“If cats could talk, they probably wouldn’t” – Nan Porter
“Hey, Tom. Why don’t you swing by my work and bring me out to lunch? I haven’t seen your butt in a while.” I rolled my eyes, as I tucked the phone under my chin.
“I suppose I could. I am not that far away.” The Northway was bustling with traffic but that was expected, since it was eleven-forty-five and the midday rush hour was just starting. “Which exit should I take? Exit four or five?”
“It’s a crap shoot this time of the day. Go for exit four. Hey, I might be fifteen minutes late anyway so just wait downstairs.” I was fairly confident he couldn’t hear the sigh of annoyance in my voice.
The State Agricultural building was just down the road from the off-ramp about a mile and a half. Surprisingly, there was hardly any traffic. I pulled my car into the main parking lot and glanced at my watch.
“Dammit. I’m a good thirty minutes early.”, No worries. I figured since I had thirty minutes to kill, I could relax back at their pond.
Strolling back behind the building, I could see the fountain centerpiece springing into view, with its cascading streams of water arching into the middle of the pond. Shaped like a large peanut, pedestrians were offered a half-mile paved, walking path. Dotted along this pathway were small islands of sculpted and manicured vegetation and artfully placed shade trees. Benches were provided to rest a visitor’s weary legs. If one felt inclined, they could meander out there with a book and eat their lunch at one of these luscious, shaded oases’.
Being mindful of the time and not wanting to go too far, I searched for the first bench that wasn’t occupied. At this time of the day, I expected to find the first three or four unavailable but to my surprise the second one was devoid of all humanoid existence.
The Sun was hot but the temperature was perfect under the shade of the pines. A slight mild breeze came over from the southwest that provided a pardon from the smothering humidity.
One can’t help but be marveled by the utter peacefulness of the park. All I could hear was the faint chirping of the birds, the occasional light and barely audible conversation from across the pond, a few geese and — and a rustling noise. “What was that noise?“
Nevermind. The geese were frolicking and the birds were flickering back and forth amongst the trees and, “Damn — there it is again. It sounds like paper being crumbled.”
I turned my head back around over my shoulder. The intrusive noise was both curious and annoying. It couldn’t be in front of me. All I had was a small amount of grass and pond visible to me. Whatever it was, I was
“What the hell is that?“, I thought to myself. I got up and walked in the direction of the assorted bushes. The crumbling sound was getting louder and I was determined to sleuth the cause. Hidden behind a flowering bush, a bag came into view that was curiously folded and stapled several times across the top. It seemed someone purposely hid it from view. Was this where the noise was coming from?
I approached cautiously but was startled when something inside the bag made it jump and deform in shape. Still, curiosity was overtaking my need to be careful.
“Something is alive in there! I wonder how big it is. Should I poke the bag and get it to jump again?”
My mind exploded with questions, queries and the possible dangers of approaching too fast. Ascertaining the best course of action required a concise assessment. As I reached for a fallen limb, whatever it was, jumped again. I hesitated to determine the best course of action.
“A cat? Oh my God, there is a cat in there?” I was not amused about the prospect of it being a cat. Cats always seemed vile and sneaky and they are known to scratch and hiss with the evilness of demonic serpents. I even heard they stole the breath of newborn children. No self-respecting guy liked a cat. I was a dog person.
I was excited but I maintained an authoritative voice. “Okay, little fella. Calm down. I will get the bag open. Just don’t freakin’ jump out and scratch me!” I decided the best approach was to dismantle the staples and open the bag slowly.
If it did decide to jump out at me, I could easily force it back into the bag. Or, maybe I would just let it go. Fend for itself. There were plenty of birds around. I figured it could survive in the wild.
As I removed the last staple, I noted the heat index. Man, it must have been ninety degrees and someone put a cat in a bag? Even I, wasn’t that unloving. Cautiously opening the bag, I expected a crazed maniac to come jumping out and fleeing for its life. I made the opening wider but strangely, nothing was happening.
Was it just waiting to see my face before lunging and scratching my eyes out? Against better judgement, I peeked in closer for a better look.
