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Saturday, October 10, 2009


tarbaby & tapo

It's Saturday night and Tapo between my arms at the keyboard. TarBaby just walked in, walked between her and the keyboard, her nose going over him to see where he'd been. They don't get anxious about another one that close when there's no choice about it. Caterpillar is the only one really a problem to walk by within reach. She can't help but take a swat, or maybe a pounce. The only thing predictable about Caterpillar is she will pounce any time she feels like it. When she's sitting in the doorway and TarBaby wants by, there not a space wide enough for him to get by without an attack, he jumps over her and goes on his way. It addles Caterpillar slightly and adds to the fun for TarBaby.

Years ago, my neighbor and friend Allan asked which of the cats was my favorite. At least 10 years ago. It came to me from left field, because I have never thought of one as my favorite. I love the three equally, they are satisfied that they know it. And I'm the no-claw zone. All three of them can be on me while I'm watching a movie, TarBaby on my chest, Caterpillar on my belly, Tapo on my crossed legs, they can even touch and it won't cause any more than a growl. You touched me! I didn't mean to!

I've also had cat fights on my lap. In their early years, their young cathood corresponding to our teens, the years when they were individuating after the closeness of the womb, the closeness of having no mother after two weeks, the closeness of kittens exploring the world together, each teaching the other 2 what they learn. In that way, the 3 cats together coming up learn from each other as well as from their own explorations, meaning all 3 of them have the knowledge of 3 cats.

TarBaby couldn't stand it. He had to crawl around until he found a way to get on my left arm with his rear touching Tapo's rear. Touching is ok when they're in the neutral zone. Most of the time. Sometimes I'll see on my bed TarBaby stretched out over the top of Tapo, both of them sleeping. Sometimes I see them together, Tapo licking the top of TarBaby's head and the other way around. They lick each other's necks where they can't get themselves. They also support each other to some extent.

I was wondering how the 2 will feel when the first one dies. We tend not to think animals miss each other and grieve. But they do. When Aster the dog died when the cats were 5 or 6 yrs old, when they had known Aster as their protector since their first days, they were subdued, quiet for several days. They were skittish about going outside, spent more time at the door looking in all directions before going out. There came a time after some years I noticed TarBaby had taken on the role of protector. And I believe it's a bit stressful for him as the night creatures are bigger than him. Dog could bark and they'd run. A cat doesn't scare them. They scare the cat. The best TarBaby can do is warn the girls when he spots potential trouble and they can all hide. Like crows in that way.

TarBaby had to climb on my shoulder. He's sitting on my right shoulder, right arm on Tapo's back to reach the keyboard. It doesn't matter where the arm is on Tapo as long as she's being touched. Sometimes Tapo wants to be touched so bad it feels like a touch runs an electric jolt through her it makes her so happy. If I type too much and don't take an occasional break and rub her head and neck focusing on the top of her head between the ears, she'll let me know in one way or another.

Lately, she's taken to mock biting my hand. She'll touch with her teeth, but just a whisper of a touch, a pretend threat. Touch me or I'll bite you! We have our language of communication down pretty good by now. All it takes is paying attention. They have a lot of ways to communicate with each other. Some of it body language, a lot of it eye language, varieties of sounds in their voices and varieties of growls and laying back of ears, showing teeth, and so on.

When they were kittens I watched them biting each other slowly, putting on a little bit of pressure until the one with a leg in the other one's mouth squeals that it hurts. That's when they let off, satisfied to find that point. So when they play, they don't go past a certain point in the laying on of claws and teeth. When they fight, they have a certain zone in there where they inflict more pain, but how far depends on the nature of the fight. In a play fight they don't hurt each other at all. In an anger fight there is a bit of the laying on of pain. A territorial fight when another cat comes around here and TarBaby catches him, is a fierce and serious cat fight, leaving both of them limping for a few days from all the muscles stretched and hundreds of claw holes in the back, bite marks on the neck. A cat fight is serious business when it's between territorial Toms.

When they grew up they became very different people. Not just personalities are very different, but everything about them after 12 years is individuated such that they are fully themselves. TarBaby is Mr Cool, has been since he was a kitten. He was not an aggressive kitten. Caterpillar and Tapo were ravenous like birds in a nest. Feeding time, when I fed them kitten formula with a syringe from the vet, Caterpillar and Tapo, then Tadpole, were climbing my pants as I sit on the chair to get them fed. Both of them always had to be first. Tapo was out of her mind for it until she was full and fell asleep. Caterpillar too. Ravenous. TarBaby was in no rush. Everything was cool.

There came a time when I noticed TarBaby was wobbling and weak. For a couple days I had fed Tapo twice thinking it was TarBaby, and TarBaby never let on. I started feeding Caterpillar first so when I put down one of the black ones, then I'd pick up the other black one. With Caterpillar in the middle, I was picking up Tapo twice and TarBaby was starving, never letting on.

My relationship with each one is individual now. I know them, their personalities, their character, their eyes, feel like I know who they are in the way we feel we know another person for who they are. Just now Tapo got up to go somewhere. She had to walk so close by TarBaby the side of her belly had to rub his cheek and ear. She growled when she walked by, saying to TarBaby, Don't you swat me! TarBaby just watched her go by and thought nothing of it. He was glad for her to leave. More room for him.

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