I’m more aware of them now with the windows and doors closed – the swishy tails, the meows, and pawing at sleeve or pants leg. I’m more in the house where they live all the time. In summer feeling guilty about cooping them up, I sometimes take sleek, black-and-white Julia, the most compliant, out to sit with me on the back deck, though I never lift a firm hand off her back. We bask together for a while, then that’s enough. But at 8 above zero or 20 below, such indulgences are impossible. She might well have lived outside before the Humane Society got ahold of her. Still, I don’t want any more cat-inflicted bird deaths. She’s a sweet cat, but I have no doubt she could kill birds. Her pupils widen when she’s very intent on capture. She waits, her tail swishing. Then, pounce. Another dead string. Another done-in stuffed mouse.
Live mice visit in winter. Maggie, smooth-haired calico cat with a weird orange square cutting through one eye, paws at an outside corner of the kitchen. The next evening, she and Julia are hunkered down staring under the low TV stand. Next they stalk around to the back of the sofa, starting to patrol the perimeter of the living room. A quick dart out to the adjacent dining room. Something has made a beeline behind the huge black radiator at the room’s outside corner. I lift out the reflective panel stashed there to help reflect heat. A quick scurry. A somewhat gimpy gray mouse, awkward as a wind-up toy, skitters out of sight on the kitchen linoleum. The next evening, the guy human baits a mousetrap with a little peanut butter and lifts it into the lowered basement ceiling. The following morning there’s a sweet gray-backed mouse whose back is broken. After a qualm or two– outside with it. Our next-door neighbors confess to luring a mouse out of their house. We may have caught it.
I’ve just finished my winter evening walk-about, rounding from kitchen through entrance hall, living room, dining room and back to kitchen. As I walk I listen to various kinds of classical music. Tonight it’s Boccerini, a delightful minor master, born in Luca, Italy, he spent most of his creative life in Spain. Throughout his hundreds of chamber music pieces, you can hear the Spanish influence in rhythms and use of guitars. Boccerini himself was a renown cellist, who overlapped with Mozart before outliving him by four decades. The jaunty rhythms and speedy tempo are great for walking.
The cats like Boccerini because I’m moving around, not sitting and staring silently at something boring like a screen or a page. I swish a toy with colored ribbons threaded through narrow orange and gold tubes to a stuffed mouse flourish. Back and forth this swishing creates a little breeze. The cats don’t walk or pounce in my path, but my activity sets them going. Tilly, the old lady of the three, yet the most limber, and most whiny, follows me around with her big green eyes fastened on me. She won’t bat at my toy. She wants me to get down on her level, so after 30 minutes or so of walking, I kneel beside the long “barrel” made out of some crinkly fabric and stiffened with heavy interior wires. It has a hole in its top where a hand can reach through and pat a cat inside. Julia, the best game player, will keep batting a ball away from the barrel opening when she’s inside. But Tilly simply enters at one end and pads through to the other. I touch her furry back as she passes under the opening. Next she’ll inhale or lick up some catnip from the corrugated round scratching disk. Finally, pestering me with meows until I sit on the floor outside the back of her chair, she is energized enough to paw at a ribbon I’m swishing at the openings in the chair back. We eye each other. Her beautiful, foxy-shaped face with its orange lightning mark–a feline Harry Potter–soulful green eyes, and tufty cheeks of motley black–always pleases me. Anyone who says cats don’t have facial expressions hasn’t looked very hard. Her eyes signal anger, appeal, scorn, sympathy, disgust, jealousy, and right now, relatively lively attention for an old lady cat over fifteen years old.
The cats like Boccerini because they like having me moving around