As my face blocked the Sun from their squinting eyes, a chorus of meows greeted me. This wasn’t a cat. These were kittens. A whole freaking bag of kittens!
“Oh, fuck me!” My annoyance was obvious and I was a tad miffed by the discovery. I began making a quick count of the heads peering back at me. I scanned the area in hope someone could be of assistance but I was all alone on one of the nicest days of summer – with a bag of kittens.
“Fine. Let’s see what I can do here.” I crumbled the bag closed and cradled it underneath with my arm. From my quick census, I counted seven kittens.
“Maybe Rick can help me.“, I thought to myself. I quick stepped back to his building with my surprise bag of goodies.
We Have a Fire Sale
“It is impossible to keep a straight face in the presence of kittens” – Cynthia E. Varnado
Entering the central rotunda, I approached the semicircular reception desk, where three women were busy directing the flow of visitors. Arching up along each side of the reception area were two ornate marbled staircases that ascended to a mezzanine level.
The receptionist who greeted me seemed shocked and perturbed when I placed the bag down on the counter. She noticed the totes’ animated movements and seemed bemused by my offering.
“Oh my, what do we have here?” She adjusted her glasses and squinted her eyes with uncertainty.
“Cats. Lots of cats. Actually, lots of small cats.” I maintained my stare into her blue eyes. Looking a bit frazzled, she seemed out of her element. I attempted to reason with her.
“Ma’am – I found these kittens in your park,” I reached inside and pulled one kitten out for her examination. “See? Kittens. I count about seven and they’re not mine.”
It was at this time, that the swarm of state workers began descending the two stairways, to celebrate the beginning of their lunch hour. As they began their exodus, their vantage point allowed them to witness the stirring commotion below them. Before I knew it, there were twenty or more folks passing the kittens around.
“How much for this one?” “Oh, this one is adorable.” “I would love to take this one home with me.” I listened intently to the various comments scurrying about the group. With the resolution of a town crier, I bellowed over the herd of humanity, “They’re all free to any good home, ladies and gentleman.” I glanced around to see if Rick was anywhere in sight.
With several kittens quickly scooped up, I figured my job was done. The rest would be swallowed up within minutes. Just then a woman pulled on my arm and said, “What about this one?”
Before I knew it, she handed me a small black lump of curled up fur, that was barely recognizable from the rest of the litter. It fit perfectly in my hand. It was so small that I knew instantly it was delicate. I brought it closer and blew on the kitten’s head. She slightly unfurled and gave out a squeak — not even a full meow.
“Can I see her for one moment?” I peeked over at the middle-aged gentleman who wore his reading glasses half perched on his nose. “I’m a state veterinarian.”
“Sure Doc. Here you go.” I began handing him the kitten but he stopped me in mid transfer.
“No, that won’t be necessary. Just hold her and I’ll check her out.” After what looked like a fairly rudimentary exam, he looked at me and said, “Hold on to her for a minute, okay?” He could tell from my pursed lips and exasperated nod, that I was not amused being an unwilling host.
As “Doc” methodically went about the lobby giving quick examinations, I started counting the kittens in my head. “One, two, three…four, five, SIX…,” and then I heard another meow behind the reception area. Clutching another kitten in her arms, was the receptionist who greeted me. She sheepishly smiled back at me, and in return I gave her a smirk. Then it dawned on me. “Seven?”
That meant the one I was holding must have been hidden away from my initial view. It was likely too weak to make its presence known back in the park. After completing his exams and giving out follow-up instructions to several new kitty parents, “Doc” refocused his attention back upon me. I could see the expression of worry start to brew on his face.
“It’s obvious she’s the runt. I’m afraid she hasn’t weened properly. Let me write you up a script for some kitty Enfamil, a few droppers and other supplies.” I was not overly enthused by his assumption that I would be taking care of this cat. Let alone one that could perish at any moment. Before I could voice my uneasiness, I heard a familiar voice above me.
“Wow! What do you have there?” The overly boisterous chatter was easy to distinguish. I looked back and saw Rick gleefully skipping down the stairway.
“A bag full of kittens which I found near the pond. And this one seems to be my responsibility now,” I mused.
