Friday, September 07, 2007

In which I Cross a Line

And so it's come to this.

I mean, I've been feeling almost official: there's this miniscule political chip on my shoulder; I've got my twenty, sometimes twenty-five hits a day; I've got my Friday night drunken spiels; my topics of negligible interest. I've got my tokens of a lifetime of near-celibate near-friendlessness: the coke-bottle spectacles, the Rush CDs, the pillow fort.* What's missing? Hmm...

Guessed it yet?

That's right, kittens! Why, somehow, I've never cat-blogged before, and here I call myself a blogger. I've been putting this off for a long time.**

I've never been a cat person really. I preferred the family dogs growing up, and later, when I got neighbors, I'd pretty much had it with pets altogether. (Oh man, there was this one neglected cur in the projects that was chained up so that his circuit ended exactly at either of my bedroom windows. Woke up and went to bed to clinkaclinkaclinka-woof!woof!woof! clinkaclinkaclinka-woof!woof!woof! every day for a year.) But little children means whining for pets, and rather than neglecting a cur of our own, we got a kitten five years ago, figuring cats were low maintenance, cognizant that we couldn't, despite their assertions to the contrary, count on the children (or Keifus on Fridays) to pull their weight with the pet care. (I mean Jesus, how hard is it to remember to flush?)

So anyway, five years ago, we brought home a shaggy tortoiseshell that we called, according to the season and the limits of a five-year-old's imagination, Pumpkin. Here was a kitten that had been born and raised (for five glorious weeks) on display at a petting zoo. We'd assumed that she was well adjusted to the constant poking and tail-pulling of children, but the poor creature turned out to have a persecution complex: any affection is tentative, and usually involves the creepy gingerbreading of anything fuzzy in the vicinity. (We theorize she was weaned too early.) One time I called her Fartknocker, and it stuck. Not a big purrer is Fartknocker, although I'll say that she does like me best, probably because I give her the most gentle attention. She's a good mouser too.

This summer, we decided that it was time for a new cat. Not a replacement, mind you, but hopefully one that would sit on your lap without digging its claws into your unmentionables at the slightest alarming motion. My parents have always known a variety of rednecks (there can't be many left in those parts), and in this iteration, my mother is friendly with a fiddle-playing duffer who owns feral cats. Sound like a contradiction? Evidently he feeds them, and now and then collects and distributes the inevitable kittens. So Mom had her friend round one up for us. We had to wait a couple weeks for the geezer to catch one.

Here's the first little angel his arthritic hands knotted by the scruff. On that critical visit to Mom and Dad's, I peeked in the cage, and there she was--she wouldn't meet my hand, but she curled up about six inches away and rolled around purring. A purrer! Total keeper. A calico, as you can see, and what I find her distinctive, is the soul patch at the bottom of her chin. It makes her look like a jazz musician, and so she was Zoot. (It's also handy when she's naughty.) She still likes to purr about a foot out of reach, usually in the morning, that close to my nose. She ignores me the rest of the time.

To be a cat is to be aloof, self-possessed (even in the face of ridiculousness), and supremely agile (even if it's just covering their furry asses). Kittens are so different from cats so as to be like a separate species. They're guileless little animals, uncoordinated, and, above all, they lack the unearned dignity of the adult feline. Zoot came into this house with a slinky head-bobbing walk, all legs and paws, like a teenager, comically unaccustomed to the length and the heft of them. She's a fabulous pouncer, going after feathers and strings with a full-body open tackle, all four legs aloft, heedless of the inevitable belly- (or back- or head-) flop. Already she's growing too large to scale the fuzzy speakers I regrettably purchased as a college kid. As yet unworthy of outside scatology, Zoot's favorite place in her known universe is the litterbox. It's refreshing to see her roll gleefully in her own feces, kicking cat sand across the kitchen floor with feline abandon, which is to say guiltily but unrepentant. Does it stop me from kissing her fuzzy forehead when she tolerates my attention? It does not.

