Monday, August 16, 2010

Tungsten, My First Cat

I believe that the more intelligent an animal is, the more personality it has. Dogs, cats, horses, each member of these species has its own characteristics. It can be as basic as what it likes to eat, which is why many people who have more than one cat also have more than one type of cat-food in their homes.

Tungsten, for example, started showing her personality soon after I brought her to live with me. She loves her comfort, for one thing. A few days after she came to live with me, she was curled on my armchair; I wanted to sit there. I thought that we could share. She was fine with that, as long as I didn’t move her. I decided to lift her up and replace her on my lap. She bit me. Well, no, she didn’t bite me, but I thought she was trying to. I was convinced that I’d brought home a malevolent animal that would become vicious whenever she didn’t get her way.

It was ‘her way’ all right, but her way of showing displeasure. If I try to move her from a comfortable spot – which usually coincides with somewhere I want to sit – she will put her teeth around my fingers as if she’s about to tear them apart. But she doesn’t close her mouth. She will do the same with her claws: they will come up, but she won’t use them. It’s a manner of protest. How good natured must a cat be to demonstrate that she could hurt you, but won’t? Whynot? It’s just her way.

Sometimes, the claws come out for fun. One day, I was petting her and her paws gently grabbed my finger; the claws came out and she looked at me, purring. “Go on, take your finger away, I dare you. Hehehe.” Cat humour and human humour don’t always meet.

She’s a bit of a whiner. I didn’t realise this until Josie came to live with us. Until then, most disputes could be indicated in a quieter fashion. When Josie arrived, Tungsten wanted to kill her. I’ll discuss that another time. After she grew used to the new cat, Tungsten still didn’t care for her proximity, so she would whine, as if to say, “There’s that fat white cat again. Get her away!” Tungsten often did this when I would lift her up, as if she suspected that I would deposit her closer to the unwanted roommate.

My orange one is a light eater. She weighs about six and a half pounds, so there is little stomach to fill. She eats half the soft food that I give her, as long as I put the dish in front of her four or five times in a row. She will drink from a bowl if she must, but she would prefer a thin stream falling from a tap, and will wait by the bathroom basin for hours to receive it, if need be. Is that patience or stubbornness?

When she sleeps at night, it is usually on my legs, in the crook of a knee, though sometimes she crawls up toward my face, turns around and lies against my nose, nearly suffocating me with that orange fur. The feeling, when one is half-asleep, of something light and unidentified, creeping up toward one, can be startling. Once in a while, when a few inches from my face, she’ll purr and put her paw on my cheek or mouth. Perhaps I was snoring. But I like to think she’s petting me. Tungsten is a bit of a baby, even though she’s now ten years old. She’ll wake suddenly during the day and cry out, not stopping until I come to see what the matter is. My opinion is that she’s had a nightmare and wants to be comforted. Alternatively, she may just like to see me run when she calls.

As you can read, the motives for much of what she does are open to interpretation. But I’ve learned to know my cat over the past three years of living with her. I’ve learned what the different meows mean, the one for water, the one for lap-time, the one for unspecified attention. She even has one to let me know she wants the closet door opened, a box moved and the top of a dresser cleared so she can jump onto a high shelf without interference. It takes less time for her to say it than it does for me to write it. There are disadvantages to living with someone who is sometimes a surly, middle-aged whiner. (Yes, I’m still referring to the cat.) But these pale when Tungsten greets me, purring, as I return at the end of the day; when she asks to lie on my lap though there are a dozen more comfortable places; when water goes down the wrong way and I have a coughing fit and she hurries in from wherever she was to meow with concern.

That’s the sort of cat I can live with. That’s the sort of cat I do live with.

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