Thursday, April 7, 2011

Everyone Loves a Fireplace

Tucker causes me more problems than all the other cats put together.

That statement should be placed into the proper perspective, however, as none of the cats living with me are a great deal of trouble. I am most fortunate in that respect. But of them all, Tucker is the trouble-maker.

He doesn’t do it consciously. He’s not mischievous. For instance, he has a sensitive stomach, something he shares with Josie. (The sensitivity, not the stomach; they each have one.) Those two account for 95 per cent of the throwing up that goes on in the house. Tungsten has produced two hairballs over the last year or two, while Renn, who, with his long, abundant fur, should logically cough up plenty, has never thrown up during his time with me.

But of course, though troublesome, vomiting is hardly something a cat can control. I’m sure they would if they could. It can’t be any more pleasant to do it than it is to clean it up. Most of the headaches Tucker causes can’t seem like mischief to the roly-poly one. He likes to play with the other cats, to chase them, and, to be fair to Tucker, they like it, too - except for Tungsten - and, after seeing Tucker pursue Josie through the library downstairs, I will see the roles reversed half a minute later. Renn and Tucker chase each other all over the house. But Tucker usually wants to play more than the others, and for longer. When they’ve stopped, he keeps pressing them, and that results in growls and hisses. He will also try to involve Tungsten in play. The orange one used to chase Josie, which she doesn’t anymore - too much competition, I imagine, which is one of the very few things I regret about having the number of cats I do - and doesn’t care for the foster-cat following her. This too will result in growls and hisses.

Tucker will boss Renn about - though my big boy is larger - and they have had at least one fur-flying scrap that I know about. Most of the time they are friendly acquintances, though not quite friends.

And then there is Tucker’s explorations. This curiosity has landed him in the worst trouble since coming to stay with me - or, rather, the most trouble - for me. A few days ago, late at night, I had finished what needed to be done for the day, showered, and was tired. I came upstairs to get ready for bed and saw Renn lying in front of the fireplace, looking up into the chimney. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had a fire in there, and I had cleaned it out. I thought perhaps a mouse had found its way up the flue, or perhaps a family of birds had built its nest there. Then I saw Tucker - in the fireplace. He had forced his way between the metal screens that are always closed in front of the fireplace and was actually sitting on the grate.

As you may guess, a wood-burning fireplace is clean only once in its existence, and that’s before it is intially used. As soon as I saw Tucker, I knew that he was going to be filthy. I walked toward him, trying not to scare him into bolting. Renn moved quickly out of the way. I think he had been lying in front of the hearth telling the roly-poly one how much trouble he was going to be in for sitting where he was. And he was in trouble, and knew it. He tried to run for it, but I caught him on the tiled hearth and took him directly to the bath-tub.

What to do then... How does one clean wood-soot off a cat’s fur? Any rubbing would just grind it into the strands. I called one of the ladies of the PAW Society - who was forgiving that I telephoned her at that time of the evening - and she suggested dish-soap. I tried that and it worked. It was certainly not like a cleaning product’s commercial, in which a simple drop applied and then wiped with a cloth will make everything sparkle. It was nearly an hour and a half before Tucker acceptably clean. During that time, he kept trying to jump out of the tub, naturally, frightened of the running water and vastly uncomfortable at being soaked and soaped. He kept squeaking and squealing like a piglet. I did learn that he isn’t as wide as he appears: much of his girth is fur. His eyes, however, can become enormous.

Eventually, I finished and rubbed him down with a towel - which he didn’t mind - and put him in the spare room for the night, with food, water, a litter-box and cushions to sleep on. He was damp and I’m sure I missed a great deal of soot; he is, after all, as black as he is white, and it’s hard to make certain black fur has been cleaned.

I still had a tub and bath-room to deal with, but that would wait for the next day. I checked the internet for information about washing a sooty cat and found that it recommended exactly what was suggested to me. It stated that bathing a cat is a two-person job. Not at eleven o’clock at night, it isn’t, in a one-man household. True, I had to hold Tucker in the tub while aiming the shower hose or soaping him down with the other, but he was remarkably easy to handle, relatively speaking. He could have made the ordeal hellish with claws and teeth everywhere, but Tucker is not like that. He’s a gentle fellow who will nibble if you rub his chest (quite different than Renn) but won’t purposely hurt anyone. Even his exile in the spare room for the night was taken quietly; he did cry from time to time, but he evidently settled down for a night of grooming.

The next day, he looked fine, though he was covered with loose, fine hair - the result of a night of self-cleaning, no doubt. His face still looked like Dick Van Dyck’s from “Mary Poppins”, but I had been afraid to get soap too close to his eyes. He’d have to take care of that part.

The bath-tub was difficult to wipe even with bleach, but Mr Clean’s Magic Eraser, which I’ve used to rid my walls of marks, is an excellent household tool, and did the job - though even with that, tough scrubbing was necessary. And the whole house was filled with Tucker’s loose ends: tufts of fur floating about from his grooming.

Tucker’s true character showed itself after he was released from his incarceration. Despite all the bother to which he had been subjected - manhandled, soaked with water, lathered with soap, washed off, locked in a nearly bare room for a night - the first thing he did after his release was bump his fuzzy head against me, repeatedly showing that he liked me and wondering if I still liked him. His purring is as ready as ever; it’s almost instantaneous.

I wish the episode hadn’t happened, but if it had to, then Tucker was the right cat to be involved. A little roly-poly gentleman, he is always sorry for what he’s done - and doubtless ready to cause more. But not on purpose, of course.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, I know it wasn't fun to star in that story, but it was so fun to read! You've characterized the mischevious nature of cats so well!