I have cats. One of them is old, and consequently mellow, because it takes too much effort to get riled up at anything anymore, although she will occasionally dance and twirl and pounce imaginary fluff in the hall for 90 seconds lest the young cat thinks she is Queen of All the Imaginary Fluff. But then, dominance asserted, she takes a four hour nap.
The young cat, however, is another story. She is not quite two, and still behaves very much as a kitten. She is supposed to be an indoor cat. The old cat is an indoor cat (barring an occasional brave foray onto the wild back deck to sit in the sun). We promised the shelter that she would be an indoor cat. She, however, has an entirely different viewpoint on the matter.
It started with windows. We picked Ariella at the shelter when she was 6 weeks old, and they let us take her home when she was 7 1/2 weeks. This is quite small for a kitten, and she was a rescue kitten, which you can say with kittens, because they are sweet and cute and far too young for the scary “feral” label. But essentially, she was a feral kitten, and a very young and tiny one at that. No problem there. We’ve done this before and are perfectly comfortable hand-gentling a kitten who is not quite sure how to be a pet. In her case, she decided that it meant being in physical contact with some point of my body for the next 8 weeks and then never going more than an arms length away from me after that. She still follows me from room to room and cries to be picked up and petted and loved and carried. She’s very sweet and very loving, and you would think she is a perfect indoor cat.
Except, her ancestors whisper in her ears about the wide open spaces. Outside sings in her blood.
So, as I said, it started with the windows. She had to be able to sit in the windowsill and feel and smell the fresh air, no matter the weather or temperature. Before she could jump, we had to lift her to the window to check that outside had not ceased to exist. Later, she would jump up. Kitten hysterics would ensue if she could not do her hourly “air checks” and make sure that everything was ok. If you think that I am a soft touch, okay, I am. But if you are rolling your eyes at me, you have never been trapped in a room with a kitten, with a streak of wild Siamese blood in her, stridently expressing her views. A few “mmmrrrrEEEEEAAAAAAOOOOWWWW”s when she bounces off the glass at two in the morning are a pretty convincing argument for leaving the window open a crack and just putting another blanket on the bed. Soon, however, she realized that there were all manner of interesting things outside, and she wanted to go further. Not being able to work door knobs, she trained her considerable patience and attention on making small holes in the screens with her claws, and then increasing them with her teeth. The phrase “cat burglar” has new meaning when you come around the side of the house and find the kitten dangling headfirst out of a brand-new kitten sized hole in the window screen and attempting nonchalance. Soon, we decided that she was going to have to be let into the yard to play, but figured, since she does not ever want to be out of earshot or line of sight of me, it would not be a problem. She comes when she is called, and she mainly ran around the side of the house, jumped onto the low fence, and stared soulfully at me through the window next to my desk. If I moved out of sight, she would jump down and rush back in. Easy peasy.
But then, tired of stealing all my craft supplies, my son’s Lego wheels, and any stuffed cat from his collection that strayed too near the edge of his bed, she tried her pouncing and batting skills outside on all those interesting critters she had patiently watched through the window while gnawing a hole in it. She started to hunt birds, and it turns out she has a knack for it.
At this point in my story, you need a reminder that this is a cat who is very attached to me. So, when she catches a lovely prize, she brings it to me to show it off. The other day, I was peacefully working at home when I heard a ton of blue jay shrieking from outside, followed by running kitten footsteps. Walking to the door to commiserate with my poor, poor kitten who was being pestered by those pesky jays, I realized that she was…slinking. And her shape was not right. She had something in her mouth. Something…large. Something that turned out to be a wiggling and highly agitated blue jay that did not care for being in her mouth in the middle of my house. Apparently, having your mouth full of a squirming bird bigger than your head is annoying and hard work, so she opened her mouth, at which point the blue jay sped away, shrieking. Into my bathroom.
The kitten gave hot pursuit, jumping from the floor to the sink and down to the toilet seat and up at the window, which was closed, so she bounced off. This drove the blue jay higher until it tangled in the curtains and pulled them and the rod straight off the wall. After a brief frozen tableaux – upside down jay hanging from curtain, shocked cat leaping backwards out of the way, me screaming in the hall and wishing I had a turtle instead – the jay ricocheted upwards and proceeded to batter itself against the wall and the window, balancing momentarily on top of the wall sconce and sliding sideways, then returning to its desperate endeavor to peck and flap its way through the wall and the glass.
Swoop! Kitten nabbed! Slam! Kitten locked in the bedroom! Mew? said the confused kitten. Eep! said I, peeking from behind the bathroom door. Not having the agile jumping ability and pointy teeth of my cat, I was at a loss for how to catch the frightened bird. Leaping up and catching it in my teeth not being an option, I tried to catch it in a cardboard box so I could carry it outside. Have you ever tried to catch a blue jay in a box? I do not recommend it. It just gets more mad than it already is and freaks out more. Since the bird appeared miraculously unharmed, wit no blood or puncture marks, I did not want it to break its wings or its neck in its frantic attempts to escape, so I ditched the box and went with Plan B: Cover my head with one hand, close my eyes, knock the screen out of the window with my other hand, and vaguely wave my arms around in the hope that the jay would eventually grasp that I was attempting to semaphore “freedom” and make its escape. Eventually, it did. I flopped over backwards on my bed and waited for an hour for my heart to stop pounding. The kitten spent the entire time searching the house, wondering where her toy had gone.
The old cat? She slept right through the entire incident.
Today, the kitten chased a sparrow into the house while I was in a live online meeting.
She is now under permanent house arrest.