Don't look at the camera!Pumpkin, on the other hand, has always been poorly adjusted. She's taken up the mantle to defend our house from the foul sprays of the (goddamn) tiger, orange, and black neighbor cats, usually without success. Upon finding an intruder indoors she appealed to her feeders with a look of alarm and betrayal, eyes wide, body poised somewhere between flight and attack. For her part, Zoot has been forever fascinated with Fartknocker's crooked tail. We had to keep them separated for as long as it took the kitten to get bigger than a rat. Now, she taunts Pumpkin mercilessly, running at top speed across the floor, and somersaulitng at the bigger cat's upturned defensive paw. They're accustomed enough to one another by now that Pumpkin is lazy about her self-defense, expending a minimum of effort to send the upstart scurrying in the opposite direction. One well-timed look, one hiss, one threatening gesture.

I am a monster of a human being, contrubiting in my part of kitty genocide. Three weeks ago I sent Zoot to the vet to sacrifice her sexual life for my convenience. Her convalescence kept her two days away from home, during which Pumpkin discovered she valued her family, luxuriating in the attention and the peace. When the kitten returned, it was with stitches and a lampshade. It was a good socializing tool I suppose. As she tried to scratch, Zoot would whack the plastic cone unproductively, sounding for all the world like an aerosol can. I'd scratch her ears for her, and she'd purr (yes!) gratefully, and lick the inside of the plastic. She's sweet, but Zoot is not, I fear, very bright.

My parents eventually ended up with Zoot's brother (Owen, but accepted as "Numbnuts," they don't fall far from the tree). Owen is pretty cool, and he tolerates the dressing-up, tail-pulling, and shouting, better than his sister. It doesn't matter the extent and volume of my admonitions, but a six year old and a cat mix poorly.

And can you guess who Zoot yowls for when they're not around? Hint: it ain't me. Maybe I should get a third one...

Gratuitously, here's Zoot. Good night, everybody.

*yeah, I stole it from Colbert. Bite me.
**couldn't find the USB cord for the camera.


Archaeopteryx said...

Welcome to the Dark Side.

According to my friends, we crossed the line into "crazy cat people" with our fourth cat. So you still have a little cushion if you want to try again.

Zoot (and Fartknocker) are beautiful. Howie, Norman, Pearl and Clovis send greetings.

Keifus said...

Thanks, Arch. When I picked #2 up from the vet, I discovered that Cat Fancy has centerfolds. I think you're still on this side of crazy.

K (o-ho, but which side is that?)

rundeep said...

Aaack! Gratuitous cuteness! As someone who indeed has one blog entry about my then kitten, I say welcome aboard. (Mine's ridiculously social by the way. With everyone. The exact opposite of aloof -- I attribute it to being raised for a few months with dogs at the vet. He's also unbearably mellow. I think not too smart.)

rundeep said...

hey man, you are getting noticed. Here, for example, someone takes issue with your book review. Go man go!,%20Gene%20Wolfe.htm

Keifus said...

I didn't steal from you intentionally, rundeep. Honest. (My cats are grudgingly friendly. It might be their owners rubbing off.)

That dude called me foolish! (And even worse, didn't link.)

rundeep said...

didn't mean to imply you were stealing. I confess I sneak off to hipparchia's blog just to look at the kittens, and to twiff's to look at baby pictures. I thought you'd be entertained. Actually, your book reviews have gotten you noticed. Do an ego-surf for Keifus Writes (which is how I found it. I don't have you favorited at work -- for obvious reasons).

twiffer said...

i thought i could trust you...and then...kittens. oh, the horror! next thing you know, you'll have a feed from the kitten of the day website.

the line is thin indeed.

okay, fine. kittens are cute, damnit. puppies too.

Keifus said...

I didn't mean to imply that you were implying that I was implying that...

Google story: I ego-surfed "Keifus" a while back and found a guy who's in the entertainment business, and evidently unfortunate enough to have that not be a nickname. Made a funny blog comment to ThyGoddess, which the other Keifus found (or maybe Goddess told him about it, hmmm...). We've exchanged a couple emails since, and he seems a nice enough guy. Find him on the upcoming K-Ville TV series. I may watch it just for that.

K (spoooooky)

Keifus said...

It's like I don't know who I am anymore, Twiffer.

twiffer said...

you've changed man, you've changed.


just don't get involved in any duels. particularly with people who challenge you to a photo duel, then try to blame you for it...(cough, bacon!, cough).

hipparchia said...

i refuse to add puppies, cute as they are, to my zoo. and if i crossed the line at cat #4, and now have 12 cats, where am i?

cute zoot!