Sunday, March 16, 2008


(Dinah, November 2001, during the "Tweakin' 24/7" era)

My cat Dinah, even now at the approaching-middle-cat-age of six years, sleeps less than any feline I've ever lived with. She seeks stimulation like Republicans seek lobbyists and strange sex. When she was a kitten, it was much worse, almost unbearable at times: She literally climbed the walls and treated my need for slumber as a personal affront. It was like living with a crackhead. She's mellowed a little, in no small part because I set aside time to play with her/engage her in "constructive" activity.

I have a telescoping feather duster of the sort used to clean the blades on ceiling fans, and I keep that handy as a toy. She's wild about it. I've seen her leap six feet into the air (honestly, I'm not exaggerating) to try to ground it, and when it is within reach, she wrestles with it savagely. Her other favorite toys are "red rings", the plastic rings at the top of Coke and other soda bottles -- any ring will do, but she has a marked preference for the red ones. She can tell from some distance if the bottle I'm drinking from has its ring still, and will come sit by me, waiting for me to pull it off. If I don't in a timely fashion, she will reach out a paw and pat near the cap, as if to reactivate my deficient memory.

These rings are meant to be thrown like skeet, and she races after them, leaping in a manner to around the envy of any cervil. She will sometimes play fetch. Other times, she loses the ring and returns to me, disconsolate. When she finds a lost ring, I hear her reaction, a throaty rumble as she picks it up and brings it to me.

I can tell she longs for a catly miracle: The front door left ajar, the carpet sprouting catnip, or, particularly, a sudden domestic infestation of mice. She'd rather hunt than anything. Unfortunately, the only prey available are red rings or stacks of paper on my desk. She resists any interest in television nature shows, unlike other cats I have lived with. It needs to bleed and/or move to have meaning for her. And yes, the stacks of paper technically are stationary, but not when she's done with them.

She's also not concerned with adding to her English comprehension vocabulary. She has a sufficient lexicon in "Dinah", "no", "good girl", "red ring", "treat", "e-mail", and "godDAMNit" -- at the latter, no matter what the circumstances which cause me to swear, she disappears for half an hour or so. Just in case.

"E-mail?" I can hear you thinking. Yes, when I say "I should check my e-mail", she arises and heads for the study because she's linked that word to my making a trip to my computer. Where more kitty boredom will ensue, but there is a can of Whisker Lickins' treats by my monitor, so pretending to like my company sometimes pays off.

There is one respite from the tedious safe harbor of her life here. She does have a mortal enemy: Disk drives. One lives in the DVD/VHS combo atop the television in my bedroom, and one lives on the shelf above my computer. She manifestly thinks they are independently alive, not subject to my manipulation. She knows when I pick up the remote, it's possible the hated Thing on the DVD player will emerge from its burrow, and she watches keenly, but I can tell she doesn't think my pushing the remote is "making" the drive slide out, it's just a related event, not cause and effect. The ejection of the drive on my PC is not even linked to a remote, it simply Happens, at terrifying random.

When the Thing emerges, she runs toward at a full gallop, her tail puffed out, murder in her expression. Often it hides again before she can reach it (I am cruel, I know), and she sits to the side, silent and immobile, on stake-out. When it emerges again, she slams herself against it, swiping viciously. There are scratch and bite marks all over the corner of my DVD player.

Part of what disturbs her is that the Thing audibly moves around in its lair when I am asleep or out of the room (when I've set the VCR to time something). She will sit on my bureau, watching it with fearful suspicion, as it clicks and whirs. She associates disks with the Thing, and when I slide a disk from its sleeve at my computer, she will also come running, hoping for a change to hamstring the taunting evil for good. It often reminds me of the dog in The Triplets of Belleville who barked at the commuter train. I hope Dinah never figures out that it is only a machine.

1 comment:

letsdance said...

You are a true cat momma, Maggie! Very funny and true to life.