Friday, September 20, 2013

A blog post about my cat, because I tried to write you a love song, but I failed. (In the category of Say What You Mean.) #52Weeks

I really tried to make “Hopeless Choices” a four-parter, but thinking, much less blogging about Ken “Cooch” Cuccinelli, for two more weeks is simply too odious to contemplate. (Although the universe did throw me a delicious bone when I Googled to see if I was the first to call Cooch, Cooch-- I was not. Had I the stomach to discuss his irrationally contradictory positions against both birth control and the outcome of not using it, this article would have been most thought-provoking.)

But I don’t wanna. He’s creepy, and he’ll suck as governor (if he wins), but he can only suck for four years, a constitutional term limit in Virginia. If you also live in Virginia, vote for whomever you wish (the choices are hopeless). But vote.

Having abandoned that topic, I searched around for another to fill this week’s requirement. I briefly contemplated a whiney rant on whatever crossed my mind to whine and rant about. A bunch of stuff has been pissing me off lately: there’s been two more mass shootings, but we all know better than to squawk about gun control. The NRA owns Congress. Many more will die. The House GOP just decided to slash funds to feed hungry Americans. They’ve already shown their determination not to offer their constituents healthcare, affordable education, or anything resembling job opportunities or the hope of upward mobility. Why the hell bother to feed them then? The contempt of our current Congress for the majority of Americans is reprehensible. I blame their leadership, or more correctly, their lack thereof. Not even Newt “The Lizard” Gingrich ever made me want to shout more often, “Mr. Speaker, shut up!”

I considered failing to make this post at all, but if I understand the rules correctly, I would just have to tack any missed posts onto the end of the term (which for me, concludes in early February 2014.) I prefer not to do that for multiple reasons.

So in the spirit of perseverance and meeting a deadline, this week, I have decided to write about my Smitty Kitty. He’s two and a half years old now, a strapping lad cat and no longer the scrawny kitten we adopted. Smitty is fearless, willful, very smart, and fairly fast. He used to be faster, but a genetic defect has enlarged his heart, so he gets winded more easily than he should for a cat of his age and magnificence. He’s blissfully unaware of his condition though, and we have no plans to tell him. It would spoil his fun.

As the sun set last night, I noticed Boo Boo (that’s what I call Smitty) watching a juvenile male cardinal who was contemplating our empty bird feeders. The bird lighted on the top of the shepherd’s crook where the feeders hang and chirped indignantly a few times then chose to check the ground for fallen seed. His decision did not go unnoticed by Smitty (very little does). I counted Smitty’s tail swishes, knowing what would come next. One swish...two swish...the tail went still, but the butt wiggle began, a sure sign that Smitty planned to pounce on the hapless bird. I slapped the palm of my hand on the wooden deck rail and made a ridiculous sounding clown noise; the young bird spooked and flew to a safe branch. Smitty turned a baleful eye on me before retreating to the shadows of the pokeberry bush along the back fence that I let grow wild this summer.

White with gray patches, a gray tail on a white butt, Smitty is nearly invisible in the dapple of shadow and failing sunlight. He also hides well in fog and snow. Instinctively, he prefers to perch on the white deck chairs rather than the wooden ones — Smitty knows how to blend. Of all the things this little cat has taught me (and he has taught me much), I most enjoy the lessons about wildlife – the ordinary kind that I see in my back yard. We watch the animals together, Smitty and I, with opposing agendas: he looking to score a kill, and I, looking to prevent one.

Good Smitty.
I’ve always been a bird watcher. Usually, the birds that live in my neighborhood have little about which to complain in terms of seed supply. We do our best to keep it steady. It’s about more than birds, though. The sight of a bunny or a squirrel brings me no end of pleasure. I don’t even mind seeing the baby skunks each spring. They’re cute, but only if I am sure both my cats are safely inside.

Smitty has no fear of skunks. His first summer as an indoor-outdoor kitty he tried to befriend a baby skunk. It was a week night, and the kitty had missed curfew, so I set out with a Maglite® to find him. In the side yard I spotted a flash of white fur, and eyes glowed in the beam of light.

“There you are, Smitty!” I said joyfully, moving towards him to scoop him up and take him indoors for the night. Then motion out of the corner of my eye drew my attention. I looked, to my right, and there sat Smitty, in the backyard, peering from beneath the spindle bush with a look of interest. I blinked then turned to look again at what I thought was Smitty. Slowly, I moved the flashlight away from the eyes. The flash of white fur I had seen was wider than one usually sees on skunks that age, but there was no mistaking what I was about to try to catch and bring into my house.

I backed away slowly, not wanting to appear threatening. The little skunk watched me go, then turned his head and spotted Smitty, who was coming forward to get a better look. No tail swishing, no butt wiggling – I didn’t fear that he would pounce on the skunk, but I didn’t want him antagonizing the little critter either.

“No, Smitty! Come here, Smitty!” I wanted to shout but thought better of it and settled for a loud whisper. Smitty ignored me completely and continued to approach, nose forward to catch the scent of this animal he had never seen before.

Luckily, the skunk thought better of all the attention, turned his back to me and Smitty both, and ambled off into the space beneath the neighbor’s front stoop. Smitty came over to me and bonked my shin with his head in greeting. He mewed once in his sweetest kitty voice (his mew is very high pitched for such a large cat...I may have had him snipped a tad too early). I grabbed him, breathed a sigh of relief, and headed for the front door as he wriggled to escape.

We waited until Smitty was six months old and large enough to not be mistaken for a rabbit by the sharp shinned hawks that hunt the field behind our house before we let him go out to play unsupervised. Eager to explore the world again (his first three months of life had been spent solely outdoors being raised by his Momma cat and eating out of the dumpsters in the parking lot of Smith’s Landing – hence his name) Smitty rushed at all things. Butterflies, wind-blown leaves, blades of grass in need of mowing, birds, his sisfur, Tweeter kitty – he eagerly greeted them all with enthusiasm, a curious paw and twitching nose.

On his first day out (a few weeks before he tried to meet the skunk) Smitty explored the yard thoroughly. On that day, we filled the bird feeders and put out corn for the gray squirrels hoping the animals would come to the yard for Smitty’s amusement. We did not fear his hunting prowess at the time – he had not yet learned how to blend, and the birds could see his shiny white fur flying at them long before he could put a paw on them. The squirrel that had come to partake of the corn seemed to think him harmless too. In fact, none of us expected Smitty to run for the squirrel at top speed. Taking no heed of gravity as he climbed (as nimbly as any squirrel) Smitty settled on a branch just below the squirrel and scouted for a path to climb higher.

The squirrel looked me square in the eye, stuck out an accusatory paw, and began to bark at me in a tone of unmistakable ire. His tail shaking in synchrony, the little rodent wagged a finger in my face and lambasted me with language that I am sure, could I speak squirrel, would have scathingly addressed my parentage, my level of intelligence, and my overall appearance. The message could not have been plainer: “Get your damn cat out of my tree, and never let this happen again!”

The squirrel continued to curse me as I coaxed Smitty back down to a place in the tree where my husband (taller) could reach him, which took a few minutes. Even as my husband grabbed the cat, Smitty and the squirrel locked eyes. Smitty began to wriggle. The squirrel’s tone dropped an octave and took on a more ominous staccato. Finally, as my husband pulled Smitty into his arms and marched the wriggling kitten into the house, the squirrel ceased his chastisement and moved further up the branch. Still barking, he leapt to the next tree over and vanished in the thick evergreen canopy.


(Smitty kitty has friends all over the Twitterverse, and he’s been featured on his “besties” web page.)

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