Thursday, February 24, 2005

rituals

Snow fell during the night. Not heavy stuff, just the light, wet kind, covering the grass but not the streets, providing some white lining on branches and the tops of fallen sweetgum balls. It will melt fast.

Franklin runs and sniffs through it this morning in the backyard when we go out to the backyard.

Once he and I go back inside, Glenda, the oldest cat, demands to be fed. She is quite old, but paces quickly between me and the bathroom. Her sounds are harsh screeches, and they can only be tuned out for so long. She can only eat wet food, so the door must be shut to give her protection from the other cats. Chloe and Jake -- we call them twins but they are not littermates; they came to us as a pair, one a big fat tabby, the other a sleek, skittish torty. Due to their medical needs, they must eat prescription cat food. Jake, the big tabby, waits until I almost get to the door before he jumps over the children's safety gate used to keep Franklin out of the cat's area. These two younger cats line up behind their bowls. Jake will butt my hand with his head, so over the years I've gotten used to holding his head as I put the food in the bowls. If I forget, it will be scattered all over the room.

Franklin would find each stray piece of food. The cats would not. If it is not in their bowl, they won't eat it.

For years, we used a circulating water pump for our cats -- it's important to encourage cats to drink water and they like fresh water. The pump died last year and since then I've started putting ice in their water in the mornings. They like the cold ice water.

Then it is time to feed the dog. The theory is that the oldest cat is taken care of first -- she is the most impatient and vocal. Since Franklin the dog is the youngest of our animals, he has to wait till all the cats are fed. I am not sure that this pecking order has any real effect on his relations with the cats, but this has become our morning ritual and they each react to it as if it was the most natural thing to do during that hour of the morning.

Some mornings he hops up like a prancing horse when he hears me coming with his food. Other mornings he makes a low growl, not an angry attack growl, more like a vocalization. He eats fast.

In the moments that I've poured my cereal -- and if pecking order had anything to do with this, why am I eating last? -- there will be a cry from the bathroom. Glenda is finished eating. The younger cats love to go in and lick her bowl up on the counter top for any tiny bits that Glenda may have missed. Franklin sniffs the floor for fallen bits.

How odd and yet comfortable, this living together with other species. I tell them, as I a take a shower and at least two cats are usually in the bathroom, satisfied and relaxed on the countertop, that they are my babies. That word has no real meaning for them, but then a cat will put out a paw for me to pet her or him, and the dog who wandered in will get jealous and want to be petted. He'll hear a noise from outside the room and run out. But the old cat and the fat tabby will sit there patiently.

6 comments:

Pennie said...

What a wonderful post. I so much enjoy reading your blog, you have a wonderful way with words. Thank you for sharing your life.

Shelley said...

That was a wonderful post, Don. But I think the pecking order is correct:

Old cat -- young cat -- dog -- man

Works for me.

lemming said...

Sam has a way with a stare - I don't know if it's ESP or the cock of his ears, but I know the difference between "feed me" and "you didn't take me for a walk and it's a good ten minutes overdue." It's been so long since I lived with a cat that I'm not sure I'd be able to do as well.

By the way, is it safe to hire the church youth group to come over and uncover my flowerbeds?

Don said...

Pennie -- thanks for your kind words and welcome to the blog.

Shelley -- I've missed reading your blog. Hope that your spring break has been enjoyable. You are right about the pecking order. I realized the other day when I was trying to coax Franklin the dog into doing something -- and I was saying, "come on, you can do it" -- and as he looked at me with that blank, willful and somewhat dignified scotty stare that he was thinking the same words, only they were directed at me.

Lemming -- My partner is sometimes surprised at the shorthand communication between Franklin and me. We know each other pretty well. As far as your garden beds, I am unsure what's covering them. If it is mulch, then I think you don't need to do much -- unless it is so thick it is smothering out growth. I am, as we say in the south, "fixing to" start cleaning up my beds, which means getting read of dead growth. It is not too early for that.

LadyWhiteSpirit said...

just bloghopping

:)

RiverStone said...

Hi Don,

Our furry family members are pretty amazing. You're not the first blogger to take notice of them this month. Sometimes I am just floored by my dogs and kitty. I can't imagine not having them be part of my life.

Peace and blessings,
RiverStone