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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Stare

If cats live at your house, you've maybe experienced it yourself. You're sitting at the kitchen table enjoying something wonderful -- pats of creamery butter melting on ears of fresh corn or mounds of sweet whipped cream adorning a generous slice of pumpkin pie or even just sugared milk swirling around in your breakfast oatmeal. You savor the flavors and aromas, and drift off into a euphoric dream.

Then you feel it. It's sort of uncomfortable. Intrusive. Like someone is watching you. You turn your head from side to side. Nothing. You turn completely around as much as you can to look behind you. Nothing. Suddenly a cat-sized furry shape leaps up from the floor on your right side, sits in the middle of the table, and stares at your food. The Stare!

Most cats wait patiently until you are finished, or a sweep of your hand will push a moist nose out of your food until you are done eating. But there is always The Stare. The Stare isn't to the left or to the right. Or up. It's only down at your plate of food. Unmoving head. Eyes watching every scoop of the spoon or fork, every cut of the meat. Implacable. Unapologetic. Like a sphinx. Waiting. Finally you are finished eating, and the little head plunges downward onto the plate or into the bowl, no permission sought, to lick up the meat bits and juices or white sauce or cheese and butter drippings or sugary milk from the oatmeal.

Rasputin was a sucker for beef from Arby's or a Chicago chain called Portillo's. Thomas Jefferson would swoon over the alfredo sauce in Lean Cuisine's Chicken Fettuccini or congealing egg yolk from fried eggs over easy. Dido, like Rasputin, seems to prefer tender beef, but also pieces of cooked chicken or turkey, melted butter, ricotta cheese, and, along with Kuro, sweetened milk after son Daniel finishes a bowl of Cheerios or Frosted Flakes. Shy Deborah (later renamed Mattie) has yet to figure out that plate cleaning is going on.

You do notice, don't you, that no cat does The Stare in hopes we open a can of Fancy Feast, 9 Lives, or Friskies?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Presenting Miss Frida Kahlo (aka Little Debbie)


After noticing the invisible-except-to-cats sign over our front door ("FREE FOOD! FREE FOOD!"), she sat there shivering quietly in the early December cold, waiting patiently for someone to open the door and notice her (and feed her). The vet later told us she was only about six months old and surmised that she had snuck out of someone's house. "After all," he said, "who would dump such a pretty kitten?" Son Daniel, our cat namer, promptly dubbed her Miss Frida Kahlo because the human Frida Kahlo had shared a birthday with the kitten's eventual rescuer (my husband), looked creative and slightly Mexican (but didn't have the human Frida's thick dark eyebrows), and because he likes to name cats after real people. We fed Miss Frida Kahlo, who stuck around and wandered our huge yard, dozing in one of the basement window wells on the south side of the house where the sun hits all afternoon. For extra warmth, she would press her small body against the glass with the hope that some of the heat from the house would penetrate the glass.

We all know that once you feed a stray cat, you own it (or actually, it owns you). Every day we saw Miss Frida sitting in the window well and fed her at least twice a day. The weather was getting colder, and her shivering increased. Finally, during one feeding, my husband bent down, scooped her up, and she snuggled into his arms, like "it's about time!" That same day she met our vet who proclaimed her in excellent health but a little skinny. We left her there to get any shots she needed and to be spayed. When we returned the next day to claim her, the vet told us to make her rest for a day or two (yeah, right) and then tried to sell us bags and cans of (expensive) cat food his clinic offered loving cat owners. We thanked him (but didn't purchase any--after all, what's more yummy than Fancy Feast?), paid the bill, and took Miss Frida to her forever home with us.

The humans in the house loved Miss Frida, but the three neutered male cats didn't, despite her exotic beauty. Thomas Jefferson was the top cat who had things well in hand, and KNEW that this newcomer had only evil in mind to become the new top cat. Thomas, flanked by Rasputin and Kuro, would stand shoulder to shoulder at the doorway that leads to the basement and refuse to allow her into the kitchen. Thus, the unfinished basement with its spiders and mice and moths became her realm. Daniel's and my husband's computers are down there, so Miss Frida did not lack for affection, and would happily sit on a lap or a warm printer and snooze the days away. As a treat, my husband would feed her some of the cream filling in Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies. That's how she became his cat and got her new name.


Only when Thomas died in March of that year did the remaining male cats, having become disorganized without a leader, began to allow her into the kitchen which meant she now had the run of the house and became top cat. Rasputin had gotten too old to argue, and Kuro is a very happy-go-lucky cat who loves Daniel most of all, but also anyone/any cat who's nice to him. Thus, in order to co-opt him for mealtimes, choice of sleeping places, and litter-box use (i.e., she has first dibs), Frida/Debbie makes a point to be nice to Kuro, but, in her insecurity, occasionally bossed Rasputin with a paw swipe and generally made his life miserable as she proclaimed herself queen. To pay her back, he'd spit up a hair ball or some undigested food on her favorite sleeping places.


Frida/Debbie no longer is that small, starving kitten. She settled in until January 2011, when she was dethroned by two princesses (ah! another story for this blog). Here is how she looks today, so beware of snacking on too many Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies.