Proud cat, but dead, to give his name to our entire furry tribe, Archie is the only one who ever traveled by car to the North Shore. He’s the only one better known (or regarded) up and down the avenue than we, his supposed owners. He’s the only one who would be always on the other side of the door, putting into motion Garrison Keillor’s song about just such a cat. He’s the only who ever attacked a dog–three spaniels walking sedately along the sidewalk. Their owner told us if he ever did that again, he’d report us–to whom remains unclear. We attributed this cat-attack to Archie’s mourning the death of Fluffy, queen of the pride and most patient of any cat we ever “owned.” She let children dress her up!
Of the cat conglomerate that included Archie, Bart, and Tilly, we now have only Tilly, current matriarch, with middle-cat Maggie, and perennial kitten Julia. Girl cats work better, we’ve found, Archie being one of the pins holding that conclusion in place. Yes, girl cats don’t spray and on the whole seem less insistent on roaming, but they’re not as “lovey.” That is, not until we met Julia. Girl cats do, however, fall in love with guy humans–case in point, Tilly’s childhood affection for Michael. The minute she heard his voice, she’d race to the first floor and begin rubbing against his leg, and looking up with her soulful green eyes. Beautiful kitten with foxy pointed ears and chin, tufted cheeks and orange-white mask to the rest of her turtle-dark body. Even in middle age, she’s retained her sleek, long and tall figure with the plume of tail tipped with white. But she’s no longer in love with anyone but us, and doesn’t climb to the top of the drapes, or rather leap as she did kittenish, from the top of the open piano case.
It’s not easy being green, Kermit the Frog used to (and may still) sing on “Sesame Street.” Ditto a middle cat. Occasionally in off-moments, I consider writing a children’s book called “The Middle Cat.” Like a middle kid who’s squeezed by bigger bro or sis at one end, and cute baby’s antics at the other, Maggie our cat has acquired Fluffy’s onetime long-suffering look. If she were ever inclined to be demanding, that’s faded from our lack of response. Instead she’s staked out her favorite reclining spots–under the coffee table, at the top of the stairs–and she’s taught me the one safe place where she can demand to be petted without offending any other critter. It’s the food dish in the upstairs bathroom. Few of the other cats eat from that dish. It’s Maggie’s.
As I approach through the luxuriously carpeted bathroom, to the tile area by the shower, she begins meowing to guide me forward, tail up, until she lowers her head in the crunchy dish and I begin stroking her. The occasional late evening when I’m finishing my stretches and eye soakings on the carpeted bathroom floor, and the other two cats have already retired, Maggie and I play with the semi-hard balls she prefers. Then we have the dark to ourselves. She lies in wait outside the bathroom door to pounce on the rolling mouse that I send her way. There’s a scuffle in the dark hall, the mouse bounces down the stairs, and Maggie follows to yowl its capture through the first floor. Then she sounds like a giant cat, queen of the night.
Julia was petite when we acquired her. Not so much anymore. Fran accuses me of overfeeding, and he’s probably right, but it’s my “out” when I’m trying to pursue some other game. Julia is lovey as a boy cat: she licks legs and hands, all the way up the arm if allowed. She’ll touch noses and lick cheeks if allowed. In the movie, “THe Truth about Cats and Dogs,” the charming vet (an actress I can call up to look at but can’t remember her name) tells a caller-in to her radio show that it’s not a good practice to allow a cat to lick one’s entire face. I make Julia stop after one cheek-lick. Lately in our heat, she’s taken to squeaky pleas to be let out. Not that she wants to roam; in fact when we have brought her out to sit on a lap as we play Scrabble on the porch, she has sat placidly and not squirmed much.
But with a ribbon tied around her neck, and the other end in my hand, we now take little strolls on the back deck under the petunia/marigold boxes. Yesterday in the relative cool, she flopped down in the sun. Her black fur glistening, it wasn’t long before she began to pant. I brought her in.
Occasionally I meet a man with a black girl cat on a collar. They walk together up and down his alley, and a few times even around the block. I’m not sure I will ever do this with Julia, though she’s probably tractable enough. Fran would have a fit, and deep in my heart of hearts, I agree. We don’t want another outdoor cat–too many vet bills, too much anxiety if the cat doesn’t come home. Too much fear someone will “adopt” our adorable Julia.