It’s the magical hour of 3 a.m. and I am jolted from restless sleep by maniacal shrieking, hooting and loud peeping underneath the bed. I brace myself, prepared to grab a weapon, but the only object within reach is a large spray bottle filled with cold water. Just shaking the bottle results in immediate silence, and I know little Darlin’ has stopped playing with her favorite talking cat ball, and I can return to rest. Then a blur leaps over my head, lands with a soft thud on the floor, hits the ground running, and makes several furious circuits around the bedroom, followed by an unexpected soaring touchdown on my feet.
After sharing a home with two long-lived canines — a small black poodle for 20 years and a small black Pomeranian for 17 years — I have somehow ended up living with a small kitten who began with pale beige and white coloring that in just two months morphed into pronounced tiger stripes on her back and ever-flicking tail, and a white breastplate. My grandson said she is a muted tabby but that can’t be right. This cat is rarely silent, vocalizing as she walks out of the room, then returning with a louder version if I don’t get the hint and follow her. I recognize that some of the messages are complaints, but prefer to think of her as my therapy dog (cat), sharing love and encouragement.
This is an animal that is always undercover (in every sense of the word), and ever prepared to pounce. The tiger stripes are appropriate since she is obviously fearless and fierce, tiny teeth and claws at the ready. In the early days, when she was about three months old, she would scale the highest point of the headboard on the four-poster bed in my former home, then attempt leaping to the top of the window shade. That was an epic fail every time until she switched sides of the bed and successfully sunk claws in to dangle for a triumphant second or two. I guess she’s left-pawed.
I kept telling myself: “Don’t ever assume you know where the cat is — because you never know where the cat is!” She’s an indoor pet, although when my brother installed a “catio” off the back window that provided fresh air and a closer look and smell of nature, she got a taste of the wild. Even now, with chilly temps, I open the catio for 15 minutes a day and when it’s shut off during nearly single digits weather, her standby favorite occupation is lounging on the window seat of my home office central, staring wistfully at all that nature.
At a recent bedtime for all, Darlin’ was nowhere to be found. A full house search was undertaken, including scanning beneath every piece of furniture while shaking a small pouch of treats and opening every interior door because she once got locked into the tiny pantry. This was followed by more shaking of treats, loud calls, and the opening of every cabinet door in the kitchen. A faint sound was audible near the top most cabinet above the refrigerator, which I rarely use since I can barely reach the occasionally needed items hidden there.
Then I remembered I had opened it earlier and extracted the large salad bowl. I wondered: did I close it? Receiving no internal response, I reached with outstretched arms.
When I opened that door, a tiger-striped blur launched itself over the refrigerator, sinking tiny claws into my shoulders and loudly expressing its feelings. That was definitely a complaint.