Tuesday, August 15

Friday Cat Blogging

Another rebuke to the "No viable mutations" crowd

I'm not quite sure when my wife and I came up with the "It's your turn to choose a cat" thing, exactly, but Larry was my choice. I have a string of choosing remarkable cats that dates back to the mid-60s, beginning with my insistence my dog-loving parents let me keep the farm kitten that showed up in our front yard, the one who became The Giant Cat, 25 pounds legitimate, head the size of a softball and a growl a full octave below your ordinary cat's. My mother, no real savvy pet owner (she has since middle age driven a succession of pedigreed dogs even crazier than they started out) didn't get him neutered until age three, so he fought more career bouts than Archie Moore and would disappear for weeks at a time. He'd bring home full-grown rabbits, and seemed to regard the neighbor's bird feeder as too unsporting to even acknowledge. He'd jump up on the back fence and taunt the neighbor's German shepherd, who'd eventually take the bait and be dispatched with a couple of slashes across the nose.

I've picked from various litters or up off the street a black Siamese smart enough to crack safes, a face-licking albino who caught, and survived, feline leukemia in the early days of the epidemic, the Boy, possessor of blasé street smarts, first-rate mouser, who was once seen chasing a neighboorhood dog down the street, and the Hoover, the Pure White Light of Irritability.

And compared to that lineup Larry went through kittenhood as a definite C student, most notable for the elán he brought to his obsessive-compulsive disorder and his willingness to run headlong into anything whatsoever. He was also the clumsiest cat I'd ever seen, so much so that I figured he had some mild visual deficit. It was not unusual to watch him get tangled up and fall off the ledge of the picture window in the living room just trying to walk across it.

And he didn't grow. He never grew a neck, or much of a snout, and he kept those Japanese anime eyes. He's a chriper and a whirrer, only rarely a meower.

He was smart, completely incorrigible, and a creature of habit even by cat standards. He had taken over the guest room he'd been locked in for the first few days of his stay while he and Stinky adjusted to each other. Now it was his room, and he expected his 10 PM feeding to be on time and the door shut behind you as you left. Otherwise he came back out and started breaking stuff until you remedied the situation.

This was one of the first two clues that Larry was a special talent, though it didn't appear that way at first. I've had cats do all sorts of things to get attention, particularly if it's time to wake you up for a feeding. I had a cat in college who would jump up on me at 5 AM (I got him the year I had the coffee-and-doughnuts breakfast shift at the conference center), start kneading away and drool in my face. The Hat made the alarm clock connection and knocked that off the nightstand whenever he needed you. Stinky's another kneader, but when that is met with a quick sleepy brush-off he walks up and smacks you in the mouth.

But Larry is pure hellion. He figured out early that whatever it was that got you to yell at him also got you to pay attention to him. Anything and everything gets knocked off the nightstand. Feet (mine typically hang over the end of the bed) are a favorite target. My lampshade has been chewed practically in half. And when you scream at him and drag yourself out of bed with thoughts of murder where just moments before was a beautiful dream he never runs for it. He stands there and chirps. You're up, finally. Get breakfast.

And there's the wastebasket thing. His obsession with wastebaskets started early; the door to the downstairs bath has to be kept closed or its contents will be found all over the kitchen. This was the thing that really got my attention: once he dives headfirst into a wastebasket you cannot get him out. You'd have better luck pulling a terrier out of a rathole.

At around 8 or 9 months he took to demanding a twenty-minute Cat Dancer workout every morning after breakfast. It had to begin in the living room with a few jumps and some rug work, followed by a trip to the hallway so he could bounce off the walls. Literally. From his penchant for crashing into things he'd eventually figured out the technique of springing full force at the wall and using that to propel himself upward. He plays the game above the light switch.

And he never seems to tire of it. He's outgrown the clumsiness, and he's capable of some beautiful layout work, but what's truly remarkable is that he'll crash about like this for hours, hurtling himself against walls, into whatever piece of furniture is in his way. You never have to trick him into playing by mimicking prey movements as with other cats. Just open the door to the closet where the thing is kept. He's in it for the pure love of sport.

Then my wife bought this fish-on-an-elastic-band thing for him. I'm not big on elastic band toys. But Larry, evidently, is. The jumping frenzy is now accompanied by the tug-o-war seen above. And he's damned serious, as you might be able to tell from the picture. He's not hunkered down--he's moving backwards. Get him off the carpet and onto the wood floor and you can slide him around. What you can't do is make him turn loose.


scott said...

Riley: Your cat blogging is priceless. Come out and see us sometime, ten cats and a three-legged dog. Oh, you want to get away from the brood?

D. Sidhe said...

That was great, and Larry's a doll. Aren't they great when they climb the walls? Yeah, maybe not.

I have one sort of like that myself, except possibly clumsier and definitely dimmer. She thinks she's a dog.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fool for dogs myself, but when you write about your cats, you make me (almost) want to get one.

Marion in Savannah said...

Larry is a treat! I've got an oldish (15 years) black fur person who, when I finally got around to replacing the cat dancer, got herself into such a frenzy she threw her back out and walked around sort of hunched over for 3 days. Keep up the cat blogging!

billy pilgrim said...

In college, I had an apartment with the living room at the end of a long hall, and two couches on adjacent walls with a rocking chair between.

My two cats would rocket down the hall, over the first couch, off the rocking chair, using the rocking motion as a springboard, across the second couch, then back down the hall way at full speed.

Reminds me of the wall-work Larry does.

BeginningToWonder said...

I love Friday cat blogging on Tuesdays! And by a guy named doghouse!

jill said...

Riley, you're the Pat McManus of pet stories.

(I'm not sure I can think of a higher compliment).

s.z. said...

Those are some great cat stories!

However, I'm afraid that I must sue you, because my kittens, apparently influenced by the story of your college cat, have been waking me up at 5:00 every morning with face-licking, hair-kneading, and breath stealing, to influence me to get up and feed them. They've been doing this for a couple of weeks now, and I believe it's your fault somehow (the kittens either knew that you were GOING to write about this, or traveled forward in time and read your post, and then emulated this bad behavior).

But even though you'll be hearing from my lawyer, please continue the cat tales.