Hell Night

Sage (on left) and Harvey
Peggy and I put our five cats in the laundry room at night so we can sleep. Yesterday morning, they all burst forth in enormous distress, but Scully was in the worst shape, jumping onto her window shelf and yowling nonstop: "Last night was horrible, horrible! No words can describe what I've been through! I can't bear my terror for another moment! For chrissake, DO SOMETHING!!!" 

Aghast, I approached her with an empty show of confidence, empty because she was so overwrought that I feared being bitten. She instead leaned into my body in trembling silence: "The nightmare is over," she whispered, "I know you will protect me."

Within minutes, Scully and three of the boys were ready for breakfast. Only Harvey remained distraught. Instead of lying splayed-out in the middle of whatever room we were in, he spent his day behind the clothes washer. It was the first time he had shown fear.

Harvey was but four months of age when he came to share our home last November. From day one, the long-haired gray kitten with piercing green eyes and a lion's ruff, dominated our household. He playfully ambushed our 15-pound patriarch, Brewsky, and became best buds with Sage, our timid, big-eyed tabby. He treated Scully like the lady she is, but his attempts to play with the grump of the family, Ollie, were met with yowls, hisses, and swats. Harvey's response was to pounce on Ollie in a manner that said, "How dare you flatter yourself that you scare me!" whereupon Ollie would run from the kitten half his size. 

When Harvey would lie on his back in the middle of the kitchen floor, I would stop cooking and rub his belly (Peggy complained that I was not only abandoning my work, I was widening the roadblock). After a few strokes, he would grasp my hand in his mouth and hold it there, making it necessary for me to rub him with my other hand. And so it went with one hand in the mouth of a zoned-out cat, and the other hand caressing his pillowy belly, all while assuring Peggy that petting Harvey was way more important than cooking. I meant it too. Building trust with one's cat depends entirely upon the amenability of said cat, and this is especially true in the case of belly rubs, which represent the ultimate in feline vulnerability. Peggy took a less enlightened view, "He's just using you," she would argue, and I would respond, "You can write on my tombstone:

Here Lies Harvey's Love Slut
He Died Smiling
R.I.P.

I think I know what frightened the cats. Our laundry room opens to the outside, and in warm weather, we leave the wooden door open so the cats can watch the night pass through the steel-mess security door. My guess is that something big, smelly, and scary came to that door from the nearby creek. Thankfully, Harvey got over his fear by the next night, but during the hours that we weren't having to step around him, our hearts ached.

12 comments:

kj said...

Hi Snow, five cats in a laundry room and a monster at the door.

It's quite a story!

love
kj

Elephant's Child said...

I am glad that they got over their fear - and that it wasn't able to come in.
Scrathcing/rubbing Jazz's belly (despite his invitations) is a bit like Russian Roulette. Either he will love it and will stretch into it purring loudly or he will latch onto the hand with tooth and claw (purring loudly).

Strayer said...

That is a beautiful story of love, Snow.

Andrew said...

I am surprised they didn't wake you. Do you think it was a bear that alarmed them so badly? Or maybe another feline species.

kylie said...

Poor little things must have about lost their minds! I was wondering if it might have been a coyote? Maybe I should google what local wildlife to expect

Tom said...

I'm not a great cat lover myself, but I'm all in favor of abandoning your work and widening the roadblock, by whatever means.

Marion said...

Awwww, I love this cat tale, Snow. I’m glad they calmed. Sounds like Harvey has you wrapped around his heart. I’m down to 2 cats from 6. I miss the other four tremendously. Our pit bull who has now been with us for a year, has finally made pals (sort of) with Garfield and Debbie, the cats. Debbie beats him up, scratches his nose and disses him greatly, but she also rubs her head on his snout and he lets her. The dog slinks away but never hurts her. A new thing with the dog is this: we kept hearing him bark for seemingly no reason. This went on all week. I saw yesterday that Garfield had been sleeping all day on back of the couch. (He’s up all night harassing me). Scooby was barking at him to wake him up! In my mind, the dog either thought the cat was sick or he wanted to play. He’s a therapy dog for cats AND people! If I raise my voice, Scooby walks up to me and woofs. My daughter said he’s an anxiety-reducing dog. Whatever he is, I’m glad we rescued him from the crackheads who sold him to us from Craigslist for a mere $200. He was a nervous wreck, in sad, pitiful shape. He’s now a beautiful, spoiled, wonderful dog...most of the time. Thank God for pets. xo

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.”
― Anatole France

Starshine Twinkletoes said...