Rick barked out a monstrous, jovial laugh. “So, what are you going to do with your little friend?”
“What am I going to do?”, I thought as I stared back at him. Just then the kitten let out a strained squeak. The commotion of the noisy building, the touching from a hundred hands, being passed around like a hot potato; had weakened her already fragile state. With my hands occupied, the doctor smiled and tucked a piece of paper into my shirt pocket.
“The pharmacy is right over there on Route 7, right near the airport. It’s not hard to find. Let me know if you need any help. My number is on the paper.” Doc walked away before I could utter any objection.
“Great. Seems I’m going over to this vet pharmacy on Route 7”, I said with a slight measure of disgust.
Rick put his big arm around my shoulder. I was irritated at the cocky grin he was giving me, like he was now a proud uncle, ready to pass out cigars in a maternity ward. “I’m proud of you, buddy.”
With no apparent exit strategy to this conundrum, I murmured back at Rick. “I’m going to have to give you a raincheck on lunch.”
“Hey, no worries. You’re a Dad now. I know how it is. No problem-o.”
Wrapping the little package up in some shop towels I had and laying her on the front seat, I made my way to the pharmacy. As I handed the script to the pharmacist, I described the ordeal and with a smile, she politely stated, “Doctor Vanderbilt already called. He had us get everything prepared for you, ahead of time.” I reached for my wallet but she waved her hand defiantly toward me.
“No, the doctor took care of everything. He does want you to follow up with him in two weeks, to check on her progress.”
“Wow, that was nice of him. Thank you.” I wasn’t quite sure why I thanked her. My life had just become more complex. More involved. I grabbed the bag and headed back to the car. I was not heartless. I wanted the critter to have a chance, since she had no say in her current circumstances. She was just fighting for life. But I knew this was a longshot at best.
The Struggle is Real
“Some days you’re the catnip; some days you’re the cat litter” – Anonymous
It was Friday so I decided to ask my boss for the rest of the day off. Since my scheduled service calls were done, my boss was okay with letting me have the rest of the day off. I didn’t tell him about the new family addition.
On the way home, I kept checking on my little passenger to make sure she was still here with us. I made note of any slight movements. I watched her fur move in a rhythmic fashion. All good signs I suppose.
Once we arrived and made our way into the apartment, I settled down on my futon with my new little friend. I nestled the kitten in the middle of a few soft blankets and figured this would likely be her bassinet for the next few weeks.
I cracked open a soda and pulled out one of the cans of kitty Enfamil and began reading the label. Then I peered at the measurement etchings on the eye dropper.
“Damn, I’m not sure how much to give you”, I mumbled to the motionless fur ball. Just then I looked at the sheet of paper the pharmacist stuffed in the bag with the supplies. Instead of an itemized list, it actually gave instructions on how much and how often to feed my little bundle of responsibility.
“That doc thought of everything. Nice.”, I thought to myself.
I heard another squeak and peeked over at her. I was a little surprised to see her now sprawled out, with all four legs pointed in all directions, as she yawned and stretched.
“Well, you decided to wake up, huh? Let’s see if I can’t give you a taste of this stuff.”
Just then I realized I didn’t have an opener that made that V-shaped cut in the can. I got up and went over to my neighbor’s. Their door was right across the hall.
“Hey Tom. You’re home early. What’s going on,” Mrs. Anderson said cheerfully. She noted my door was open, and I could see her looking inside.
“Hey Debbie. I was wondering. Do you have one of those can openers that make a “V” cut? I have to feed a guest.” I pointed back at the small little black chunk sprawled out on my futon.
As her eyes enlarged, Debbie immediately went into her motherly mode. She started making that “Oh” face as soon as she recognized what it was.
“A kitten?” She began to hunch and outstretch her arms. She made a direct bee-line toward my new guest.
If the earlier attention hadn’t overwhelmed her, the kitten was in for a renewed attack. Paying little mind to her delicate state, Debbie scooped up the kitten and began her assault of lovingly rubbing, petting and purring against the unsuspecting feline.
“Oh my God – she is so cute!”, she blurted, accentuating the word “cute” for theatrical emphasis. “It’s a she, right? Not a he?” I pursed my lips and shrugged my shoulders.
