Cat essay

A little over a year ago, just before Hallowe’en, on a dark and stormy night, I stepped out the back door from the kitchen at around suppertime. Our outdoor cat, Stripey, was there as usual, beside her food bowl atop a small trash can that stores birdseed. She suddenly looked down and growled, and something damp, furry, and sinuous pressed against my ankle.

A smallish grey cat looked up, big yellowish-green eyes in a long nosed face, its mouth opening in a small, urgent “Meh!” “Hello!” replies the human. Cat twines past, does a loop-reverse, flings hip against my shin, says, “Meh-eh!” still staring up into my face. “rrrRRR,” Stripey puts in, not pleased.

I picked up the newcomer, who immediately started purring maniacally and squiggling against me, thin as a rail and soaking wet. I suddenly remembered I’d seen a grey cat streak across a neighboring residential street 2 days before. Best guess was this was the same one, and that it hadn’t eaten since then.

Jingle being held still, briefly, for the camera. 11-09.

He’s still here. Name of Jingle. He has a fine tummy now, though he’s not fat. At first we thought (1) he was female (he was so wiggly that it was hard to get a diagnostic look at his backside), (2) that we might be able to find his original owner and restore him to same, and (3) that we might have to move soon and couldn’t possibly keep him, since we already keep company with a dog and 3 other felines. We had him checked for a microchip ID, put an expensive Found ad in the local paper, put out leaflets in mailboxes around the neighborhood in an incomplete way, and — finally — bowed to the inevitable.

The main Issue (what a spectrum of major difficulty-irritating inconvenience-mild disharmony that word can cover!) is Jingle’s unacceptability to one of the other cats, Josie the Tonkinese. She’s probably 7 or 8 years his senior, considers him a lowlife punk, and tells him so. For his part, he knows exactly how to annoy her. They’re both smart. In fact we don’t live with any stupid animals. Josie’s older “brother”, Dan the Burmese, remains majestically above the fray except on those occasions when he and Jingle have been seen almost-playing – chasing round the house with their tails in the air. Males will do anything for a laugh.

Having no real experience with solid-grey cats, I got around to some research online. I happened to see a couple of YouTubes featuring cats who resemble Jing both physically and behaviorally — as if it’s a sort of genetic package — so I wondered if he might not be a breed. Turns out he’s probably a Korat cat, an ancient Thai breed only introduced into the US in the 1950s. Probably.

What the Korat breeder websites don’t get across is the eccentricity. They go on about intelligence, about the tendency to bond with a favorite fellow creature (me, in this case), to want to be Numero Uno in the household community. All true… but what about the paw-paddling? He is the most paw-oriented cat I’ve ever met. Reaches for whatever has taken his errant fancy with both paws, and if nothing else presents itself, plays with his own feet, often while lying upside down in my lap. Pick him up when he’s feeling active, he’ll not only reach and paddle with his front feet, but start bicycling with his back feet. What about the piratical tail-waving, the tendency the puff up just the end of his tail, like a grey lollipop? The affectionate nose-biting (biting his, nose mine)? The constant, merciless twining about your feet when he’s determined to have your attention?

The boy’s a lot of laughs. Not the kind of cat you reverence and worship, exactly… he’s too funny. But definitely another person in the house.

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