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Sunday, January 3, 2010

CATS AT HOME


caterpillar the terrible


The cats are restless. They don't even go to the door anymore to look outside to see if they'd like to go out. They've settled down to staying indoors all the time. I say they, meaning TarBaby and Caterpillar. Tapo hardly ever goes out. She'll go out on a clear, warm day with good sun, find a nice place to soak up some rays and stay as long as she feels like it. She's on the chair by the kitchen window for early afternoon sun. She's there every day of good sun. It's one of her places. Caterpillar has a place in a far room full of boxes and stuff, a nearly impenetrable room. She has a place where she curls up as in a small cave. That's her place.


TarBaby has taken up in the bathroom in the upper left corner of the shower stall close to the ceiling. In the corner is a little shelf just his size
if he curls up just right. It probably feels to him like the safest place in the house with the advantage he can see anything coming his way before it can see him. It may never see him. It would have to smell him out, and no dog could get up there. He seems like he's weakening instead of getting well. He doesn't feel good. He never feels good. I don't know how that super high white blood cell count feels, but that's what he's feeling. He sneezes every once in awhile. I don't quite know what to do. He eats very little at a time, wants to eat frequently, so I feed him when he wants, to keep some food in him.


It's like I've continued the effort to keep Jr eating at least something per day with TarBaby. I have a feeling he's on a slow fade like Jr. If so, I'll take care of him with as much attention as I gave Jr. TarBaby has been my friend all his life. In his way of seeing, I'm his provider, his protector. If I didn't give him a place to live, he'd be out in the cold. Plus, TarBaby has never known anyone but me and a few of my friends over the years. He's never known the giants to treat a cat any way but well. Yet, when somebody comes into the house, the cats scatter. After a very long while, Tapo will come and see what's happening after hearing us talking and being peaceable. Then Caterpillar will pass through on the way to the kitchen for something to eat and act like she sees nothing. On the way back, she'll check out from afar, then a little closer when she sees Tapo is being treated well. After another while TarBaby may or may not show up. In summer, he'd be off in the woods someplace and pay it no mind. In the winter, he's in his sleeping corner and that's it.


I've never made a conscious effort to teach them to be wary of people they don't know. But I'm glad they took up being that way. More than likely it was learned from Aster the dog when they were growing up. With all the people parking around here from cities with kids and SUVs for the waterfalls, I don't want Caterpillar winding herself around some little girl's ankle and she doesn't have a collar, she must be a stray cat, mommy can we take the pretty cat home? She's so friendly. NOT. It aint happenin. I don't even encourage the cats to come out and meet harmless company, because I don't want to teach them against the wariness they already have, teach it out of them when they have it so well. I neither encourage nor discourage with my friends. I leave it to the cats individually. They can make up their own minds when they start feeling safe and curious enough to check out the surprise appearance of a giant that came in from outside to sit and talk giant talk with the house giant.


These cats were born together, a litter of 3. They were each other's comfort from the death of their mother when they were 2 weeks old. I turned on mother love for them and they kept each other warm in the night. They slept in a pile. Caterpillar became the nurturer that kept the others clean before they were able to themselves. The crazy cat got into it so much, learned to like it so much, she took to eating kitty poopy kind of obsessively. One day she was a bit wobbly going around, woozy from so little nutrition. She caught on that a little food would take care of that. She was funny in that time. Tiny kitten gray and black stripes, bushy fur, long hair curving out of her ears that her ears grew around. They were like Andy Rooney's eyebrows. She looked like a fuzzy caterpillar hobbling along when she was a kitten first learning to walk.


The cats in their equivalent of our entering the teens started fighting fairly often, rolling around on the floor howling, sounding like they're tearing each other up, when there's not a mark on either one after it's over. Caterpillar came out of the period of working out their hierarchy of who can kick whose ass the one on top. Tapo on the bottom. Thus Caterpillar can pick on TarBaby and Tapo. TarBaby can only pick on Tapo. Tapo can pick on nobody. She's the bottom of the picking order. Caterpillar is a heavy cat, a Maine Coon. Her mind is less developed past automatic behavior than TarBaby's and Tapo's. When Caterpillar starts fighting, it's all out to the death right now. TarBaby and Tapo don't want to play that rough. Caterpillar only plays rough. It's a genetic thing, like her ability to run fast as a rabbit. She's a bit like a lab that will chase a ball until it collapses of exhaustion. TarBaby and Tapo made way for Caterpillar. Even now, if Caterpillar walks by Tapo too close, Tapo will hiss at her.


Tapo was born a ravenous eater, and I suspect encouragement from Caterpillar for Tapo to get her weight up to Caterpillar's so she could have something to fight back with. I don't stop them when they do their cat hierarchy games. I can't help but believe they know what they're doing far better than I do. I keep out of their relationships with each other. That's cat business. But when TarBaby or Caterpillar torment Tapo too much, I'll say something, and sometimes it will end. I've found if I call to Caterpillar and ask her to back off from Tapo coiled up in a corner hissing and growling with her ears back and her claws fully extended, showing them to Caterpillar, who laughs, Caterpillar will slowly back away and let Tapo be. That was all Caterpillar really wanted to do anyway was make her hiss and remind her who rules.


TarBaby puts a bead on Tapo, looks her in the eye saying, I'm gonna pounce on you. Tapo growls and backs up, ears back. TarBaby approaches with his head up ready to dodge a swipe of Tapo's claws, closing in to raise a paw to swat her with. Just a touch will make her hiss and go crazy. He'll reach over and touch her with the tip of his paw. She'll coil up tighter, hiss, growl, look at him with eyes that say I'm going to rip your guts out. TarBaby laughs. He lifts his paw again and Tapo reacts again. He'll step up to her to say, I'm not backing down. She'll run off to hide under a chair's legs and he'll follow her. She'll leave that shelter and run to another one with TarBaby's nose almost touching the tip of her tail. When he backs her into a corner she can't get out of and her growling is about to turn to crying, I'll ask TarBaby to back off. He'll back away from her, eyeball to eyeball, slowly, then turn away and leave her alone, though with his ears turned back listening behind him to hear if Tapo is making a move to get him. No. He goes on. Tapo hates it and I don't know that there is anything I could ever do about it. If I were to interrupt their dominance reminders, they'd do it when I'm not around, and it would be worse.


My feeling is by this time in their lives, 12 and will be 13 Mother's Day, they don't like each other. Caterpillar and Tapo were neither one enchanted to see TarBaby return home after being gone 3 weeks. He paid them no mind when he saw them, too. It wasn't even like, Oh, it's you. It was more like, Shit, I thought he was gone. I've an idea TarBaby and Tapo would live in peace, which they do 99% of the time, if Caterpillar weren't around. She keeps both of them on edge about getting pounced on if she's in sight. She's unpredictable and it's best to stay out of the zone of her reach. Caterpillar walks by TarBaby and Tapo like she's a Hummer with a machine gun on top in Baghdad, ready to fight if provoked the least little bit. They watch every step she takes, anticipating anything. Don't make any sudden move to catch her attention. Be still. Let her walk on by.

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