“The doctor said ‘she’ when he checked her over. To be honest, I never seriously checked.” Debbie lifted the kitten and took a better look.
“Looks like a girl to me. What’s her name?”
“Name? Ugh, I haven’t even thought about a name to be honest. I’m just trying to get her well. I have all this…” Debbie stopped me in mid sentence.
“Wow – look at all this stuff you got her. You really love her.” I was not entirely amused by her statement. It is not that I don’t like cats. It is just that I never cared to have a cat in my life.
“I wouldn’t say love. She was somewhat thrust upon me by circumstances.” From there I told her the entire story of what had happened over the last two hours. “Which is why I need that can opener.”
“Oh, sure. Let me go find it. I’ll be right back!” Instead of handing me the now wide-eyed kitten, Debbie whisked herself away with it snuggled up under her chin. Within seconds she returned.
Without taking her stare off the kitten, Debbie handed me the opener. “There you go.” I noted how much Debbie was doting over my new house guest.
“Do you want a kitten?” I snickered. I already knew the punchline. Debbie’s exasperation was anticipated, well before she shared it.
“No. Oh my God. Jerry would kill me if I brought home another pet. It’s already Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom over there. He’s already calling me ‘Marlina Perkins’.”
I think Debbie enjoyed the insinuation because she knew it was true. She already had two Cocker Spaniels, a large parrot and an adventurous cockatiel named Griff. She reluctantly placed the kitten back on her blankets.
“She’s awfully cute, Tom”. I nodded with a slight agreeable smirk.
After Debbie left, I began the task of filling up the eye dropper and re-reading the instructions. Five feedings a day? I may be asking Debbie for her help at some point. With the kitten on her back, I dripped a small droplet on her lips to see her reaction. Her wild and enthusiastic lapping was mildly heartening. I placed the dropper’s tip at her mouth. Instinctually, her paws cradle the barrel of the dropper and the voracity of her hunger took over. “This seems to be working.”
What’s Wrong With ‘Cat’?
“If you are positive, you’ll see opportunities instead of obstacles.” – Widad Akrawi
After the first several days, there was a stark change in the kitten’s demeanor and level of spunkiness. With Debbie’s help during the times I had to work, the kitten became very responsive. Almost playful.
“What’s her name?”, Debbie asked as I walked in after a long day of fixing office equipment. “I don’t know what you’ve named her.”
“Her name? Umm, I don’t know… ‘Cat’?” I hadn’t even thought about a name. I wasn’t even sure I would keep her.
“Oh Tom, you have to name her something. She can’t be called Cat.”
Debbie sensed my apprehension. “You’re not thinking of giving her away, are you? Aww, don’t do that. She’s adorable.”
I took the kitten from Debbie and thanked her. “I’ll think about it. Either way, I will make sure you’re the first to know before I make any decisions.”
Since the kitten seemed a bit more adventurous and slightly mobile, I fashioned a bassinet out of a laundry bin and put it on the floor. I changed the bedding every couple of days, since I was always finding wonderful little smelly droplets throughout the blanketing.
Poop. Just what I wanted to deal with. I knew a litter box, cat litter and a pooper scooper, was the next course of action.
That night as I was letting her crawl around the floor, I came to the conclusion that growing up and being called “Cat” was probably not fair. Would I have wanted to be called “Boy” while growing up? Whether I was the biological father or not, the cat needed its own identity.
I picked her up and held her close to my face. “Okay – we need to figure out a name for you. Any suggestions?” Sadly, she offered none. She was leaving that decision up to me.
I examined her for any physically expressive characteristics, that could help me with this task. She did have deep, burnt orange eyes and her ears had these curiously long tufts of hair that extended from the tips. Although her fur shimmered, she was completely black. There were no discernable marks that could help me figure out a name. Her only characteristic was the simple pureness of her features. She was like smoked, Tiffany glass. Simple and elegant.
“Tiffany! I’ll call you Tiffany. How do you like that?” I held her up to my face, nose touching nose so that I would command her undivided attention. A healthy meow came out of her mouth.
