Monday, May 29, 2017

Tooth and Claw

When I heard thunder, I knew that this morning was gonna get started earlier than I'd prefer.  I'm not a morning person.  Oh, I'm awake early enough--usually 6 AM or earlier--but I'm not quite operational for a couple of hours.  Just a slow starter, me. 

But today I had to think about Smokey, my good neighbor's cat, because I'm pet-sitting for a few days.  Even though I live next door, it's about a five minute walk from my house to my neighbor's and it was already raining.  I checked the radar online:  sure enough, stormy weather (and lots of it) was on the way.  To avoid getting caught in the worst of it, I decided to take care of Smokey earlier than usual.

Smokey is a funny fluffy little thing.   I always say that she's "all fur and no cat."   She was fully grown, although still very small, and she was feral when my neighbors adopted her.  Independence is her number one virtue, and her number one vice.  Smokey loves attention but she will not be held.  And she bites.  Feisty!

Now, all cats will bite out of excess of affection and excitement.  Cats have a little bit of indelible wildness deep in their souls--that's why we love them so much, isn't it?  For Smokey, biting is also about control.  It's a "feral cat thing" and I've dealt with enough feral cats to know that responding negatively to a bite will be seen as a symptom of aggression, evidence that the Human might be dangerous, so I hold still and tolerate the teeth.  Smokey always backs off before she breaks the skin, and this becomes a sign of trust between us.

When Smokey came to live with the neighbors, they had two other cats and a small dog.  Sadly, during the last year, all three beloved pets have passed on.  Smokey, although she was never very sweet with the other animals, is lonely now.  Thus the pet-sitting time I spend with her is important; she truly craves the extra attention even though she doesn't know how to handle her reaction to it.

This rainy morning, I sat on the porch bench (it's one of those park types with iron sides and wooden slats) with Smokey.  She longs to be petted and hates it, too, so she gets close, backs off, gets close again, runs away.  I never reach to grab her or try to pick her up.  She knows that I won't intrude, so she can be bold with me.  Sometimes, when she's feeling somewhat calm, Smokey will even get up on my lap for a moment or two. 

But today, she was very excitable.  Maybe she felt energized by the weather.  And maybe she felt my own lack of ease--it was too early for me and I knew I couldn't stay long due to the weather.  In any case, she was very busy and bite-y.  She jumped up and down from the bench multiple times, approaching and retreating, winding round my feet, getting bolder with every step.....until she finally went under the bench, stood up on her hind legs, poked her head through the bench slats, and bit me on the bottom.

Yeah, that definitely woke me up.  Never let it be said that cats don't have a sense of humor.  I'm still laughing an hour later.

Life is good.

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