Friday, January 23, 2009

My Cat Thinks That I Am Mentally Retarded

Way back in August of 1996, we went to an animal shelter in Starkville Mississippi. The goal was to select a kitten to join our family (which was my wife, two dogs, and me at the time). The shelter was unimpressive and a bit run down. Probably true of any no-kill shelter trying to maintain a workable budget. Nonetheless, they had the usual assortment of puppies and kittens, cats and dogs. We had to shield our eyes from the sight of any puppy or dog as we were already at the limit there, and we wouldn't want to see any "must-haves" in that department.

There was a good-sized cage against the wall that had a BUNCH of kittens of every size and color. Some were sleeping head beneath haunch of others. There were some little gray, yellow, and white long-hair kittens trying to teach themselves hunting skills. Four kittens were sitting sphinx-style looking cool. One was (mostly) on a small ledge with head and paws hanging over the edges trying to look tough, and I think there was a little tiger-kitty in the back smoking.

Cute though they all may have been, there was only ONE kitten that was CLEARLY looking to get sprung. This was a yellow-and-white striped, big-eyed scrawny puff of a kitten. He was meowing like he knew us from somewhere and had jumped onto the front of the cage grabbing it with three paws so he could reeeeeach out with his front left paw at us and beg that we would PLEASE take him away! The desperation of his meows made it very clear to us that he already loved us and never wanted to be separated from us like this again. Very, very cute.

Ok, so we asked if we could hold the cute little tiger kitty please. Although I didn't notice it then, the workers seemed to fall over each other to get to the cage door and let this one out for adoption. Like a coat hung on the closet door, his little body swung out on the cage door he had been clinging to. To make things even cuter, he looked over his shoulder in surprise (now that I know him better, it was probably confusion) by the whole concept of what had happened. A moment ago, his prison was behind him. Now, behind him was freedom. It was his golden opportunity to escape, but, the wheels are a little slow in a kitten, so he was easily pried from the cage (still meowing, though - THAT never stopped).

We held him and he held us. (Still meowing.)

Hmm, noisy isn't he? Well, it must be that he's in kitty-jail. Once he gets a proper home, surely he'll simmer down.

As we were pondering this yellow and white striped mouth of a kitten, our eyes happened upon a medium sized all-black short hair cat hiding in the back of another cage. She was so timid and wide-eyed-silent that we couldn't resist the contrast with the little yellow fire-siren we were holding. Fools that we were (are?), we decided to adopt both.

We got them home in good time because the meows from our little bundle of auditory joy sounded like an ambulance and all the traffic pulled over for us. (That was only a slight exaggeration, by the way.) Once released into the wilderness of our humble domicile, "Serena" (the quiet sweet noiseless little hushed black silent kitty) scurried to a hiding spot somewhere. Our motor-mouth kitty, on the other hand, immediately started checking out the new digs. He went from room to room, meowing continuously. After a few days, this constant noise concerned us enough to check with the vet. Apparently, he's just a "talker".

Living in Mississippi, we had a greater-than-usual potential for sudden and violent storms. So, the community had multiple tornado-sirens that were tested every week. This was scary when we first moved there because it sounded like an air-raid alarm but we didn't really know what it was. These alarms have an urgency to them that easily sounds like the alarm that people would chose to signal that the world was about to come to an end.

Based on our new kitten's vocalization talents, we decided to name him "Tornado-Siren" (my wife's idea, actually - but I think she was just joking at first). We call him "Tony" for short (if you want the long version, he'll yell it at you).

Tony's curiosity and timing have become legend in our house. Somehow, this one knows when there is a new or freshly opened container, box, bag, suitcase, toolbox, package, closet, drawer, window, or door (even if it is only open for three seconds). I haven't known what it is like to wear clothes that don't have hair on them for years. Little yellow hairs materialize INSIDE packages that have never even been OPENED yet! When I wake up in the morning, I have at least one kitty-hair in at least one of my nostrils, eyes, ears, or in my mouth.

Did I mention that Tony is a talker? It's been over ten years and he STILL has something to say about everything. He's always on the wrong side of any closed door. When it comes to a closing door, he rushes to get TO the door, but then dilly-dallies just at the edge (meowing, of course) so you don't know if he really wanted to go through or come out or whatever.

I've heard people say that, "Oh, I once had a cat that liked to talk. You get used to it, it's not that bad." But when they come to visit, they pull me aside to ask, "Is everything alright with your cat? He's been doing an awful lot of crying." Actually, because there's company, that tends to distract Tony and he's usually more quiet than normal. So all I can reply is, "Welcome to my world." NOBODY really understand the NOISE this cat puts out until they've lived with him for a week. You will NOT sleep well, I promise. We figure that Tony likes the sound of his own voice. That much is clear. But let me tell you why Tony must think I'm mentally deficient.

There are two things that Tony wants very badly. (1) Food with gravy. (2) To go outside. (Ok, three things, if you count hearing himself sing.) We can handle the diet part of his crying (sometimes we can distract him with some kitty-weed [aka catnip]). But the "outside" issue is not to be resolved. He is too stupid (my opinion, not my wife's) and submissive to last out there. He will NOT protect himself. The dogs have their way with him and he has lost tufts of fur and received little punctures but has NEVER hissed or scratched to defend himself. Occasionally, our neighbor (the little lady who you see in the Tweety-Bird cartoons) will leash him up and take him out for a walk. Otherwise, he's an indoor kitty for life. But I digress…

Tony will walk the house complaining that he isn't eating or isn't outside (even though nobody is around to listen). When he catches me in the kitchen, though, he punches up his meows. I know that he is saying, "Gravy! Gravy! Gravy!" Over and over. Now, in my example, I am just in there to do something else (not to feed the furball). His normal meow is set to "loud" as it is, BUT, if Tony catches my eye - if he SEES that I am looking at him, then he kicks things up to, "GRAVY, GRAVY, GRAVY!" To me, this is the stereotypical stupid American trick of talking to someone who doesn't speak the language. The trick is to simply say the same thing louder. In neither case, stupid-American or Tony, does the talker realize that they are not communicating. Instead, the failure to understand is put on the recipient of the message. So in Tony's mind, he cannot believe how stupid I am that I cannot understand the simple request for GRAVY! Or, if I'm by the entryway, why can't I understand "OUTSIDE!"?

Believe it or not, I haven't scratched the surface yet of how annoying the little guy is. If you corner me sometime and if you have a sympathetic enough face, you can probably get me to break down and give you all the horrible details of what it's like to live with Satan's cat. Please bring tissues and a lint-brush.

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