Two Cat Stories: Mama and Barney in the Wild
|Barney and Mama|
Barney is a little over four years old, and he's quite large (one and a half times as big as Mama), having thick, beautiful dark grey fur which he trails behind him like a small whirlwind as he moves through the room. Barney loves to be petted, and will come up to strangers and rear up, putting his front paws on their legs, begging for attention. But here's the interesting thing: until the last few months he's never been affectionate himself. He never, for example, rubs up against people as cats usually do (though he'll rub up against nearby furniture while purring). Also, he never likes having a hand come directly at his face, no matter how slowly—he jerks away in terror. Indeed, all sudden noises send him running. When the alarm system in my house malfunctioned one afternoon and emitted a piercing beep, Barney went up the second floor stairs like a tornado, bunched the runner on the upstairs floor into a tangle, and hid in the guest bathroom (Mama never stopped licking herself except to notice the blur of Barney going by). It took me fifteen minutes to calm poor Barney down. Why would that be?
Now things are very good for Barney. If I move very slowly, he'll let my hand come towards his face, and he trusts me in all things (like the indignities of a vet's office). He still climbs into laps and loves being petted, but in recent months it's occurred to me that he's become fond of me. He'll sit in front of me, look at me with no goal in mind, and simply purr with happiness. That's heartwarming, and it leads me to wonder if he's ever loved any other creature before (or been loved in return). Mama comes up to him every once in awhile and rubs up against him purring, and one of these days he's going to do the same back to her. Right now they're great friends, chasing each other around (and it's not always the same cat doing the chasing), sleeping together, and spending much time looking out the windows contemplating life outside, both of which they've experienced firsthand.
No one would name a kitten "Mama," of course. She acquired that name because when she was rescued from a Columbus neighborhood she had two kittens with her. She was one year old, untagged, declawed, but not spayed (what sort of vet would do that?), and feisty—very protective of those kittens. She was taken to a veterinarian, the kittens were weaned and given away, and "Mama Cat," as she was called, became the office cat for the vet and his staff. When I came to pick her up five months after she'd first arrived, both the vet and his staff were misty-eyed at seeing her leave for a new home. She was super friendly with everyone who came through the vet's door, and in fact rubbed up against me as I entered, cat carrier in hand, little dreaming she would soon be off to a new life with this stranger. She still greets all visitors to my home, demanding attention and getting it.
In many ways, Mama is the opposite of Barney. She's very smart, quick to learn, clever at figuring things out, playful, and full of confidence. She's a control freak, as I am, and we're forever battling over which mammal is in charge. At our house the old saying is all too true: "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." She's very affectionate, and I'm amazed at how fast and how deeply that cat has learned to love me (see "The Purring Heart," below).
Mama is also more empathetic than Barney. He's often not aware (or is confused) by things around him, but she's always on top of the situation. When she's annoyed with me (or him), she makes this known. But when I had a recent bad turn of health that prevented me from making a trip to New York, I was so weak I was having trouble moving around, and Mama was right there, rubbing up against me and mewing pathetically, as in "get up—don't just lie there." I'm fine now, and she's back to bossing me around.
|Mama in the Tunnel|
Some interesting things I've learned about cats. Did you know that they don't "meow" to one another? Only to humans—they make various different sounds to cats and other animals. Another fact is that they sleep more than any other mammal. A cat that lives to be fifteen will have slept away ten years of its life.
I certainly hope Mama, Barney, and I have that many years left to us all.
“Dog Meat,” December 27, 2009
"Parakeets and Me," February 5, 2010
“Bears,” February 23, 2010
"Mama, Biopsies, and My iPad," May 19, 2010
"Milking Cows," June 8, 2010
"Teaching English to Cats," August 6, 2010
"The Purring Heart," November 23, 2010
"The Dogs In My Life," April 18, 2011
"My Parents and Dummy," May 13, 2011
"Zoo Stories," August 30, 2011
"Barney Cat and the Big Mammal Nightmare," January 7, 2013
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013