"You can write on my tombstone:

Here Lies Harvey's Love Slut
He Died Smiling
R.I.P.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I love the love you have for your cats, I know Peggy also has lots of love, but your's is often more amusing in its depth!

I actually agree with a quote of Marion's -
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.”― Anatole France

How we treat animals is a core to who we are, and those who abuse them and take pleasure from such misdeeds take pleasure from hurting one and all.

I am sorry to hear they were all frightened mind you, and surprised they don't all sleep inside your pyjamas with you too. - *pegs it laughing* x

Snowbrush said...

"It's quite a story!"

Thank you, KJ.

"Either he will love it and will stretch into it purring loudly or he will latch onto the hand with tooth and claw (purring loudly)."

Neither Harvey nor any of our other cats ever draws blood. As I'm sure you know, a cat will sometimes feel ambivalent about being petted in a certain way, and so he or she will tolerate it until concluding that it needs to end immediately, in which case some cats go into overkill. For my part, I try to listen to what my cats are trying to communicate, but some cats are clearly mean-spirited, and so if I should ever have a cat who persistently and intentionally injured me despite my best efforts to respect his/her wishes, I would feel so betrayed that I we would have to part ways. Too many loving cats need homes for me to spend years of my life caring for a hateful one.

"That is a beautiful story of love, Snow."

That means a great deal to me. Whenever I'm writing a post about cats, I think of you throughout.

"I'm not a great cat lover myself..."

I know. My birth family had both cats and dogs, but most of my attention went to the dogs. I only went head-over-heels full-tilt bonkers for cats when we got the oldest of our five cats ten years ago. Now, I can't imagine life without a cat, preferably three to five cats. In fact, if I were looking for a wife, one of the first things I would ask a prospect was how she felt about cats.

Snowbrush said...

"Do you think it was a bear that alarmed them so badly? Or maybe another feline species" and...

"I was wondering if it might have been a coyote? Maybe I should google what local wildlife to expect."

We live twelve short blocks from the heart of downtown Eugene, and while black bears and mountain lions are sometimes seen around the periphery of town, I'm unaware of such big creatures coming into the downtown area. As for coyotes, I never hear of any in town, but since they often thrive in metro areas, I can't rule it out (Strayer only lives 45 miles from here, so she might know more about the coyote presence than I do). One problem with the threat coming from a big animal is that our back is fully fenced, and while a mountain lion could easily jump a six foot fence, I should think a bear would have needed to destroy it. A small coyote, I suppose, could crawl under one of the two gates, but I don't know what would motivate one to do so....I suppose the threat could have come from another--dominant--housecat, but I would expect a housecat to spray, and there was no spray. My guess is that it was one or more raccoons (I've literally seen as many as 12-15 raccoons together) or else a nutria. The only other external possibilities I can think of are deer and river otters, both of which have come into this neighborhood with a deer being well able to jump a fence. Another possibility is that Ollie and Harvey got into a fight, but, apart from two or three dots of blood on the floor, there was no sign of anyone being injured, and I question whether a minor fight would have left the other cats so upset. But if there was no fight, where did those spots of blood come from? All I can think of is stress.

"Awwww, I love this cat tale, Snow."

Thank you, Marion. I'm so glad you're still speaking to me. Whatever your faults--as I perceive theme--might be, you're loyal, and while loyalty isn't everything, it goes a long, long way.

"Sounds like Harvey has you wrapped around his heart."

