Friday, November 21, 2008


Today I finally gave up and turned on the gas. I read the instructions carefully, had a little conference with the gas man at the post office, came home and discovered my hands weren’t strong enough to press down and twist at the same time, so I had to call the gas man after all. It turned out that he had to go down under the floor because the connector rod had disengaged. Now it’s warm, but I have visions of dollar bills flying out the chimney.

The cats were anxious to supervise all this, following along and trying to put their noses right ON the point of focus. Anything that’s going to make it warmer is a plus for them. (Cats evolved in the deserts.) It was below twenty last night and Casper, the big white bully cat from across the street, wended her way through the cat maze right into the kitchen! Squibbie was aghast and leapt to her feet to run out the intruder. Since she was sleeping under my chin, I got up and gave chase as well. Crackers bringing up the rear as usual. Caspar used to beat the stuffings out of Crackers. Tonight I’ll close up the garage entirely.

Some people are critical of me letting the cats go out at all, but what’s the use of being a cat if you can’t live a cat’s life? Part of the reason for me living in a village is so that the cats can come and go. They pretty much stay in the yard but Caspar got attached to this house when it stood empty for a few years. The Inkydinks, the twin Siamese kittens across the street, come over here, but rarely, and they are soft, sweet creatures. In the first winter these cats were grown, it was the Hammerhead who figured out how to sneak in on cold nights. He was a black, short-haired, Siamese mix -- all muscle but a passive resister. Caspar will stand and offer to knee-cap me, but the Hammerhead just got very heavy and clenched when I put him back out.

My cats sleep on my arm, sometimes both at the same time. They are BIG cats now but they were little babies when I got them. In fact, when I first brought them home, I put them in the bedroom while I was bringing in supplies from the pickup, thinking they wouldn’t escape. But they shimmied under the bedroom door -- it’s cut a little high to accommodate carpet -- and came along anyway. Days after that I stepped on a shard of glass and my heel was making blood spots as I walked to get a bandaid. I looked behind and here were the two little kittens, following my spoor, inhaling through their open mouths like tigers. There’s a little smell-sensor in the tops of their mouths. There’s a name for that kind of smelling -- flensing, I think. Maybe not.

Now, seven years along, they sleep a lot and their cat beds are in predictable places, like alongside the computer in the window where I keep a lamp which was supposed to be for me to see better but turns out to be to keep them warm. They sleep in my two reading chairs, usually one cat in each chair when I want to read. But they’re willing to sleep on my lap when I manage to get to the chair first. On the bed, if the electric heat is turned on, they sprawl out on their sides like babies. If not, they roll up like snails.

In summer Squibbie, the tortoiseshell, sleeps in the loft of the back garage, which seems to be her building. But Crackers, the pale yellow cat, still stretches out on the bed. Sometimes both find cat nests in the tall grass where neighborhood cats sometimes sleep. Cats like to sleep where other cats have slept, but if the other cat is there, they go on.

They are upset if I don’t keep a strict schedule. But they don’t keep the same schedule as each other: Crackers the day cat is diurnal, up at dawn and dusk, as a cat with a desert heritage ought to be. Squibbie crashes into sleep when I start my movie after supper. Then she’s up at 3AM, slamming doors and throwing things off tabletops to make me get up. Yesterday morning she jumped on the ironing board, collapsing it all to a screeching heap. Scared ME, too, not least because I thought she was under it. By the time I’m getting up, she’s back to sleep under the lamp while I blog all morning. Most of the time if you asked me where the cats were I could look at the clock and tell you.

They don’t eat the same as each other but the timing is roughly the same. Crackers will eat dry food but she comes to beg for treats about 11AM, again about 4PM and finally at 9PM when she goes on walkabout before settling on the bed. Squibbie wants only canned food and is reluctant to eat from a can that’s been open for a while. She’ll accept treats if she has to, but asks for cat laxative out of a tube about 9AM. I suppose I partly created these patterns by the way I responded to them as babies. At first I had to smear the cat lax on Squibbie’s feet to get it into her. Pills are hopeless. But Crackers swallows them down when she needs an antibiotic. Cats imprint easily. But then, so do I.

I handle the cats a lot, but they are resistant to being turned upside down. If I pick them up, Crackers wants to look over my shoulder but Squibbie is happy to roost in my arms facing front. They both want me to walk -- otherwise they want down. Squib is often waiting for me to return from the post office, lurking in the lilacs two doors over in order to ambush me. When I go to walk down my blood glucose level by hiking around the park, she watches me leave up one street and then turns her attention to the other street to watch for me to come back. Crackers pays no attention. Sometimes she’ll meet me in the driveway.

Crackers snores and Squibbie dreams. Squibbie worries that I might roll over on her in the night when she’s under the covers, so she plants all four feet against me and isn’t afraid to use claws as a caution. Crackers waits for me to turn on my side and then rests her spine against mine. We know a great deal about each other, most of it not in words.

I looked in my big Oxford English dictionary to find the kind of smelling cats do, but it’s either not there or I can’t spell it well enough to find it. What I did find was “flesh,” an old word in several languages. The first meaning is “the soft tissue of animal bodies” but there’s much more. Flensing is about skinning.

1 comment:

beadbabe49 said...

I bet this is what you're remembering...

Jacobson's Organ and the Flehman Response

Cats (along with snakes and a few other mammals) have a magnificent organ called the vomeronasal organ, most oftenly known as the Jacobson's Organ. It is located inside the mouth, just behind the front teeth, and connects to the nasal cavity. Opening his mouth slightly enables the Jacobson's Organ to open up the ducts connecting to the nasal cavity. The appearance of the cat as he brings air into the Jacobson's Organ has sometimes been likened to a "smile," other times to a grimace. The Jacobson's Organ seems to play a large part in the sense of smell of a cat, judging by its frequency of use around my house.