My neighbors have what we call a menagerie. Two dogs, three cats, two parakeets, two frogs, and a parrot. We trade off watching animals when we’re away. Last week was my turn, then next week they can watch our three cats.
Lena, a one hundred eight pound golden retriever, and Belle, a ten pound Bichon Frise, are the dogs. Both are sweet, Lena preferring to lay still while you pet her, Belle always curious and exploring. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I found that Belle was the one tearing open our trash bags, not the cats. Both dogs get along well with the cats, which puts them at a disadvantage with our cats, who don’t get along with anyone. Belle is loud enough that her bark holds off Rascal, and Lena doesn’t seem to care, she just keeps trying to play even after Rascal scratches her.
Tee, the parrot, is also friendly. One time she came out of her cage while I was feeding her and perched on my shoulder. She talks, but not when I’m in the room. I’ll hear her calling “Mom!Mom!” and it sounds like there’s someone around. She also imitates the voice of the young lady (I’ll call her “Beth”), I kept trying to tell the mother (I’ll call her “Liz”) that Beth was calling her and she said “That’s Tee,Beth is at work”. Tee will say “Gedep bedep” to me, so much that she has me saying it back after a few days. And then I found myself saying it to Lieve.
The frogs must have names, but they really don’t interact much. Even when they’re fed, they usually just sit still. Once in a while one will move about, but life seems pretty boring for them. They’re almost as old as Beth. twenty three years in still water eating freeze dried flies.
The parakeets are in Beth’s room, they don’t require much but since I’m upstairs feeding the frogs and emptying litter boxes, I stop in and say hello. They get fresh water and food each Wednesday, and whenever they seem to need it. The biggest rule is to never let Missy into the room, apparently there’s a tragic story concerning Missy and a previous parakeet.
Missy is usually the first cat you’re aware of, she’s very pretty and soft, and comes right up to you once she realizes that you’re there to feed her. The rest of the year she keeps her distance, but when I’m taking care of them she’s waiting on the step to rub her nose on mine. It’s not just me, all (except Minnie) and very loving animals, rubbing up against each other and licking each other. Lena and Missy walk around the yard together sometimes.
If Missy is outside, the first cat you’ll notice inside is Squishington. Also friendly, and vocal, Squishington weighs in at about twenty pounds. She doesn’t move very fast, and hadn’t been outdoors before, so I coaxed her out on the back porch and even got her to explore the woods a little last week. Fortunately she wanted to come back, because I wouldn’t have wanted to carry her. One day Rascal had come up the front steps while I was letting Belle in, and Squishington started to come out the door. The screen door was open, Rascal on one side Squishington on the other, and about three inches open underneath the door. The two cats sensed each other, and heir noses went to the same point on the opposite sides of the door. Either one could have reached underneath, but they slowly progressed in tandem towards the edge of the door. I wasn’t sure what to expect, in a minute they would be face to face. They got to the end, were nose to nose, and without a sound Rascal slowly turned and walked down the steps.
This is Minnie. You might never see her, she is not sociable at all. Even when giving her food she would hiss at me. Both times I’ve watched the animals though, she would come out on the steps on the last day, and act friendly. I would reach up to the spindle and she would nuzzle against the other side of the spindle, then she would bat at my hand, hiss, and run upstairs. Minnie is a tiny cat, and I had thought she was young, but she’s actually quite old, maybe eighteen years. She was the cat that was picked up by a Red-Tailed Hawk in the yard, and fought enough the hawk dropped her.
The other players in the story are my cats. We have three, all with distinct personalities, but none who get along with each other. They’ve come to tolerate each other, and will occasionally share a couch, and then just start chasing each other about.
Rascal gets the most press. I have seen Rascal cross the street in order to confront a big dog. He’s aloof, but lately he follows me into the yard when I sit outside in the evening. Rascal prefers to be outside, and spends most of his time there.
Leroy is actually the largest cat by weight, he’s solid, strong, and constantly shedding. Not a good thing in a home where folks tend to wear black. He prefers the top perch in the cat castle, mostly so he can lean over and throw up on the other cats (I may have found a food he can tolerate). He”s friendly with people, but only tolerant with the other cats.
This is my cat, Autumn. The other two were Lieve’s. Autumn is a scaredy cat, she had never been outside before we moved to Princeton, and is just now getting the impulse to explore outdoors. She’s become friendly since Emma’s death, but that is only relative to the fact that she would never face other humans at all before.
I do wish that our cats could get along as well as the cats upstairs, but they are making progress, slowly.