Daddy.
Her daughter, Sprite is an enormous and very beautiful baked meatloaf. Her job is to rest. She can usually be found curled into a ball on top of Jeff’s couch, but when I’m home alone in the living room, she is under the chair next to the TV. Resting. Resting where she can be seen, admired, and adored, but not touched. Never touched. Sprite is ROYALTY. She touches you; you don’t touch her. When I’m in the den, sitting by my computer, Sprite usually deigns to rub her head against my right leg two or three times. Sometimes, she allows me to run my fingers across her back. She is unbelievably soft, cottony; you want to pick her up and bury yourself in this glorious expanse of tricolor down, but you don’t dare. Incur the wrath of Sprite and she will avoid you for days. She won’t disappear, as her son would; she’ll stay across the room from you and STARE. Firmly. Disapprovingly. There were RULES, you know. You broke them.
Sprite’s son Othello, God bless him, may have been misnamed. More than a warrior, I fear he’s a woosy. When he was a kitten, he thought our pit bull, Roscoe, was his Dad. He followed him everywhere, ate out of the same plate, and actually picked up a few of his mannerisms, but he never acquired Rossie’s ebullience, or his love for people. Othello is excruciatingly shy, and ever since poor Rossie died, he hasn’t been quite right. He hides for days, slinks around, and very, very seldom allows himself to be petted. This breaks my heart, because he is the silkiest, sweetest little soul you can imagine.
And then there’s my beloved Pewter. This girl has spunk. Unlike the other three, she lives in my room… and I don’t think there’s much love lost between Pewter and the other cats (especially Hermione, who senses in this granddaughter the makings of another alpha female).
Pewter is very unhappy with me today. I didn’t go to bed. I fell asleep on the couch, watching Tosca on my computer. That means she missed our nightly game of hide and seek (where I hide my hands and face under a blanket, and she digs them out so she can lick them), not to mention our evening cuddles and detailed discussion of how we spent our days. Oh yes. We converse. Pewter is very verbal, and doesn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that I seldom understand her. I think she knows I don’t understand my human kids, Amanda or Alex, either.
I woke up around quarter to three in the morning, sprawled on Jeffrey’s couch, with a very unhappy coterie surrounding me. Pewter was meowing at me from the floor, trying to make herself heard over Maestro Domingo, begging me to go to bed. Hermione was at the edge of the couch, staring down at her, just daring her. “Come up here, Bitch. Just jump. I will CUT you!” Sprite was on a coffee table, standing uncharacteristically straight, evidently begging “Please stop this nonsense so I can roll into a ball and ignore you again!” Othello was watching the proceedings from another room, hoping violence wouldn’t break out.
I looked around and knew this dissatisfaction was MY fault. I had upset the order of their universe. With a little bit of difficulty, I unbeached my whale of a self from the couch, and said, “Okay, Pewter. Let’s go to bed.” However, when I got there, I found a surprise. My son, who is suffering from a particularly snot-yucky flu and refuses to leave my home while he’s ailing, was lying on my bed, spewing snores and sputum like Popocatepetl on a bender. Was I going to remove him, then get into that selfsame bed? Not until it is sanitized! I love my son, but he’s grown, he’s weaned…I’ve had enough of his cooties, thank you.
So, I headed back to the couch. It’s an easy place to fall asleep when you’re trying to concentrate on something else, like a program or a good book…but it’s a torture device when you lie across it with the definitive purpose of falling asleep. Hermione lay on my hip and started snoring. My hand fell to the side of the couch, and Pewter bit it. Spritey sat on the coffee table and stared. God knows where Othello is… probably behind the couch, planning to shock those of us who think he’s gentle with an attack of Shakespearean proportions.
I awakened this morning with a sore back, a stiff neck, and an enormous smile on my face. I love these stupid cats.