Sunday, May 20, 2007

Caterwauling Before Dawn

There's a new post about Simon & Schuster below this one, but first I had a bad scare this morning.

Woke up out of a deep sleep around 4:00 this morning to one of the most god-awful sounds in the world: the noise of a full-out catfight.

I've had cats for the majority of my life. Occasionally one of mine will get into a fight with a strange cat outdoors. My little cowards run straight home, screaming for reinforcements as they retreat. I run outside and drive the intruder off. I've never had to deal with anything more than a scratched ear (on the cats, I mean).

Lately, now that Bob is moving toward twenty pounds (eek!), he doesn't tolerate any strange cat setting foot on grass within two houses in either direction of mine.

In my experience, cats simply don't engage in the kind of prolonged to-the-death fights that dogs do. They tend to posture, scream warnings and retreat when both feel they've satisfied their personal honor.

The noise at 4:00 AM INSIDE my home was terrifying. I could hear bodies rolling and lots of screaming. I stumbled out of bed and raced to the front of the house.

Some background. Tribble, my calico Manx, is working on age twenty-two. She has some age-related issues, including arthritis, excessive water drinking and an inability to retract her claws.

I don't know what the claw thing is about, but it's mostly an annoyance. She gets caught on the fabric of a chair and cries until I come release her. She will walk across my laptop keyboard and sometimes pop a cap off a key because her claw will get caught. I spent hours one day searching for the top of my letter "e".

For the last few months, every time I've returned home, I've expected to find her tiny dead body, but she just keeps going. Tim, my marvelous vet, assures me she's in no pain; her body is just gradually wearing out.

Tribble has taken up a post on the right side of my laptop. She spends almost all day and night there except for the occasions--once or twice a week--when she asks to go outdoors. There she stays on my front porch on a pillow on the glider.

She avoids the other two cats who are increasingly hostile toward her. However, Tribble is enough of the grande dame that she can still force them to back down. I've seen her hit the kitten hard enough to send Dinah flying. When she swats Bob, who is now three times her weight, he respectfully backs off even though I've no doubt he could wipe the floor up with her. It appears to me that they are testing her to see if she's still got it.

When I reached my entry hall and switched on the overhead light, at first it looked like Tribble was swatting Bob. However, they were both screaming bloody murder. As I approached, Bob backed off and I realized he was dragging Tribble with him across my faux marble hall floor.

That's when it dawned on me. Her right claw was hooked into his cat collar. They were linked together, and neither could get free.

Both were so hysterical that they hissed at me as I approached. Soothing words didn't help. I had to shout to get them to freeze. While they were still in that Oh-my-god-did-you-hear-what-she-just-did frozen state, I unhooked Tribble. Her claw was actually caught in the little round hook that holds Bob's name tag.

The minute they were free, both went flying in different directions
--Bob toward the dining room table; his favorite retreat is under the tablecloth. Tribble ran for her litter box in the hall bathroom.

I followed Trib and peeked inside the covered top of the litter box. She was just sitting there, trembling. Not wanting to intrude upon her safe place, I sat on the edge of the bathtub and cooed nonsense at her for nearly four minutes until she came out to me, seeking comfort.

She continued to tremble so I brought her back into bed with me. She lay on my chest--small, bony and shaking--for another few minutes before pulling herself together. She left, going down the steps to the side of my tall bed, passing Bob who was now sitting there watching us.

I heard her return to my study, hop up on my chair and then onto the desk.

Bob made one big leap and landed on top of my mattress beside me. He whimpered, "What about me? I was scared, too." I cooed over him until he let out a big sigh and settled down under my arm.

We fell into an exhausted, relieved sleep.

Today--as much as she hates it--I need to trim Tribble's claws.

Read on for part two of my Simon & Schuster post.