“Nice. Your first real meow. You decided to learn the international cat language. I’ll take that as a yes. You are now bequeathed and shall forever be known as ‘Tiffany’. Congratulations.”
Without additional fanfare or expected eminence, Tiffany stumbled off my lowered hand onto the carpeted floor. Instead of acting in the regal manner to which her newly minted name suggested, Tiffany decided that burying her face and cleaning her private area was more important. At least she wasn’t one of those royal prudes.
Now that she had a name, I had to make sure Tiffany understood the reality and circumstances of why she was here and the conditions for which she would be allowed to stay. Her acknowledgement of these conditions would determine her continued residency within my domicile.
“Get over here Tiffany. I have something to say to you.”
Since her name was new, I cut her a break on the fact she did not immediately respond. I picked up the end of the crocheted rope that Debbie fashioned out of yarn a few days earlier. Tiffany seemed to get enjoyment playing with this. I flipped the tasseled end her way and watched as she pitifully tried to catch it. Like fishing for perch in a small swimming pool, Tiffany was lured closer to my grasp.
I scooped her up and held her directly in front of me. “We need to talk, Tiffany. If you’re going stay here, there are some things you should know.” Tiffany seemed transfixed onto my conversational voice.
“One. I don’t like cats and it seems the person who had you before, didn’t like cats either. Sadly, they abandoned you in a park. I’m sorry but they were probably dog lovers – just like me!”
Tiffany’s response to this revelation was expected. “Meow”. She looked around nervously, probably searching for a tissue.
“That’s not all, Tiffany. I don’t know if I can live with a cat – so you will have to learn to be a dog. That means you’ll need to learn to fetch and to catch biscuits or treats, if you prefer.” Tiffany let out another impish meow.
“These are the conditions by which you be allowed to stay. If you fail to perform these duties, serious consequences may fall upon you. Do you understand these conditions?” I pointed at Tiffany with a menacing finger.
To my surprise, Tiffany grabbed my finger with outstretched paws. I took that to mean she was shaking on the deal.
“Surviving is a walk into the unknown. It takes faith.” – Unknown
Dr. Vanderbilt stroked Tiffany’s chin as he gave his prognosis. “She’s a Maine Coon but I surmise it’s a mix. Not a pure breed but still a very hearty breed of feline.” Moving his stethoscope around her body he shared more. “Although my specialty is dairy and farm animals, I can say that she seems to be responding very well to the Enfamil. You can probably start giving her some soft food. Her weight gain is impressive. She looks healthy. I think she is going to make it.”
“Wow, that’s great news, Doc. I was a little worried about her at first but you’re right. She really took to the Enfamil.” I could sense the smile brewing on the doctor’s face.
“You’ll be keeping her then? Rick was worried you might not be a good fit, since he knew you to be a dog person.” I felt a tad embarrassed to admit that I had become enamored with the little gal.
“The litter box is still a messy subject but for the most part, she’s learning to be a dog. I’m training her to fetch the crocheted rope my neighbor made. It’s fifty-fifty right now.”
“I see. Maine Coon’s are highly intelligent, so I’m confident she’ll get the hang of it. There are a number of great vets in your area. I’ll give you a list so they can spay her in the next couple months.”
I was grateful of what Doc was telling me. The last thing I needed was this hussy getting herself pregnant. Doc ended the visit by giving her a few shots, which Tiffany did not fond of getting. We made our way back home and once she got her feet to the floor, she romped her way back to the safety of her makeshift bassinet – the laundry basket. She must have slept for hours.
What Are Those?
“Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise” – Alice Walker
Tiffany was ready to begin her morning tear through the apartment. From her newly adopted lounge chair, Tiffany crouched herself into a lowered position and began her countdown. At t-minus five seconds, she shook her rear end and leaped from her launch pad. Just like every leap over the last several weeks, her desired target was the futon. Like every previous pounce, my stomach ended up being her landing zone.
“Tiffany,” I screamed and moaned, “Why do you always land on my stomach while I’m sleeping?” I doubled over in pain.
Tiffany wasn’t stopping though. With her eyes wide open in a grazed stare, she continued her rampage. She ran to the end of the futon and without stopping, jumped up to the top of the bookshelf. The built-in bookshelf. The bookshelf that was seven feet high.
