Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Diva's Day

Well, I've ridden the express train to Bummerville long enough, I would imagine, so it's time to switch gears for a bit. I am asked from time-to-time about Kelsey's cat, the famous Tum-Tum (would should have been named Celine). She is her owner's prodigy, of that there is no doubt and in her Kelsey's spirit lives on for us. And, as such, not every day with Tum-Tum goes all that smoothly. She can keep things stirred up.

She is a very attractive creature, delicate and fine boned. Even before she became ill, she weighed in less than 11 pounds. Now, even totally healthy, she does not possess a voracious appetite. This seems odd to us, since our other cat, Charlie, believes he is a panther and stalks prey and never wastes an opportunity to eat it, whether it is a bird trying to catch a little rain water out of the bird bath or my left over milk in the cereal bowl. I watched them dine together the other day; Charlie dug in without much regard to decorum. Tum-Tum watched him for a moment with what I swear was a look of disdain, finally settling in to take some delicate nibbles of her own.

How she got to the point where she is eating in the same locale as her larger, much heavier housemate was interesting to witness in and of itself. When Kelsey first brought her to the house, she made a few tentative trips downstairs to satisfy her feline curiosity, but I think she decided that with eight large, strange beasts anxious to meet her, curiosity might just kill the cat, so she retired back up the stairs and her interaction with the rest of us was limited to us hearing her loud cries from the landing when Kelsey came home or when she clearly felt Kelsey had been gone too long. She would occasionally lean through the stair railings and allow us to pet her momentarily if she'd get particularly lonely, but for the most part, we weren't the ones she wanted to see, and she didn't mind that we knew that. Problem for her once Kelsey was no longer there for her, she was upstairs all alone. What's a diva to do with no audience? So, with deliberate care, she began working her way down the stairs. First, she began hanging out on the landing most of the day with occasional forays into the kitchen when the coffee was brewing. I moved her food there. Not too long after she made her way into the room where we keep Charlie's food. An odd kind of space that appears to have been originally built almost like a greenhouse, it now houses my exercise equipment. Walled mainly by windows, it is accessible by a cat door that the dogs cannot breach. It catches a lot of afternoon sun, so she took to stretching out on the treadmill during the day and curling up on the weight bench at night. Eventually I moved her food bowl and litter box there.

She could see us from there and we her, but she still was isolated for the most part and, it would appear, lonely. Gradually she made tentative trips out of the exercise room. She would wait until the dogs seemed settled and then, with great stealth, sneak out and jump up to the back of Greg's chair where she could curl up on the back of it. Then, one night she crawled down into his lap and snuggled with him for a while.

She got bolder, deciding that visiting me in the morning as I brewed coffee, and following me into the bedroom, leaping onto the highest pieces of furniture to be safely away from the dogs. At some point, however, she learned that she could intimidate the dogs. All of them. No matter their weight or their station in the pack, with a swipe of her dainty paw and a guttural growl, she could send them packing. Once she discovered that talent, she moved into the main part of the house and she has reigned there ever since.

This dainty little thing has a vicious streak however. She will lure an unsuspecting human over with her plaintive cries, leaning into their strokes for a moment, then will suddenly grow tired of the fawning and take a swipe at him or her. Offended or shocked, the person will pull away, only to have her then decide she wants the attention again, and she will follow the person around mewling loudly, only to repeat the process. Personally, I've learned to watch her tells. Her pupils dilate a little more right before she turns deadly, in addition to the twitching tale. The long and short of it is that her mood turns on a dime. Hard to say what will swing the pendulum, so you just have to stay on guard when dealing with her.

One thing we learned early in the football season is that she does not like chaos. One night Greg invited several people over to watch the Texas game, and her reaction was violent. Literally. She used that "woes is me" cry of hers to pull the guests over to her, whereupon she would swat at them. Without fail. Good thing her swats and bites barely scratch the surface.

Now she is the Queen of the Castle. She roams the downstairs, causing the dogs, almost all of whom could swallow her whole if they had a mind to do so, to give her a wide berth. She is highly vocal, making sure everyone knows exactly where she is at almost all times, not always at the most convenient times. Open any kind of door, she is right there, ready to slip in. She has a real penchant for tight spaces.

A couple of days before Thanksgiving she seemed to be aware that plans were in the works because her mood turned dark and she sulked around, striking out at the hapless humans with more force than usual, drawing blood for the first time since she decided to interact with us at all. She made a complete nuisance of herself, draping herself all over wherever and whatever I didn't want her to. And Charlie, not to be left in the dust, followed suit by being uncharacteristically obnoxious, as supported by the photo of him draping himself over the china.

Tomorrow I will unpack the Christmas decorations. I am interested to see what her reaction will be. I know it will be notable whatever it is. She knows no other way.

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