The Saratoga Sun -

Two shades of grey and some colorful trouble


I didn’t set out to be a “crazy cat lady.”

I have acquired three cats though and apparently three is the threshold for being dubbed such.

For years I was cat-free–but in the summer of 2001 I felt the need to go to the library.

There, in the entry alcove, was a lady I knew. I said “hi” and then noticed the box of kittens she was watching over.

“You want one?” she asked. “They’re free.”

Against my better judgment, I picked a few up and eventually settled on a little cutie with a checkerboard muzzle (just so you know, I had to look up whether a cat’s nose and mouth area is actually called a muzzle—I was going to just say nose, but that wouldn’t have been accurate).

That same day I went out to pick up the accoutrements my “free” cat would need to survive.

I picked up some kitten food—which is a good place to start. I had an inkling that if you feed the critters you will also need a poop receptacle of some sort—so I picked up one of those too.

A new cat will also need some “litter.” There could be a debate held over the “scoopable” versus “regular” litter too. I have used both, but lean towards the scoopable type now.

Something to sort through the litter is a good idea too. Who wants to hand-sort kitty waste?

Other costs involved are shots, spaying/neutering, and declawing (if you are so inclined).

After I had gotten all the key kitty implements, I settled in for the endless fun I had watching tiny feline antics.

I named the little one Grey since, well, the critter was mostly a grey color. Not very creative … but I sometimes get creative in non pet-naming areas.

Grey used to come get under the covers with me at night but still to this day will come and set her teeth on the tip of my nose in a kind of kitty kiss (also possibly a nursing reflex).

Grey and I happily went on like this for about two years.

The new cat

One day I was minding the store I managed when a girl I knew came in and asked me if I would take a cat. She added that the kittens would be killed if no home could be found for them.

What could I do?

I thought about it and decided that Grey could use a companion while I was at work and rationalized that two cats are no harder to take care of than one.

Resigned, I asked if one of the kitties was a female because my father had told me that cats of the same sex that have been spayed (or neutered) seem to get along better.

The girl told me that yes, one of the kittens was a girl and showed up the next day with another little grey ball of fur.

I have to admit that cat was one of the weirdest looking kittens I have ever seen. Since she had outsized ears, I decided to call her Mousie.

Though Grey originally hissed and looked like she would like to eat Mousie, eventually I would come home to find them sleeping curled up together.

The two cats ended up being the best of friends despite their often amusing and harmless (but violent-looking) bouts of “kitty warfare.”

Two cats and a human was the norm for another two years.

Calico invasion

Another schoolgirl and her friend showed up at my store right on my two-year cat acquisition cycle—the lead girl carrying two little calico kittens. Of course, she asked if I would like to take one off her hands.

I took a chance on the odds and said, “If you have a female, sure.” I was thinking I had a 50/50 chance to avoid gaining a gaggle of cats.

What I didn’t know was that calico kitties are almost always female.

So I ended up with Pat the cat (or Pat Chez—whose shot records says Patches).

When I got home with the tiny multi-colored animal, both Grey and Mousie immediately tried to attack her.

As I put the now frightened newcomer under an inverted laundry basket on my coffee table both of my grey kitties glowered and tried to determine how to get to the morsel inside.

Oh, how times have changed. Over the years Pat has become the largest and most rambunctious of the bunch—though Grey (now the smallest) still rules the roost and deflects Pat’s oft-attempted encroachments.

Triangle of discontent

The relationships have shifted now that all the kitties are full grown.

Where Grey and Mousie were best of friends, Grey is now indifferent to Mousie but plays with Pat all the time. Mousie has become the loner despite the fact that she is the cat who will come up for pettings from anyone who steps foot in my door. Mousie still dislikes Pat and growls anytime the calico draws too near.

My attempts to foster feline unity have been pathetic failures to this point.

Laser cats

Every time I read an article trying to make a humorous generalization about cats (or dogs for that matter) the comments are almost universally of the “My pet is not like that at all”.

I get it. As usual, take what I write with a grain (lump, truckload, etcetera) of salt.

Mousie used to say “Ma-Ma”.

No, seriously.

She sounded just like one of those dolls that you could turn upside down and when you turned them right side up they would say “Mama.”

The problem was that when she said it I would repeat it to her.

I think she figured out it was something I wanted her to do.

Big mistake with a cat.

As soon as the cat figures out that you want them to do something they will never do it again.

Grey used to “fetch” rubber bands until she caught wind of the plot to make her do “cat tricks.”

Of course they all like the “little red dot” of a laser pointer and have endless fun chasing the uncatchable dot about the house.

The brush off

Cats, as a standard operating procedure, throw up a lot.

This is partly because when they clean themselves they end up with a mouthful of fur that works its way into the dread “furball.”

You can feed them anti-furball food. You can give them vaseline-looking anti-furball medication.

You can even brush them to within inches of their tolerance for such foolishness. All the brushing only leads to having another slightly less animated cat standing next to the one that, mysteriously, still looks to have all the fur they started with.

You can repeat all these activities ad infinitum and still observe your cat horking up a nice little pile wherever they feel it is appropriate.

Where they often deem appropriate (and cats have an uncanny ability to determine this) is where you will be stepping barefoot in the dark.

“Hey, watch this guys! He’ll be walking right here barefoot tonight about three. Whook, hork, bleck, hruff … Splat!”

It’s why I think cats can see into the future.

Magic cats

I have heard that cats are not affectionate and loyal like dogs.

This is not true.

Grey is always happy to see me come home, and, as soon as I sit where she has trained me to, she will jump into my lap and rub herself all over me until she feels I have had enough of her benedictions.

When she doesn’t know where I am, often because she is waking up from a nap and I am in a non-routine part of the house, Grey will go pick up her little stuffed Elmo doll and carry it around like a wayward kitten until she finds me.

I have found Elmo in some unusual spots over the years. I have found this threadbare and oft-repaired artifact under the covers in my bed, on my pillow, on my dining room table and under a large assortment of things.

So cats are affectionate. It’s just that cats are persnickety.

Grey no longer likes crawling under the covers with me … but Pat is usually anxious to crawl in and purr until I am ready to fall asleep. While Pat is my bedwarmer now she doesn’t usually like to crawl on me when I lay on the couch. Mousie is my couch cat—but won’t normally go any farther than my feet on the bed. I cannot lie on the couch without looking down to find Grey laying on my legs.

I will often find a cat on me and wonder when they got there. I will also notice a cat laying on me then look down later only to notice it is now miraculously a different cat. This is why I think cats have regularly been labeled as “magic.”

There is a full laundry basket more that I could say about my feline friends, but I think I’ll save some for some later date.

’Till then … purr on!


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