“You are a freak,” I said. “How did you get up there so easily?”
With eyes as large as saucers, Tiffany settled on her elevated throne while she waited for her adrenaline high to wear off. “Meow.”
“Get off of there,” I demanded. “I haven’t cleaned up there.” Tiffany was not making eye contact. I flicked a towel at her and after several swipes, she finally jumped down to the futon again. “Meow.”
Using my patented ninja move, I flopped her on her back. She provided little resistance because she loved being on her back. She also loved having her belly rubbed aggressively. As I played with her, I was noting small nodules toward her private area.
“What the hell are these, Tiffany,” I said with a slightly shocked voice. “You have something wrong with you?” Tiffany stared at me intensely but had no care whatsoever to what I was really saying. Instead, her mouth stayed slightly open and I anticipated a friendly attack upon my hand. “Seriously Tiffany. What are those?” I was determined to figure this out.
Keeping her still on the futon, I ran my hands over the small furry nodules. Strange – they could almost be testicles.
“Let’s see if Debbie can figure this out.”
Debbie Will Know
“Friendship is one mind in two bodies” – Mencius (c. 371-289)
I knocked on Debbie’s door and waited patiently as I heard her corral her two dogs. “Hey Tom. What’s going on?”
“I need you to look at something. Something strange on Tiffany,” Debbie could hear the worry in my voice.
“Sure. I’ll be over in a second.”
Tiffany was in the window sill staring at the birds. I plucked her up and flipped her over again. “We’re going to figure this out, Tiffany.”
Debbie knocked and I yelled for her to come in. She rounded the corner and blurted, “What’s up?”
“Can you take a look at something? I want your opinion.” I struggled a bit keeping Tiffany still in my arms while on her back. She was getting a bit stronger now. “Right there! What are those?”
Debbie felt around with her fingers and began to smile, “Wow, Tom! I think Tiffany has been keeping a secret from us.”
“Wait. What? What do you mean?” I didn’t want a surprise at this point. I just wanted her to blurt it out, “What secret does she have?”
“Tom? Tiffany… is a boy.”, said Debbie with a big grin.
“Wait, what? Are you sure? Do you know what you’re looking at?” I leaned in and began taking a closer look.
“Tom. I know what balls are. Tiffany is a boy! Look, there’s his pee-pee”
Debbie chuckled, turned around and started walking back out the door. “Yup. Tiffany is not Tiffany any longer.”
I stood there staring down at Tiffany; shocked by the news. She — I meant he — didn’t seemed fazed by this revelation at all.
“Guess we can’t call you Tiffany anymore. I’m going have to think about this one.”
“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” – Oprah Winfrey
“This would have been easier if you were upfront with me.” I began reassessing our bond and the way I treated ‘her’ over the last several months. I was perplexed by the whole situation. “I even bought you a pink comforter.”
Tiffany kept herself busy in the window sill, watching the birds landing on the power line that came up to the house.
“Tony? Tiger? Thor?” I continued throwing out names at him, hoping one would naturally fit. This cat was now foreign to me. All my previous interactions with this cat was with the idea it was female. I coddled her, as if she was being groomed to be a princess. But now, he’s just a monk. A schlep. Just a plain fella.
“This is going to be a tough one. Really tough.”
“Meow” Tiffany’s lips quivered as the birds came closer to the window.
Then it hit me. “Wait — what about Tuffy? That’s pretty manly!” He was meowing and pawing at the window, which blocked his access to the sparrows that were landing within a few feet of him.
“Yea — I’ll call you Tuffy. That’s a good name. What do you think? I demanded his attention and with a determined voice, I sought his approval. “Tuffy?”
He turned his head momentarily and he gave me a healthy meow before turning his attention back to the sparrows. It seemed deeper and stronger than before; as if his voice was changing right in front of me. Obviously, his newly discovered, dropped appendages were causing a hormonal response.
“Ok then — you will now be called ‘Tuffy’ from here on out.” I grabbed some potato chips and sat back in the futon. Glaring back at Tuffy, I noticed how he sat up a bit more like a dude.