Which wasn't any challenge whatsoever given that I prefer the playfulness of young cats and the beauty of longhairs. My heart must melt fifty times a day simply from seeing Harvey sprawled out in the middle of the floor with his great bush of a tail sticking out perpendicular to his body. Peggy initially objected to his choice of places to sleep, but I so enjoy it that she gave up on "breaking him." I don't remember which American president it was (I think the answer is Coolidge, but if you want to know for sure, I can find out), but when, following a state dinner, everyone rose to go to another room, the presidential cat was asleep in front of the door, and so, with the president leading the way, the entire party of world leaders wound their way around the cat. I don't know how they could possibly have done this because I most assuredly would have been unable to resist petting the cat, and, if the cat were agreeable, carrying him/her with me to the other room. Memory fails me about this too, but there was a French writer (again, I will be happy to look him up if you want to know his name) who, when invited to someone's house would instantly and tactlessly abandon his hosts in preference for their cat. The fact is that I find cats, dogs, and children to be vastly more interesting than making small talk with adults in a social situation that I'm not comfortable in anyway.

More later...

Marion said...

I absolutely love the President/cat story. That’s my kind of man and it gave me a wonderful visual picture in my head. My husband loves cats or I would never have looked at him twice. A girl must have priorities! The French writer story sounds like Oscar Wilde...if he weren’t Irish. Ha!

We’ve had so many cats I could write a book of cat stories. They’re so entertaining and spooky. My Siamese, Ramone, who lived to be 21 years old, would go to the window every day when it was time for me to come home from work. (My daughter observed this). Who knew cats could tell time. The day he died in my arms, he waited for me to get home and I put him in my lap on a pillow in his favorite sunbeam and told him it was okay to go on to Cat Heaven. He purred so loud, then just stopped breathing. His death hurt the worst because I got him as a kitten when my kids were little and he grew up with them all the way to their leaving for college. He took a huge piece of my heart with him.

Snow, I sincerely love you as a friend. You’re sweet, kind, honest and a cat person. The fact that we disagree politically does not change the fact that I consider you a friend. Happy Trails! xo

Snowbrush said...

"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I love the love you have for your cats, I know Peggy also has lots of love, but your's is often more amusing in its depth!"

I saw the note she sent you on Sunday and was surprised at how effusive it was because Peggy is not so open as I.

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.”

I find it easy to love animals, it's people that are the problem. This is because animals are like children (at least in how they relate to humans), which means that they're honest, spontaneous, and can't be judged by adult human standards (although I'm ever surprised by how many people judge them so). For example, Harvey knocked over not one but two flower vases filled with water within ten minutes this week. If I catch a cat "misbehaving," I lightly scold him or her (not that it seems to do much good), but I don't get mad because I know I'm dealing with a creature that isn't wired to understand--or even to care about--what I like and what I don't. I hold people to a higher standard--and I feel that they do the same with me--and so I'm perpetually disappointed in them, and I perpetually feel that they're disappointed in me. However, my relationship with people has changed over the years in many ways. An important one is that I used to project more onto them--in terms of depth, goodness, abilities, and intelligence--than was really there, and when I discovered that they weren't somehow holding out on me, but really were as limited as they seemed, I stopped holding SUCH high expectations, but at the same time, I lost interest in really getting to know most of them. Much of what I share with people that matters to me, I share online. In fact, I've become such a recluse, especially since Covid, that I scarcely know how to conduct myself in person.

"We’ve had so many cats I could write a book of cat stories"

I think of doing a listing of ten or twenty authors who write about cats. The trouble with such writers is that so few of them write novels about cats. For a really good such novel, I would recommend Paul Gallico's "Jenny," which is also entitled "The Abandoned." I doubt that many people have ever spent so much time reflecting upon the nature of cats as did Gallico. As his fame for how he related to cats grew, people would often thrust their cats into his arms with the expectation that he establish an instant rapport with the terrified animal. On one such occasion, a family's cat scratched him thoroughly before running away, causing the family to conclude that Gallico was nothing but a fraud.