Shrimp treats

Pinky knows what those rustling noises mean. I am getting her two big shrimp out of the bag in the freezer. Before they are in the microwave to defrost, she has taken her place on the counter. Chopping the shrimp requires agility to keep ahead of her as I move from counter to counter to stovetop until the feast is ready. Watching her eat brings out every drop of the one-fourth Italian in me. “Mangia, mangia,” I say, beaming, my hands clasped over my stomach. It is a satisfaction life seldom affords the average cook.

The treat was intended to be once a week. That proved difficult. It seemed a long stretch to me, too. I spaced the treat to five days, then three days. Now it is every second day. This is where we stand, my last stand.

At the substitute, a teaspoon of ice cream mashed in my hand, she turns her back, though she does not leave the kitchen. It is a comment on lack of shrimp, but there is room to negotiate. I dab a little ice cream on her nose, which she licks clean. She moves a few inches away, and I dab some more ice cream. Finally, she turns and grudgingly approaches my cupped hand. In a few seconds, my palm is licked dry. I know I have spoiled her, yet still I smile like a fool. “Spoil” is a relative word: Pinky does not have to attend college, get a job, or move out on her own.


Excerpt from Meow’s Way

One warm afternoon in November I came into the house after pulling weeds for an
hour. A big tabby jumped down from the living room sofa and ran to me meowing.
Surprised, I bent down to stroke it and was met with a fierce show of affection. She
most probably a she – rubbed against my hand, all the while meowing in a sweet, high voice.She wound herself between my ankles, following me out to the patio, jumping upon the railing to rub against me, and purred and meowed without end. I didn’t know what todo with her and retreated to my husband’s den and lay down on the couch to read. The cat jumped up on my chest, at least twenty pounds of her. She rubbed against my face,my hand holding the book, my neck, my chin. I stroked and scratched. She kept up the attack.

I thought Help! but really was enjoying myself.After what seemed an hour, I put her outside and shut the door and fled back to the couch to think about what had happened. We had seen each other once or twice in my yard, nothing more.

She came almost every day after that, since the weather allowed me to leave the patio door open. I bought cat treats. Whenever I was not at the computer, fruitlessly trying to work on a book I had put aside for too long, then giving up, she joined me on the couch as I read or napped. If I awoke with a frightened start, she crept up to my chest and kneaded her paws as if to comfort me. I kept much to myself in those days.

She came in the evenings also and curled up on my lap as I watched television. Sometimes, following some internal timetable, she refused to nap and held my hand down with her paws so thatI couldn’t stroke her to sleep. I experimented with my other hand, which she also imprisoned. Her eyes glazed over and she actually nodded off twice before jerking awake. Apparently, she had something else to do than sleep, perhaps a rendezvous out in the woods across the road, a hunt laid on with other cats, or a visit on one of her rounds of homes.

Meow’s Way

Here is an excerpt from my book Meow’s Way:

I am flat, peering under the sofa. Pinky is beside me, also flat and peering into the darkness. Of course, she has no idea what we are doing.I laugh out loud, and she flops on her back and wiggles. It is her orange catnip fish that is missing again. I have considered purchasing a dozen to keep in reserve, but I am as stubborn in continuing my daily pursuit of the fish as she is in losing it.A long, thin dowel is my instrument of retrieval. With it I sweep under all the furniture in the house.

She has other toys, but has a passion for the fish. For a cat who may have been feral before she moved in with me, she has adapted superbly to life indoors, unless she was only half feral before. I had never seen her, a longhaired tortoiseshell with green eyes, in the neighborhood before she came up the steps to my patio, leaned her paws against the door, and peered through the glass. I moved to open the door and before I could invite her in, she backed off and ran away.

She returned again and again, each time following on my heels. Whenever I turned
around she fled. One day she held her ground and uttered several meows in a tiny voice. I interpreted them to mean, “I like you. Can I stay? I’m a good cat. I won’t give you any trouble.” I named her Pinky for her one pink toe.

She did stay. Soon I was scanning grocery shelves for flavors of canned cat food, then loading sacks of dry cat chow in my cart, then picking up leaflets on veterinary pet care. I was having fun. After my budgerigar, Daisy, died, it seemed reckless to acquire another pet that I could not leave for at least two nights at a time. Daisy did not mind my absence if I left a radio on near her. She would cock her head in its direction and, from the pile of droppings below, seemed not to have moved during those days away.

Pinky could look after herself, I reasoned, if I left her a dish of food and water outside the door. But what about raccoons eating the food? Other cats? No matter. I would figure something out. At least she wouldn’t need a litter box.
In the beginning of our friendship, there was a problem with our nights together. I had to get up several times to see if she had come to be let in. When she did come in, at whatever time of night it happened to be, she would jump onto the bed and sleep by my side. Sweet comfort for my spirit, this little furry body purring next to me! After my husband, Renato, died I endured the same painful emptiness everyone does after loss. I did not want another human being next to me.

The pet door I installed suited us both. Now she came and went as she liked.

Cats are little hoomans

I think of Pinky, the tortoiseshell who lived next door and came around to visit every day and night for a month. Evenings, she called at the patio door until I let her in. I was puzzled, of course. Why me and not her own home? It became obvious then that the two noisy dogs there and the fact of the homeowners being out all day had much to do with her preference for my home.

I came to yearn for her company; she acted as though she belonged, and I wished she did. One night it was raining, and she hesitated at the door before going home for her supper. This was it! I opened a can of cat food I had kept on hand, and offered it to her. We both understood this was a turning point. Pinky packed up her belongings, in a manner of speaking, and moved in. How we enjoyed each other!

