Cats are Fickle

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
The story of a cat who let everyone know she didn't belong to anyone.

Submitted: June 22, 2017

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Submitted: June 22, 2017

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I've been dealing with cats my whole life. I know the true nature of most cats. They aren't loyal to their owners like dogs are, and they frequently let you know of their fierce independence. 

My first cat was Charlie, a gray cat with a white "bib" and belly. I was seven years old when we got him from the litter of kittens next door. He was a tough, outdoor tomcat who would disappear for days at a time. He always came back, though. He also mellowed a bit as he aged.

When Charlie died, we got Chanel and Tickle. I was a teenager when we got Chanel from the local animal shelter. She was an elegant-looking black long haired cat. She had a secret, too. When we brought her home she immediately ran down into the basement. The weird thing was, she disappeared. We couldn't find her. But there was no way out of the basement-- where could she be? My brother and sister and I looked and looked. My brother Tom finally spotted her. She was hanging by her claws from the bottom of one of the carpeted stairs. I should explain that the stairs were open---just boards nailed in place, really-- and they had carpet remnants wrapped all the way around them.

Chanel's secret was that she had a double set of claws on each paw. One set of claws grew the normal direction; the other set grew the opposite way so that she could sort of grab or clamp onto things really well. She was a very aloof cat, spending most of her time climbing shelves with my mother's collections of delicate hand-carved wooden animals on them. She also liked to sleep in my violin case. But she didn't like any of us.

Tickle was my mother's cat. Mom got Tickle because Chanel didn't like her. Mom just came home with a kitten one day. We didn't name her Tickle at first. She was a lively little kitten who liked to knock super balls around the house with her front paws. So even though she was a girl, Dad named her "Pele" after the famous soccer player.

But one day there was an accident. My brother Tom, my sister Laura and I, and all our friends were in the back yard. We had a big back yard, so everyone came over to play kickball, baseball, or whatever. This particular day the boys were playing baseball. The girls were gathered on the patio drinking lemonade and talking about boyfriends. Suddenly one of the boys hit the baseball really hard and the ball made a bee line for Pele. It hit her square on the head. She fell over, unconscious.

I don't remember how long Pele was unconscious, but it was long enough for us to worry we'd lost her. For some reason, though, she just sat up instantly and started walking around. We were thrilled that she was all right!

It took another day or so for us to figure out that Pele wasn't Pele any more. She didn't knock the ball around the house. She didn't do anything except follow Mom around the house all day. She didn't know when she was being fed, so we had to put her face right in the bowl. It was then that we renamed her "Tickle" for the way her whiskers tickled our ankles when she rubbed on us.

Because of the Tickle experience, I know that cats have something going on in their brains. I mean, Tickle obviously had brain damage.

But what is going on in their brains?

The last cat story I want to throw in is even more telling, and it's the reason for this story.

When my twin sons were about 10 years old, our 15-year-old cat, Rumba, was hit by a car. We let the boys each get their own kitten. Michael picked a short haired black cat and named him "Merlin", like King Arthur's magician-mentor. Merlin loved Michael to pieces; he was not a typical cat. He slept on Michael constantly and didn't want Michael to leave for school in the mornings.

Daniel picked a beautiful long haired calico cat. He named her "Jitters". Jitters was a typical cat. She could take us or leave us and wasn't particulary keen on sleeping in laps. As she got older, though, she became fond of sitting in Daniel's lap. Only Daniel's lap.

Merlin, sadly, did not live beyond four years. He was apparently born with Feline AIDS and we didn't know it. 

We got another kitten for Michael. Michael named this one Sylvester, and he's still with us. Sylvester is a Merlin-like cat, but this time I'm the one he's most attached to. He snuggles on my shoulder every night, purring.

The boys went off to college. Jitters and Sylvester were now mine and my husband's to take care of.

Jitters ran out the door one day (she was always trying to escape) and didn't come back. We didn't call Daniel and tell him because we thought she'd come back. Daniel was all the way out in California at USC.

Days went by and no Jitters. 

On Father's Day, my husband Ken and I picked up Michael, who was close by at Butler, and went out for a Father's Day dinner. When we pulled back into our driveway after dinner, Jitters was in the neighbor's yard.

We all jumped out of the car and went over to the chain-linked fence, amazed.

"Jitters!" I yelled. "What are you doing? Get back over here!"

Jitters moved a little further away, pretending she'd never seen us before.

"Jitters, what the heck? We've been feeding you for 10 years, now get back over here," I pleaded.

Ken then took it upon himself to jump the fence. He lunged for Jitters, but she ran away and scrambled under the neighbor's barn. She didn't come out, and we were just waiting for what seemed an eternity.

Our next idea was to get some fresh chicken and try to lure her out from under the barn. Ken once again jumped the fence and got down on his hands and knees in front of the barn. He held the chicken out in his hand, and we could see Jitter's head slowly coming out. When she was far enough out, Ken grabbed her.

We took her back into our house. She drank water out of her water dish for about a half hour.

"I think she's been living under that barn for all this time," Ken said. 

At that point, we called Daniel and told him the whole story.

"I don't think she cares where she lives," I said to Daniel. "She's pretty dumb."

"Or maybe she's the only smart cat we have. She saw her chance to escape and she took it," Daniel said.

That's when I came up with this explanation for why smart cats are fickle: most cats get a kind of "Stockholm Syndrome" where they grow to love the humans who basically kidnapped them from their moms and kept them captive. But very smart cats don't ever grow to love their captors. They constantly try to escape. And they will pretend they never even knew you.

 


© Copyright 2017 Jane Atkinson. All rights reserved.

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