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November 05, 2004

Okay, let's see how long I keep at it this time ...

Which is to say, here I go again with an attempt to build a weblog about the five animals in the house who aren't bipeds (and pay exactly none of the bills around here). I've started this several times, but it hasn't really hooked me -- this time, though, I'm working with an actual weblog script that should make this as easy and painless as possible.

It all started back in 1997, when Tony and I were living together near Cincinnati, Ohio. I'd had a cat with my first husband, a very sweet-tempered brown tabby tomcat we'd named Norman Bates (he jumped in the shower with my first hubby and refused to get out), we'd gotten him on a 'free to good home' ad when he was around two months old. I'd raised a kitten, in other words. Tony, however, had not.

I figured it was an experience anybody who aspired to have animals in the house should have once in their lives, so we went to the nearest shelter the week after Christmas in 1997 looking (without much hope, that late in the year) for a kitten. There were two, both females, one long-haired and one short. Both well aware of our shared weakness for the finer points of housekeeping, we chose to take the short-haired cat. She was, as had Bates been, about two months old. She stank of pee, so we started calling her Tink that day, and ... well, we never stopped calling her Tink. It did make for an interesting explanation the first time Tony took her to the vet and I wasn't there, and the receptionist squealed, "oh! She's so cute! Is Tink short for Tinkerbell?"

She rendered Tony somewhat tongue-tied, to say the least. I don't know if he ever told her the truth or not.

Tink grew into a gangly adolescent cat with one of the ugliest coats I've ever seen on a short-haired cat -- woolly, spiky and not at all shiny. She was clearly going to be a big girl, though -- legs all over.

We had her neutered at around four months, before she'd been in heat the first time. It's my contention that she became the behemoth she is because of that -- a great ad for early spay/neuter, if you're fond of enormous cats. Tink is.

The first visit to any vet, she's always greeted with "Oh, what a pretty boy he is!" This is from professionals, who just know female non-breed cats aren't that big. I volunteer at a shelter and don't see many males much bigger than Tink, so I know why the vets always think she's male. She really is quite an impressive behemoth.

The ugly duckling stage didn't last long, with Tink. She shed a lot of the wiry fur when the weather warmed up, and her coat started to get shinier. By the time she'd been with us a year, she was a gigantic, furry machine.

I'd love to say she was a sweet cat, the light of our lives, all that crap -- but she isn't. Tink's a real mystery. She's really affectionate at the strangest times -- when we're in the bathroom in the mornings, for instance, and sometimes she'll climb up on the bed with one of us if we're taking a nap or reading and want attention. Most of the time, she's content just to be in the room and be left alone.

Tink was seven years old as of Halloween 2004. She looks little different than she did when she was three, except she'd been living with the second cat in the house for most of a year, by then, and she'd quit playing as much and started eating like a triple-crown racehorse. She's somewhat slimmer now, though she still carries a pouch under her belly (as do all the female cats in the house, and the male, too, when he's too fat).

There's something in Tink that definitely explains the fact that some of the first civilzations that domesticated cats revered them. I hesitate to say worship, since they buried cats with their 'humans' in the pyramids -- I suspect it was rather a similar relationship to the one modern Westerners have with their cats. They may have believed the cats were inhabited by spirits of their assorted gods or of the dead, I don't really know. I just know I can see, looking at Tink, how humans could have come to see something admirable in a four-legged animal that can't even speak in the sense humans speak.

Every night, she waits until the lights are out and she thinks we're asleep, and then that cold, aloof cat jumps up on the bed with us, comes up to sniff me and make sure I'm asleep (even if I'm not I don't react, because I've learned the game she's playing; if I reach out to pet her, I've broken the illusion she has that she's stealthy and invisible in the dark), then curl up with her back against the inside of one of my legs. She'll stay there much of the night, some nights; others, she's gone before I'm even asleep. It's her little bit of 'vig,' I guess -- it's the privilege of being the alpha cat in the household, that she gets to get on the bed with us, and we don't yell at her if she smacks the other cats off the bed.

If she feels like copping the other cats, she's welcome to the bed when we're in it, as far as I'm concerned. I've found it's more foolish to attempt to mold the dynamics among the cats in the house than to let them fix things themselves, as long as nobody gets hurt. Amazingly, nobody really does.

Posted by Melinda at November 5, 2004 09:40 PM


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