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Saturday, February 11, 2012


caterpillar in the window

snowbird and squirrel

Caterpillar reclines on her window seat watching the snowbirds hop about in the half inch of snow that fell an hour or so ago, snowbirds and chickadees looking for seeds on the ground. They are candybars with wings to her. She knows how they taste. She knows how to catch them. Before she was old, lethargic and heavy, she could catch one whenever she went hunting. I watched her bat one in the air that she'd been stalking. It flew over her head about 4 feet above her. She jumped straight up, reached up like she was playing handball and swatted it. She hit a wing and set it to wobbling. The bird caught its equilibrium in a frantic hurry and flew off. I realized she'd done that before, and probably has been more successful than the one time I saw. Like a Maine Coon, she has involuntary twitches of her lips and cheeks, whiskers wiggling, and an involuntary squeak comes out of her mouth. Whenever I hear that squeak, I know Caterpillar is watching a bird. I've seen her at the screen door looking at the squirrel on the other side of the screen, just a few feet away. They looked at each other a long time.

Now that she stays indoors, I am free to feed the birds. When she goes outside, she'll lie still and look like a gray rock, part of her hunting method, sit and wait, looking like a rock. She'll lie there and watch them for a long time, never moving except to squeak and wiggle her whiskers. She has green glow-in-the-dark eyes. She's sitting up now watching them, the occasional short meow, a big yawn. Maine Coons are awfully automatic. They don't seem to have much of a mind for thought. Her brother TarBaby, sleek black cat, could think. He had a brilliant mind for a cat. He had automatic behavior too, but he was able to think about things. Caterpillar is too deep inside her intuitional nature; thought is something her breed evidently needn't do so well. They were the first breed of cats in the New World. They were kept on ships to keep down mice and rats from the grain storage. Maine Coons were good for ships because their fur is so thick their skin doesn't get wet. They're friendly cats too. They can run like a bullet.

One characteristic I've seen in all the Maine Coons I've met, there comes a time in being petted when they've had enough. The moment you feel their discomfort, it's time to stop. One more second and they bite. Caterpillar can't allow herself to bite me, because I've never hurt her. She'll touch her teeth to my hand to let me know if she didn't love me so much she'd be drawing blood. I raised her in the house with her two siblings, both black, TarBaby (m) and Tapo (f). Caterpillar never liked them. She was the biggest and toughest. She ruled. She bullied Tapo all her life. I didn't know what to do about that but to call Caterpillar off when she'd start intimidating her. After TarBaby died, I felt like Tapo died to get away from Caterpillar. She couldn't live with Caterpillar without TarBaby to protect her. She loved TarBaby an awful lot. I feel sorrow for her now that she had to live her entire life with Caterpillar. I didn't realize it was such a burden for her until the end, or that she loved TarBaby so much. Looking back into their lives I can see it. I miss them so much I could cry every day if I let myself.

Now it's just me and Caterpillar. I can't know Caterpillar as well as I knew TarBaby or Tapo, who had different minds from Caterpillar's. Caterpillar stayed off to herself much of the time. She'd come around to me seeking affection every 3 or 4 days, leaving me to TarBaby and Tapo the rest of the time. Since they're gone, we're together all the time I'm at home. She sleeps in the same room I sleep in now. We had to learn to communicate. I had not noticed that I communicated very little with Caterpillar to not at all. I see now her mind was far away because the other 2 cats were between her and me. I've taught her how TarBaby communicated with me, showing me what he wanted. When he wanted out, he'd get my attention, then walk to the door. TarBaby's method of asking to be let in would be one meow. Caterpillar asks to be let in by plucking the screen with a claw. Tapo's way was to stand up at the window and scratch on the glass until I noticed her eyes that were calling me.

Caterpillar was the nurturer after the mother died when they were 2 weeks old, the day their eyes opened. Caterpillar kept them clean. She started liking it so much she kept their little rear ends raw and she started getting woozy from so little nutrition. Then it was time for the kittens to take care of themselves and Caterpillar recovered from her wooziness. The nurturer in her was as automatic as wiggling her whiskers when she sees birds. Now that we're together, we are communicating very well. I talk to her, she understands my meaning. When she wants to look outside, but not go outside, I'll hold the door open for her to look until she's satisfied. When I want to close the door, I'll touch the tip of her fur with the door, not even a nudge, to tell her it's time to decide. If she wants to go out, she'll go, and if she' wants to stay in, she'll turn around and walk back in. We have a good mutual respect going. I only treat her with respect and she only treats me with respect. It's always been that way with us. It's not a matter of will. It's the love between us that makes respectful regard automatic for both of us.

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