A cat’s story

Fourteen years ago I was searching for story ideas and my husband threw out the suggestion that I write about “a day in the life” of our cat.  This piece ensued.

I try to stay around the doors. That way I know I won’t miss them. Although I spend much of my time alarmed by bugs and leaves, I do crave affection and I try to get it every day.

So I wait near the doors. In the evening, they come to the garage to take out garbage. They are happy to see me and sometimes pick me up to cuddle, saying “Hey, kitty kitty.” Moments I live for. Lately I’ve taken to flopping down on the doormat for a late afternoon nap, and they rarely miss me then.

As I alluded to, I chase bugs. It’s an excellent form of recreation and exercise. That aside, I just feel compelled to do it. I can’t resist the urge to bat at something with my paw. The wriggling it produces gives me an energetic and warm feeling. It’s some kind of kinetic stimulation. Wriggle, wriggle, bat, bat.

I assume it’s in my blood; I am the smallest of a hunter class that preys because we do. I am also of the least successful hunters and personally also among the greatest conservers of energy. It seems only logical to limit my efforts to play and leave the purposeful stalking to my large cousins.

Sometimes my tiny victims are avenged. Last week a stinging insect of some sort swooped down on me and bit into an inaccessible place on my rump and tail. I swatted and circled and jumped and bit the air, but got no relief. I spun a couple of times trying to get the thing, but finally in my madness I let out a screech – mrryowl! – and took off for the backyard. After a few yards it dismounted and I had a chance to give my tail a good lick. The stinging had set me off like a turbine.

My life, you see, is about motion, about responses and reflexes. What I see, what I smell, what I taste – it all urges me to action. There’s nothing subtle in how I deal with the things around me. I see movement: I pounce. I smell food: I drool. I feel pain: I run.

One evening a possum came into my garage. He comes occasionally, often with his cohorts, to eat the bowl of food they leave out for me, and he knows my weakness, my Achilles paw as it were: I’m afraid of things that are bigger than me. Bugs and mice and birds are within my reach, but not this grotesque marsupial. I cringed in a corner and watched him snuffle around my dish, eat his fill, then lumber behind a pile of wood stacked against the wall. My preference was to ignore him, but I couldn’t help my back arching and my tail swelling. My fur stood on end and I was helpless to stop it. Response, movement, stimulation. It’s the story of my life. The possum is a frozen coward, and my instinctive fear disgusts me.

Despite my shame, I stayed away for a couple of days. I slept fitfully in the park and actually ate some bugs, but mostly I starved and stayed awake. Hunger and loneliness drove me back to the garage. Fortunately the possum was gone and fortunately he hasn’t come back. Nonetheless, I stay alert. The garage is my kingdom and as such must be defended.