Tungsten is getting older. We are all getting older, of course, but when one reaches a certain age, it becomes less of an observation and more of a fear.
It’s estimated that my orange one is about twelve years old. I commemorate her birthday on 2nd May each year. I don’t celebrate it, because she doesn’t care for such things when they come to herself, so I don’t get her gifts, I simply show her a little more than usual that I appreciate her.
She doesn’t seem to be slowing down because of her increased years. She has never been a rambunctious animal, though I never knew her when she was a kitten, but she has bursts of energy, especially after using the litter-box - I’ve heard that this is common among cats - or subsequent to dinner. She will often trot downstairs and then zoom up again, shooting across the kitchen floor and on to a cat-tree. She still jumps heights that are six or seven times her own and leaps distances that would win her medals at competitions, if she were human.
Tungsten’s latest fad is related to that. She has always liked getting on my shoulders (always facing the left), where she will rub her fuzzy head against my face and purr. Now she has taken to sitting on top of the refrigerator and wanting to leap onto my shoulders from there. I don’t care for being pounced on from a distance as Tungsten tends to use her claws to secure a foothold, and even when they are cut, her talons are not dull. It’s a bit unnerving to turn about while making a meal to see this beast poised on the edge of the refrigerator, ready to jump at me. Even when I tell her not to, she leans forward, looking as if she will fall off at any moment, glancing from one of my shoulders to the other, to see which offers the best prospect of a good landing.
She remains the queen of the household, and none of her permanent roommates cross her. Luther the guest-cat seems undeterred by authority and has scrapped with Tungsten more than once. She doesn’t like him. When he is in the back parlour, where he has access to an open window (screened), fresh air, sounds and sights, Luther will sometimes cry at the cold-air vent, the other end of which is in the dining area. Tungsten will periodically stop near there, see if the interloper is on the far side, then hiss, to let him know that his behaviour is not what is traditional in her kingdom.
But my orange one has come a long way in welcoming new cats. Well, no, it’s true that she is never welcoming, but she grows used to them. The newest perma-cat, Tucker, used to elicit hisses and growls when he jumped up to sit on the arm of the couch next to me, while Tungsten was usually on my lap. Now, she allows him that corner; she even sniffs at him. Tucker, for his part, is not quite as frightened of his tiny mistress, though he still moves quickly if she so orders. As I wrote in a recent article, Tungsten has become almost friendly with another of her roommates, Renn, who also once offended her by his mere presence. And of course Josie’s arrival, the first ‘new’ cat, as far as Tungsten was concerned, was traumatic for the the latter. But, though Tungsten has not mellowed in her older age, she has learned acceptance.
Though I hold all my cats in the strongest affection, there is something about Tungsten that the others don’t have. She seems to have a connection to me that may come from the time we spent together before other cats arrived, or from her maturity as compared to the others, or simply due to her character. When I come home from work, various cats come to greet me; Josie and Tucker may chase each other; Renn stirs from the cat-tree or bed where he’s probably been sleeping all day and says ‘hello’. But Tungsten follows me into the bedroom where I change clothes. She jumps up on the bed and falls over, inviting me to rub her chest and her fuzzy head. She sticks by me until I’ve changed and start preparing everyone’s dinner.
I understand her more clearly than any of the other cats, though one like Tucker doesn’t really require a doctorate in psychology. I know what Tungsten’s thinking most of the time, though she surprises me sometimes. I think she understands me, too; sometimes, I merely have to look at her and she can tell by my expression what I want her to do, or not do. Sometimes, she even complies.
I know that at twelve she still has, all things being equal, a goodly number of years ahead of her. But she recently developed more age-spots on her nose, as orange cats do, and now and then, she has the look of a little too many years about her, a little fatigue about the eyes, or roughness about the fur that grooming won’t smooth. But then it goes and she’s lively and zestful. I don’t like thinking of the future, as time takes its hold of her. But last night, as I was watching her, she turned to me with a smug expression; she just wanted to remind me that time wasn’t exactly standing still for me, either...