It’s funny how some routines remain and others change. All my cats like to play, as I described in an article just under a year ago. But in that time, they’ve all changed some of their preferences. Why is that? Is it in response to the altered dynamics of the group? Is it because they have found new activities that they like? Perhaps it’s due to several reasons.
Whatever the cause, the cats have varied their routines somewhat. I continue to use the string-toy when I play with them all together, because it enables me to go from one to the other. if I don’t, they become insulted or bored. Tungsten remains ambivalent toward play. She still does nothing but watch the others most of the time. She will hurry to hide behind a cat-tree or a corner, yet will not pounce or grab at the string-toy as it goes by. I feel bad about this because, with other cats waiting, I can’t spend ten minutes trying to entice her, as I could if she were an only-cat. However, she will periodically explode with energy and attack not just the string-toy but others that may be lying about. Becoming rambunctious, she will paw Josie if my Chubs is too near. Unlike her feelings toward Tucker, Tungsten’s assaults on Josie are in fun.
She has re-discovered a liking for the nylon tunnel. In the apartment, she used to zoom through it frequently. Perhaps it’s the fact that in the house, it rests on hardwood; she may not like that. But recently, she has sneaked in there to ambush something.
She has also found the space behind a door useful for launching an assault on the string toy. How enjoyable this is for her, however, depends on my aim.
Tucker has found exhilaration in running again. Sure, he runs when Renn chases him, especially when Renn is wrapped in a plastic bag and racing for his life. But Tucker will also run after the string-toy, as it is dragged along the floor. He will leap over the nylon tunnel - or stop short, if there is another cat in it - then, spying the toy heading in the opposite direction, turn and rush back, skidding on the linoleum.
Periodically, he will jam himself between the post of a cat-tree and its support. There, he will await the swing of the string-toy. If it lands on his top half, he will bite and wrestle with it. If the bottom half, he kick with his rear legs like a ticklish rabbit. He can be an odd animal.
He has also begun to learn the science of ambush. When he first came to live with me, he was frightened of certain toys, and his playing skills were not developed. He’s come a long way since then and now has begun attacking the string toy from behind a box. The first step was to wait behind the box for the toy to pass; then he mastered the idea of jumping on to the top of the box. It took him some time to realise that he should grab the toy as it went by, instead of just watching its progress. He is doing better and better all the time. The picture of this is, perhaps understandably, blurry.
Then there are the moments when he simply likes to take on a toy opponent by himself. He will step on it repeatedly with his hind legs, crushing it, or tear at it with his teeth. Then again, he may flip a kernel of hard food out of the bowl and chase it. But I’ve mentioned that before.
Renn continues to enjoy the nylon tunnel. He will hide in there when Josie is not inside (see below) and grab at the string-toy as it goes in an entrance or a hole in the top.
But lately Renn has become quite lazy. He will sit and wait for the toys to come to him. He will lie on the couch in the back parlour and move his head and forelegs to seize any toy near but otherwise, he will stay put. He especially dislikes moving from the heated cat-beds, of which he and Tungsten have become the principal occupants. There too he will lie curled up, cosy and warm, and wait for things to come to him. When it’s dinner-time, I tell him enough is enough, and heave him out. He’s certainly not out of shape; he’s just getting lazy.
Lastly, there’s Josie. My Chubs continues to enjoy simply rolling on the floor to tackle a toy as it swings past or over her. Sometimes, she will climb onto the cat-tree and play her games there. When I don’t spend enough time with her (or, as the other cats would call it, when I spend time with them), my round white one climbs down from the cat-tree with cries of annoyance.
But she also has learned the pleasures of playing in the nylon tunnel. This is new for her. Previously, the confines of the tunnel were just for snoozing, in her case. Her settling in the tunnel for some fun leads to conflict with Renn. One cannot pass the nylon tunnel and see the other inside without an exchange of blows occurring. Otherwise, they leave each other alone. Why the tunnel raises such intensity of feeling, I don’t know. Needless to say, when Josie is lying in the nylon tunnel waiting to play, Renn’s good time is ruined.
However, each of the cats will play by himself, too. Tungsten likes to zoom about the house like a small cyclone, usually just before and just after dinner; sometimes just after using the litter-box. Tucker will knock a ball, a fuzzy mouse or, as mentioned, a piece of food, over the floor. He and Renn will chase each other, though when my big boy pursues the roly poly one, it isn’t always in the spirit of fun. That’s when I step in. Josie doesn’t often play with toys by herself. But just yesterday, when I came home, she and Tucker engaged in their usual game of chase; they rarely do it any other time, and even then, it doesn’t last long. But I saw my Chubs crouching behind a wall lying in wait for her roommate.
And then there’s cat-thunder. Carl Sandburg wrote of fog coming in on little cat feet. My beasts can indeed be silent, but the late Mr Sandburg probably wasn’t downstairs while a heavy-set feline rushed back and forth on the floor above his head. I suspect this is often Tucker, perhaps with Renn, as well, and, once in a while, Josie. This most frequently happens while I am in the basement cleaning out the litter-boxes. Why it occurs then, I don’t know. Perhaps while the man’s away, the cats will play. In which case, I wonder what they are up to while I’m at work...