“At least we figured this out sooner, rather than later. I wouldn’t have wanted this to scar your ego later on.”
I grabbed my new bro and gave him a nice man hug. “Hey Tuffy. You like your name?” I flipped him back over on his back to take another look at his newly found equipment. “Sorry buddy. I never saw them before.”
Before I knew it, my fingers were around his private area again and I began rubbing his belly hard like I used to. Then I realized; there’s more equipment down there. I felt shame on how awkward I must have made him feel, when I subjected him to those rough belly rubs in that lower region. No wonder he always gave me a funny look.
We locked eyes. I think we mutually agreed, that on this day forward, we would never speak about how I tickled him down there, again.
“Me-ooow” Tuffy was obviously uncomfortable with the whole subject but he seemed willing to forgive.
“Thanks bro – I got your back.”
Someone Call Barnum
“Karma is throwing the banana in Mario Kart, and then slipping on it.” – Unknown
Tuffy took to his new name like a badge of honor. Within six months, his body grew at an alarming rate, which I attributed to his genetics. As a Maine Coon, Tuffy seemed suited to excel in the leaping category, since he had very substantial, medium-length legs and large, round paws. He took great pride in the fact he could leap like a panther onto any elevated surface.
He also began vocalizing in a way I never expected in a cat. For no reason at all, he began to make these little chirps and trill sounds. His trill was a combination between a meow and a purr and it became rather loud when the birds would land close to his window sill. The window was his favorite place to be.
“Tuffy? You need to catch these yum-yums. I told you about this before.” Anytime Tuffy heard the phrase “yum-yum”, you would hear a thud somewhere in the apartment, as he landed on the floor and quickly made his way in front of you.
“M-m-m-meow”, trilled Tuffy. He sat patiently in front of me, waiting for me to begin the game.
“Oh, you want one, huh?” Maintaining my stare, I unconvincingly reached back behind me with one hand, and popped open the cat treat can. He heard it. He knew what was coming.
“You better learn to catch these things,” I expressed with a disgusted tone, “You are averaging around twenty percent and that’s not going to cut it.” I brought my hand around and showed him his potential prize.
“M-m-m-meow,” Tuffy yelled out. He maintained his locked gaze upon the treat.
Using an underhand throw, I tossed the treat toward him, hoping that this time would be the moment he would catch it. As the treat hit his chest, it fell harmlessly to the ground. Tuffy quickly snatched it up with little fanfare.
“Oh, come on, Tuffy. At least attempt to catch it,” I begged, “You’re not even trying.”
“M-m-m-meow”, trilled Tuffy. Sitting regally statuesque, Tuffy had little care in completing this parlor trick. He got what he wanted.
Now in a sulking mood, I tossed a treat in his direction with little care on its accuracy. Almost in slow motion, we both watched in unison as the yum-yum sailed several feet above his head.
It was such a bad throw, I expected it to land somewhere on the back counter. But Tuffy had other ideas. Springing up like a bobcat, he plucked the tiny morsel in mid-air with his front paws and landed back gracefully on his feet. With that one fluid, athletic motion, Tuffy was now chomping on his just reward.
“Holy crap. Nice catch, Tuffy!” Shocked by what I had just witnessed, I decided to test a hastily organized thought. “Want to try that again?”
I tossed another one on the same high trajectory. With seemingly no effort, Tuffy leaped into the air as if launched from a trampoline and easily quarried his prey. Landing softly, he confidently began consuming his prize. I was amazed.
Feverishly reaching for the treat can, I began a bombardment of cat snacks with trajectories that tested his leaping and agility. One after another, Tuffy continued to acrobatically jump and snatch all of the treats out of the air. Once the can was emptied, I slunk back into the futon with amazement and shock. He caught every single tidbit without a miss. Tuffy seemed unfazed that his super feline capabilities were now exposed. Instead, he used this lull in volleys’ to methodically lick his paws of all residual particles.
“Tuffy? That was freaking awesome.” Over the next few weeks, I continued testing the limits of Tuffy’s super leaping and catching capabilities. With time, I would come to understand that I had just witnessed the birth of a legend.
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(to be continued…)