Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Feline with Benefits

It's been almost two weeks since I adopted my cat, Eva, and we've both needed to adjust and have learned more about each other.

Probably because of her sense of security, Eva is not as affectionate as she seemed to be when she first arrived. She basically conned me into thinking that she was going to be a real snuggly little beast; the first afternoon, possibly because she was unsure, she burrowed into my armpit and let me hold and stroke her.

This continued the next couple of nights, but then abruptly her nocturnal nature kicked in, and she decided that nighttime was for frolicking, not nuzzling. When I left the bedroom door open she would jump up when I was going to sleep, and accept a few strokes, but soon enough she had her own agenda.

Sometimes she wanted to hop on my chest and legs – not conducive to sleep – and then she brought her favorite toy, a little felt mouse, into the bed and wrestled with it. I decided to toss it out the door, which was a big mistake, because for Eva that became an invitation to a game of fetch, and the faster the mouse was tossed, the more rapidly she was back on the bed with it.

I felt bad but by the fourth or fifth night I knew I had to close the bedroom door to get some sleep, and let her explore the living room. I felt really guilty and worried that she would be crying outside the door or scratching to get in, but Eva doesn't seem to be the sentimental type – she accepted her exile gracefully and was none the worse for it the next morning when I opened the door at 5:30 (out of guilt) to let her in.

Unfortunately she came barreling in with her toy mouse expecting that I was eager to play.

Not so much.

It was at this point that part of me began wondering whether this had been a mistake. But I managed to extend the time before bedroom access until later and later in the morning with no reprisals on her part, and found that flinging the infernal mouse around the room was somewhat cathartic.

Mornings have always been a challenge for me and for better or worse the sudden presence of this other intelligence with its own needs has taken some of the focus off myself and made it easier to bear getting up.

And Eva trained me well, because she would then reward me with a bit of purring and licking, and actually allow me to stroke her very soft fur. Not that she would make this easy – I would have to leave the comfort of my pillow to lean down and pet her.

During the first few days Eva also seemed as she had been when I met her to be fairly nonverbal and quiet. But that also changed.

When she hops on the bed or careens into the bedroom, she announces her arrival with a distinctively shrill noise. She has also evidenced a very unique sound when she is annoyed – as when I reach to pick her up and she doesn't want to, or if the toy is suddenly placed in an unfamiliar location. As the weeks progressed I have actually noted difference nuances to these sounds to the point where I can almost image her saying, "Oh cool, he's in the bedroom, let's play fetch with the mouse!"

Her enthusiasm and energy are contagious, even for a curmudgeon like me.

One thing that intrigues me is how my rather mundane apartment is a source of constant stimulation, intrigue and curiosity. Any new cabinet I open, or closet that becomes exposed, is a journey into a new world for her – sniffing, looking, and inspecting.

Her favorite spots are currently an older desk chair near the balcony window, and the top drawer of my dresser, where she can lie and sleep with only her eyes staring out for hours at a time.

I find myself wondering what she is doing if I don't see her, and as I come home to the apartment I am already looking forward to hearing her chirping sound and seeing what she's up to.

I'm not enamored of sifting the litter box and cleaning up after the few times she missed was no pleasure, but I soon was able to balance these unpleasantries against the surge of pleasure I would feel when I was feeling dull, and suddenly a raised tail would glide by and I would realize I was no longer alone.

While the honeymoon is over with respect to nuzzling my armpit, Eva is still affectionate on her own terms. If I get down on the carpet I can sometimes rub her belly and neck – other times she will scoot away – it's like a mind game.

She will allow herself to get picked up most of the time and seems to enjoy being held briefly – but the fantasy of having her peacefully next to me while I watch the Lakers is not happening.

Maybe it's because everything is still so new. Birds fly by, the dishwasher churns on, a toilet flushes, and she needs to know what the heck that is.

I have to admit that I never understood or appreciated other peoples' stories about their pets, and how their cats did "funny" things. But now I've become one of those people – imagine that – almost 1000 effortless words about a creature with whom I now cohabitate.

The biggest adjustment for me has been not being in complete control of my environment for the first time -- and being subject to interruptions and distractions at odd moments.  But I've begun to balance that against the feeling I get when she grooms and licks my hand and purrs as I gently stroke her.I wonder what she's doing now…

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