Sunday, September 06, 2009

Cat tales: A pet saga in two parts


If it wasn't for the thin tinkling of a metallic vaccination tag against the clasp of an elastic collar, I'd have tripped over her a half-dozen times during the handful of visits I made to my office, which for the foreseeable future is really just a overflow room for homeless items.

Gingerly I stepped through the child gate into the makeshift storeroom expecting to see the black kitten perched on the school desk or higher up on the chest of drawers. She wasn't either place.

It had only been a few hours since she had been transported from the chaos of the local shelter and installed amid the chaos of our unpacked boxes still awaiting the final sifting, or permanent placement, in our own new forever home.

All indications were pointed toward positive: the little cat's transition was going well. She had allowed Ittybit to carry her in the most uncomfortable-looking ways without releasing her claws or even trying to squirm away. She was mush in her arms probably, I thought, a result of spending 16 weeks behind bars.

Ittybit chirped away as she slung the kitten from one arm to the other or one should to another (using one hold or another) in rapid succession. "Did you know they sometimes call cats FE-LIONS?" she said to the furry being in her arms.

Her new kitten was drinking up excessive love to excess.

Still, we didn't want to send her on bender from which she'd return angry and destructive. So, we ordered Ittybit into a forced television break to give her new charge a rest. But I couldn't help myself from sneaking into the room to get a look at the kitty, who I assumed would be tuckered from an afternoon of tussling and toting.

I took a peek into the gigantic cardboard box we'd emptied and outfitted with a soft bed and a litter box. Empty.

Scanning the room I found no trace of her.

I turned to leave but lost my balance as a fluffy shadow wove itself between my ankles, its feet sounding like tiny elephants rampaging off as I regained equilibrium and looked down to find empty floor.

Next, a tiny string mouse toy is sent scampering across my feet. And then another.

I smiled and switched off the light.

When her show was over, Ittybit launched into a game of a thousand questions -- all of them one variation or another of: "Can I play with my new kitty now?"

I shrugged. "She's not sleeping anyway. Go ahead."

I followed my daughter as she unclasped the gate and entered the room. There was no hesitation; no furtive peeking from behind cardboard. Just a black blur headed straight for her person.

And there was purring; lots and lots of purring.


She was barking ... and peeing all over the floor. My poor, old incontinent dog didn't know what to make of this cat inside the house. "It should not be here," she seemed to bark insistently.

I might have felt a twinge of guilt having unleashed a cat on my geriatric dog had the canine smile not crept back into her face. She was more animated than I've seen her in a while.

I snapped on the leash and we trotted out for a walk.

It wasn't immediate, but she found the scent of a never-before-noticed neighbor's cat. She took off after it. Her spring seemed back, too.

The shelter folks had told us to keep the dog away from the cat for a few days, but shower her with love from hands scented with new cat smell.

I smiled, thinking that's what the nurses had told us to do with the dog when we brought the first baby home.

Other folks had warned me that the adjustment wouldn't be easy; perhaps it would even be impossible for an old dog like Maddy. But I didn't buy it. She's a companion dog whose been missing her companion for two years now. She seems bored, possibly lonely.

I was thinking all these things, wishing them to be true, when the kitten ventured out from the office and sauntered past the dog, who immediately gave chase.

We all stopped breathing.

Around the couch and through the dining room they went; big dog, little cat.

As fast at it had started, the race stopped. The cat crashed to a halt, flipping over on her back to reveal her belly to the dog. She just lay there for what seemed an eternity as the dog did a backpedal to avoid a collision of cartoon proportions.

Maddy wasted no time: She immediately pushed her snout into the kitten's soft abdomen. And out came the tongue for a lick to the face.

The house exhaled.

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