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The Scaredy Cat
I’ve had many cats over the years. I’ve had calm cats, cranky cats, and curious cats, but I’ve had only one true scaredy cat; his name was Harvey. Harvey was a beautiful silver tortoise shell. He and his littermate, Oscar, won my heart when I passed by a pet shop window. I ended up taking both of them home with me that day. They couldn’t be more different. Oscar was a black and white tuxedo cat who had a sort of, “How ya doin’?” kind of approach to strangers. Harvey had more of a, “What are you going to do to me?” approach. No one but my ex-husband and I could ever get near Harvey, and lots of cat lovers wanted to, with his thick coat of luxurious fur and his handsome face. When he wanted love and attention from us, he couldn’t be more affectionate. When he’d had enough love and attention he’d leap from your lap as if you had just stun-gunned him.
Every cat I’ve owned in the last 30 years has from time to time gotten into what I call “the zone.” It’s when they get fixated on something mundane that has suddenly become compelling yet dangerous – at least to them – like for instance, a floor vent. They approach it gingerly, backing up then skulking forward, their backs arched ready for combat. They want to be on the offensive, not wait to react to the attack that they fear is imminent. It’s tempting at such times to whistle or clap your hands sharply, to see their reaction. Usually they jump with an athletic prowess that is mind-boggling and the episode is over.
Harvey lived his entire life in “the zone.”
We had a fireplace in our first house that was open and screened on two sides. It was a delight to be able to see the fires from any side of the living room and we used it a lot. So it needed to be cleaned occasionally. Around Halloween one year my husband was finishing up shoveling the ashes out of the fireplace, getting it ready for the cold weather. He tapped me on the shoulder to get my attention and pointed to the spotless fireplace that Harvey was creeping toward, completely in “the zone.” The empty fireplace bed had suddenly become an irresistible menace to him. He was pussy-footing his way towards it when, in the spirit of Halloween, my husband said, “Boo!” I never actually saw Harvey move. He was just stealing towards the fireplace one moment and in a nanosecond was inside the fireplace, all four feet clinging to the screen looking just like one of those Garfield sucky-feet cats that you saw in a lot of car windows in the 90’s. When I hear the phrase “catlike reflexes,” I always think of Harvey.
On another memorable occasion, I had brought home a paddle ball toy, the kind with the elastic that attaches the ball to the paddle. Oscar had batted the ball around for a while and grew bored quickly. Then Harvey approached it, as always, in “the zone.” He batted it gently and jumped back. The ball did not retaliate. He batted it again, a little more confident this time. Nothing. One more bat for safety’s sake, and it seemed a safe little treasure for him to take back to his catbed, as was his habit. So, he picked the ball up and trotted away with his kill until the elastic had reached high tension and the paddle came barreling after him. Did Harvey drop the ball? No Harvey ran around the room, glancing furtively over his shoulder from time-to-time with a terror-stricken look on his face at the predatory paddle giving chase. He banked around corners like an Indy 500 driver. Finally, after more than a minute of circling the room, the elastic snapped, the paddle stopped chasing him and exhausted but victorious, he disappeared with his trophy.
He never again went near the “haunted” paddle.
Have a very Happy Halloween!