Saturday, March 25, 2006

Feline Fractiousness

Okay, let me begin by saying that I'm cranky. I'm nursing bloody ankles, tender forearms, an aching back and a sense of hopelessness--none of which are conducive to the Zen state required for a productive writer.

Regular readers of this blog know that I share my study with two cats--Tribble the Paperweight and Bobbin the Hunter. For the most part, we successfully manage the small piece of real estate where I spend most of my days working. Tribble, who is nearly nineteen, sleeps beside me while Bob sallies forth in search of adventure in our heavily wooded neighborhood. Periodically, they switch places. Bob jumps up on the window sill outside my study to let us know he's ready to come in. When I open the front door to admit him, Tribble wanders out onto the porch to sleep on her favorite cushion on the glider. Bobbin hops up beside my laptop and listens attentively while I read aloud what I've been working on while he was away.

This peaceful existence came to an abrupt end when I read a recent news announcement that the bird flu had claimed the lives of several German cats. Apparently the cats in question had eaten infected birds, fell ill and died.

Bob's fondness for afternoon snacks of sparrows and bluejays--which I have thus far been unable to break him of--suddenly took on ominous overtones. Thoroughly alarmed, I decided the time had come for Bob and Tribble to graduate to Indoor Cat Status. Therefore, about a week ago, instead of offering them their normal 7:00 AM access to the wider world, I walked past the front door to my study.

Tribble, who never likes to go out during chilly mornings anyway, followed me without comment. Bob immediately started yowling. He jumped up onto my desk and shoved his small black face over the top of the laptop to peer into my eyes with a quizzical expression. "Have you forgot something?" he whined. I ignored him, and thus began the open warfare.

I had tried to prepare for Bob's incarceration by hanging tempting toys from doorknobs and placing cunning catnip treats in strategic locations. He was having none of this. He started by opening every cabinet in the house and knocking the bottles and aerosol cans out onto the floor. From there, he peed in my shower. He slipped into my walk-in closet and pulled down the blouses hung on the bottom rack of the double bars. And that was all the first day before 10:00 AM.

Like a miniature Machiavelli, Bob accurately assessed my weak spot: Tribble. He took to lying in wait and pouncing on her unannounced. The poor old girl is now so skittish, she refuses to leave a room without looking both ways like a child crossing a treacherous boulevard.

I instituted Time Out. Whenever Bob attacked Tribble, I locked him in the guest bedroom for three hours. His howling was so loud that I couldn't concentrate to work and ended up carrying my laptop into the yard to sit shivering in a wrought iron patio chair, forced into a Time Out of my own.

This week, Bobbin borrowed a page from that Chinese warlord Sun Tzu and changed tactics. Somehow, he correctly deduced that, while I would punish him for disturbing Tribble, I would be far more forgiving of his assaults on me. Instead of holding Tribble hostage, he decided to take the battle directly to the enemy. He developed an alternate strategy of pouncing on my feet and digging his claws into the exposed flesh. The minute I scream, like that great American Revolutionary hero, the Swamp Fox--Francis Marion--"he runs away to fight again."

Since I can never find or catch Bobbin to punish him after these assaults, my latest solution is simply to punt him across the room whenever he attacks my feet. I expect to hear from the SPCA any time now.

For the last few days, Bob's been killing me with kindness. He hops up onto my desk and drapes himself across my forearms. Trying to type with fourteen pounds of limp black cat covering you from wrist to elbow is akin to writing with a 2X4 across your arms. Plus it's killing my back.

Oh, well, at least I'm no longer bleeding.

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