Monday, March 22, 2010

The Evolution of a Diva

I knew it!  I knew eventually Tum-Tum would warm up to us.  I really would not have thought it would take two years and the loss of her beloved owner to make it happen, but, hey, I was right.  Tum-Tum is finally integrated into the family dynamic.  I profess this now because when I woke up this morning, she was curled up on our bed at Greg's feet.  Miracles do happen.  Maybe not the ones you hope for, but nonetheless...

For those of you may be new to the blog, Tum-Tum is Kelsey's cat and a feline image of my daughter.   Right down to her food issues.  She is slender, very pretty, at times affectionate and needy, at other times haughty and mean.  She will plaintively call you over to stroke her and then swat at you, claws out, a few moments later.  The name comes from a rapper I have never heard of before or since, not that means that much. Kelsey thought that was the height of humor - naming this prissy, delicate thing after some bad a*s rapper. I have likened her before to Celine Dion.

We thought we would lose her not long after Kelsey died when she contracted an upper respitatory infection at the shelter, but we collectively worked to pull her through, not willing to lose another piece of Kelsey.  Since then she has gradually made her peace with her situation, it seems, and realized that she has to make friends with us; we're what she has left.  Yet, she has done it on her terms, and when she has been good and ready.

I believe the beginning of the end of her resistance came when we fostered a Siamese-cross kitten over the holiday.  If she is Celine, he is Adam Lambert.  I cannot imagine the two performers getting along in real life, their kitty counterparts did not either.  The kitten was beautiful, with long, silky fur colored like a Siamese.  He was affectionate, playful, accepting of everyone, and gregarious in all things.  And he had a mouth on him.  He was loud and proud.  She hated him.  He gouded her in return.  He chased her around the house, trying to play with her, not really put off when she would try to kill him for his efforts.  More importantly, she watched him get all the attention.  Everyone loved him, he was just so lovable and cute.  She began to try and mimic his attention getting antics, without really much success.  She would plaintively call for us to come over to her, as soon as we would break down and do it, she would lose her temper and try to hurt us.  I imagined her saying, as she dug her teeth into us, "I cannot believe you let that usurper into my house!"

Charlie didn't care for him either, but, as with all things Charlie, he was more passive in his resistance.  He began pooping in the bathtubs, both of them, as his most blatant sign of protest.  And then little dead animal pieces began showing up in the garage.  I pity the poor rats that live on the property, I think he took his frustration out on them.  But there were no head to head confrontations with the kitten, that's just not how he rolls.

Of course, like I tend to do, I immediately fell madly in love with the kitten and wasn't assertively searching for a permanent placement for him.  He had been rescued by Marissa's boyfriend when he found him living under his grandparent's front steps.  In poor health, his grandparents could not afford nor had the energy to care for a ball of furry energy like that, and he was underweight, covered in fleas and matted when Jacob called us in Pittsburgh to see if we could take him in for a while.  I agreed, then told Greg I had agreed, and my husband graciously rolled with that for a while.  But, he watched his daughter's cat closely and became very protective of her.  The more she hated the kitten, the more he began to pressure me to find it a home.

We did:  the perfect home.  Greg's mom.  When she came over for the Super Bowl, she cuddled with the cat the entire game; it was clear they bonded.  It was perfect.  I still could see him, and if she ended up not being able to handle him, I'd be right there to take him back.  He's been with her for about six weeks now.  Unfortunately - I mean, ahem,  fortunately - they seem to be getting along.

As soon as he was gone, Tum-Tum seemed to change.  Either out of sheer relief and gratitute that we removed her nemesis, or because she realized how easily she could be removed from the most Exalted Pet in the House perch, she seemed to mellow and become increasingly more friendly and patient.  She still will, without seeming provocation, take a swat at someone, almost simply to remind us she still can and will when it suits her.  And, for the first time ever, she will routinely seek out someone's lap.  She is still furtive about it, making it practically an hour long process of inching ever closer to make it happen, but she does do it.  The other night, I was watching Zombieland while she spent the entire movie trying to decide if she wanted to curl up with me.  Unfortunately, by the time she finally did, there was only about fifteen minutes left in the movie (which is short to begin with), and I needed a potty break, but at least she made it for a while.

She still is not a fan of the dogs, but she has them all cowed, so they do not bother her.  Occasionally one of them will dare a glance her way, but she quickly meets it with a hiss, throwing her delicate ears back just enough to let them know who is boss.  Not a one of them thinks to challenge her.  She is learning therefore to treat them as mere annoyances, but not real problems to her existence.  Yet she still makes it clear she wishes they did not exist.  As I write, she is staring at the Dalmation, her tail swishing back and forth in staccato rhythm.  Noelle, after a few minutes of it, put her tail between her leg and left the room.  Message sent.  Message received.

Tum-Tum still has her favorites amongst us humans, and still keeps to a select circle.  She loves Marissa's boyfriend, correctly pegging him as a cat lover.  She favors Marissa next, but will also turn on her when she feels like it.  Then Greg, but the same story there. I am last in the pecking order.  Maybe because she just doesn't like me, but I tend to think it's because I'm constantly surrounded by at least one dog.  I'm just the hardest to access.  She will follow me around in the morning because I am the first one up, but it's Greg's lap she'll curl up in at night now, and it was at his feet I found her this morning.  Greg was close to Kelsey, so it's fitting.

She even has a playful side.  Who knew?  It'll come out when she's sunning herself on the front window ledge.  She'll turn over on her back and stretch happily, mewling lightly and roll back and forth, seemingly having the best of times.  But, don't trouble her with toys, they are very much beneath her.

In short, she seems to accept and be relatively content that this is her lot in life.  She no longer wraps herself around the coffee maker nor sleeps next to the urn, but when I come home at night, she generally walks out of Kelsey's room to greet me, and I found her curled on the pillow there yesterday.  I think most of her hours alone in the house are in the bedroom where she spent her first year here.  I can't tell whether that's just where she's comfortable because she's used to it, or if she can still smell Kelsey there and wants to be around it.  If she could talk I wonder what she would tell me.  Besides the fact that she never wants to see that damn kitten again!

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