Sunday, March 21, 2010

That Darn Cat...

   Today Suki-cat nearly lost her tail. Yet again. It's a sad state of affairs, really. But it is a constant reality here chez Dickinson. Of all of our cats, (we have 3), Suki is by far the most put-upon. She takes the brunt of the girls' eager affections and ministrations, and I have a theory that the older two cats (past their youth and past the belief that one must suffer at the hands of children), readily accept her for this role of Cat Martyr.
   Suki, who is a half siamese, half tabby cat blend, came to us when she was just 6 weeks old and the girls were 2 1/2 years old. This age difference has meant that she has come of age in an environment of near constant tail pulling, ear tugging, stomach squeezing, and forced hugging. I'd like to be able to say that she has thrived amidst these well-intentioned affections. I can, however, say that she is still here. Despite the presence of two other cats, the girls fixate on their beloved Suki-Chan, chasing her down, grabbing her when she's caught unawares, and ferrying her about. To her credit, she just rolls up, puts tail between legs, and goes with the flow. She's just that kind of cat.
   When Suki was still just a kitten, we went through the whole litter-training process with great caution. Our house had previously been inhabited by peeing pets and I did not want to repeat the pattern. Her litter box started off in the upstairs bathroom, where it stayed for a week before moving down to the landing in the front entry-way. As I said, the girls were just 2 1/2 years old when we got her, so please keep that in mind when I get to the gist of this paragraph. Since the girls had not bothered the box during its stay upstairs, I figured they'd do likewise during its brief stop in the foyer. (Hindsight is always 20/20, isn't it?). Anyway. I was gathering the girls for dinner when I discovered that Caedance was M.I.A. (Never a good thing with a toddler.) My search took me to the living room where I found her leaning on the landing, playing happily by herself. Intrigued, I approached her and said, "What are you doing, sweetie?" She looked up at me, smiled her semi-toothed smile, and said, "Look mommy. I play dollies!". Sure enough, she had laid her dollies out all along the first step and was happily moving them about. (Can you 'spot the not', yet?) Indeed. Those weren't dollies. My cutie had pilfered through the litter box and removed several "deposits" to play with. A very careful cleaning and disinfecting took place after that, and needless to say, the litter box was fast-forwarded down to its final stop in the basement. Locked away. To this day, I maintain that she was only out of my sight for a few minutes, so she couldn't have been "playing" very long. Also, I should point out, that she's 5 now and perfectly fine (Kindergarten screening aside), and suffers no effects. So....there.
    Presently completely uninspired by the litter box,the girls still love to play with that poor cat. Her every waking moment is spent, I fear, as the hunted. A true Fight of Flight sort of existence. We've recently gotten a new bedframe, which sits mercifully close to the ground. It leaves enough room for a desperate cat to slink under, but not quite enough room for a seeking child to squeeze. So she spends her days there, curled up in the exact center of the floor under the bed. Perfectly out of reach on all sides. But even the most careful guard gets let down. When she falls asleep, she'll stretch out, allowing just enough of her tail to slip past the "safety zone" of the middle. Should a cat-hunting little girl come bounding into the room, and should said cat somehow not hear and thus awaken from this clamor....well....then all bets are off.
    It's usually Ashlyn who goes looking for her. And generally Ashlyn who finds her and then spends the next 6 minutes in time out and the rest of the day under a "No Touching Suki" decree. This would be because when Ashlyn peers under the bed and finds a tail just this side of that mid-point, she has a tendency to forget everything we've told her (for the last 2 1/2 years), and reach out and pull. Sometimes Suki gives in quickly and just allows herself to be "caught, carried, & cuddled". (Poor thing). During which time I watch and make sure nothing awful happens. But, there are the times when she's fed up, and puts up the fight. Then we have a tug-of-war between a normally-acquiesing cat and a never, ever acquiesing 5 year old. Yowls from both parties send me or Dan running, breaking it up and sending Ashlyn off to her due couch time, while placating the insulted (but unharmed) Suki.
   Try as we might to curb these sad little battles between cat and child, they still seem to occur from time to time. Today was another squirmish. (I wonder if Suki keeps tracks of these, naming them, maybe? Perhaps today's would be called Battle Sunday or 7th Day Insult During 3rd Month?) I keep waiting for the time when the girls will get over the perceived "newness" of this  cat. I am likewise waiting for Suki to take a cue from the older cats and find a safer place to spend her day, like in the basement. I think since she's "grown up" under this regime, she's sort of fond of the misguided attention, in her own way.
   You know that having a baby changes everything. You prepare for that reality as best you can, and adjust to everything else as you go along. You know your pets are in for a wake up call when you bring the baby (or babies) home, and that life as they know it will never be the same. But what we were unprepared for; what we had not even thought about, was how quickly our cats would turn into night dwellers, scared of the day, and playing by the moonlight. For now though, I sit here holding a happily purring Suki, while Zoe and Anna pick their way around the toy-littered landscape they've come to find as the new"normal". Waiting for tomorrow. Perhaps keeping their hidey spots always in mind, prepared for a quick escape.

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