I wrote “Meow’s Way” starring Pinky and other cats and critters, including a little skunk who toddled in everyday to eat cat chow. The book won in the Animals Animals Animals Book Awards. The editor mentioned that my description of the game Pinky and I played (and which she invented) made him laugh so hard he had a coughing fit.

And, incidentally, Pinky’s sister, whom I named Loaner because I wasn’t sure she would stay, and brother Tango crossed over. Loaner is still with me. She is 13 years old now, and is big sister to 11-month-old Bijou, a little imp who loves the outdoors.

Saying that I miss Pinky is inadequate for how I really feel. She was special.

So you prefer blogs about cats?

No politics, you readers are telling me. Keep your thoughts about the presidential candidates to yourself. No serious business, even if delivered with wry humor. Bring on the cats or anything four footed. Even winged.

Sigh, okay. Yesterday Bijou didn’t drop up at all and I began to worry. He worries me all the time, because where pussycats are concerned — little ones especially — their permanence can be wiped out in an eye blink. I should know. So, at 11 a.m. I dropped what I was doing and went out to find the little imp. I called and called, then walked down to the corner of the fence, where I found him. He flopped down and wiggled, and I understood: he was asking not to make him come inside, the weather was too fine and he was having such a good time doing — what? tracking gophers? spying on the neighbors?

I told him sternly, No dice, come inside this minute, and he got up and came with me — sort of, making the trip as prolonged and indirect as he could, zigzagging, swinging around the lemon tree — until he came to the steps to the deck. There, he disappeared from view. I waited, torn between laughter and exasperation. He reappeared under a shrub and faced the steps and finally ran up them into the house.

There wasn’t anything I needed him for at 11 a.m. He knew it, as did I. But I felt compelled to find and keep him for a few minutes for my own peace of mind.

The peace of mind was again compromised at 6 p.m. while I watched the evening news and listened for his explosive entrance through the cat door. At 6:30 I planned to go outside to call. But he did come in before then and immediately I latched the door after him. Bijou jumped up to the dining table for his supper — his favorite whitefish and sardine combination — I have to keep Loaner’s and Bijou’s meals separate and don’t care if cats aren’t supposed to eat their meals on my dining table. I gave up the conventions long, long ago.

Having eaten, Bijou went to go out and found his exit locked and came back to me with a squeaky complaint. Too bad, I told him. I would know where he was, at least for the night. Ah, the night, when he parks on my feet and I cannot stretch my legs at all. Often Loaner occupies my left side, her leg slung over my wrist as we both purr.

It astonishes me that so many humans have no experience with pussycats at all.

If you want to read “Meow’s Way” or “Meow’s Way Redux” you will find these stories at all the usual online retail places.

My tortoiseshell Pinky’s fella

I had a visit from Oliver (my name for him for black olive) yesterday. Hadn’t seen him a long while. When he and Pinky met he was about eight months old and she, two years. When he grew up, he came spooning, following her everywhere until she got exasperated and swatted at him. I would come in on them lying side by side on Renato’s sofa. “Meow’s Way” and “Meow’s Way Redux” tells their story and that of my other animal friends.

Then when she was gone he kept coming, calling for her in a sweet voice that broke my heart all over again. I hadn’t seen him in a while until yesterday. He’s gorgeous, has white whiskers and a smudge of white on chest and paws.

I talked to him and he meowed in response, all the while Bijou crouched in the deck doorway, his ears flat. They were quite a pair, black and black, the little one sleek and slim, the big one puffed out with his winter coat.

Oliver meowed again and I invited him to enter but Bijou objected and hissed when he made to come in. That made me sad. I would have loved to tell Oliver properly with a treat that I understood and remembered Pinky with him.

Bringing up Mojo

Or something…. His biting is letting up, I think. That is, a whole day has gone by when he hasn’t tried to burrow under the covers to reach my fugitive hands. By some miracle he has stopped attacking my ankles. But then he has transferred his attention to the blinds’ pull cords. My friend and colleague at the California Writers Club was telling me of a cat she adopted. Trouble was, she has bead curtains, or perhaps I should put that this way: She had bead curtains.

But when he is being good, there is no angel who can compare. We have a favorite cuddle position; the curve of my arm does very nicely to hold him while his eyes squinch shut in bliss, purrs fill my ears, all four legs straight up in the air and snowy belly exposed in trust. Of course, he now weighs as much as Pinky did and I must rest my elbow on the table to support his weight. And often, as with Pinky, I must sweep under the furniture to retrieve his toys. Favorites are George the turtle and a purple puff ball, which he carries in his mouth around the house. I have had my cell camera at the ready to catch this epic shot, but whenever I point it at him he drops the puff ball and looks inquiringly at me.

Sadly, all this business with Mojo is affecting Loaner’s interactions with me. She is not jealous as far as I can see, but we both seem to be distracted by the little one’s gallops up and around the place, his swipes at blinds, slippers, the catch pan under the fridge, his zips out and back through the cat door, the lampshade by my bed, the odd piece of paper taken from my desk. When Loaner has had enough, she shuts her eyes tight and tries to nap, leaving me to grapple with the newspaper I am trying to read before Mojo has shredded all of it.

(A word here about Pinky, a tortoiseshell cat who charmed my life for five years before she left me. “Meow’s Way” is mostly about her and how she pursued me until she moved into my home)

I have appealed to Renato about the biting and I believe he has issued a restraining order to the kitten. One whole day without the biting….