He’s part panther, sleek and long. His previous life as a street scrounger taught him to pour on the charm when necessary, though often enough it slops out of the pitcher he keeps it in.
His purr is part snort, part rumble, and part nose bump. A call of “c’mon buddy” causes him to run towards whatever curiosity awaits him. He sits on my desk when I write, which is a brilliant gift because I have missed a desk cat ever since Lynxy died last year. Oliver is a wonderful pal.
He’s also exasperating.
Oliver tests everything with his teeth. He woke me up this morning by chomping my foot. We have regular battles over my latte and yogurt. Clearly, what’s mine is his. Although our cats have a fair bit of freedom, there are certain house rules that Oliver is, shall we say, “resistant” to accepting. He has been known to show his displeasure with a foul-smelling gift on the carpet.
He wrestles with Sydney the sister-cat but after the stealth move of wait and pounce, he bites. Oliver chases Sydney, as cats will do. He is so much taller than Sydney that he literally runs over the top of her. I know they’re playing, but Sydney now sports an eyebrow where one wasn’t apparent before. Oh, and Sydney’s response? She screeches, hisses and screams. It sounds as though her tail is caught in the vacuum cleaner.
I’m surprised no one has called 911 yet to check on the condition of our home’s inhabitants. There’s nothing calm and peaceful about it, in these moments. It hardly qualifies as sane.
I’ve been playing cat-maid to the two of them, offering foot soaks and Polysporin and several trips to the vet clinic to make sure they’re both okay. Practical and caring solutions are not usually received well.
Oh my goodness, these two cats are brilliant–but their combination is exhausting. It’s hard to be patient. Cats have always lowered my blood pressure but now? I’m afraid to check.
We took a trip recently, and for the first time we weren’t sure what to do with the cats. We’ve often left Sydney in the capable care of our neighbours, but Oliver? No, Oliver isn’t ready for that (or, more truthfully, the neighbours aren’t ready for Oliver). There is little doubt we’d come home to find the dining room lamps on the floor shattered beside the crystal bowl–it’s been precariously close twice now. He’d likely shred Sydney and eat her entrails.
Oh Oliver. Never have I felt so challenged by a cat. Eventually I contacted the farm from where we adopted him, and the ever-gracious Natalie agreed to house him for a week or so. When I took him out there, I burst into tears.
Two weeks later I returned, tear-filled again.
“Hey, buddy,” I said to Oliver through the gate of his barn-room when I retrieved him. It wasn’t the most enthusiastic response I’ve ever given. I was glad to see Oliver again, but my discouragement couldn’t be hidden.
My two weeks had been spent failing people too. I had done my best, but it wasn’t enough. Now, I couldn’t see it being enough for this feline either.
“Keep trying,” said Natalie.
Oliver and I drove home. He didn’t pee in his crate. I celebrated this small but significant victory. Sydney and he seemed to reach a moderate truce.
Why, I wonder? What made the difference?
Perhaps it was that we’d all had a change of scenery, a break from each other and the situations that stressed us most. Perhaps it was because, thanks to Natalie’s outside-the-situation expert counsel, I changed what I could to accommodate him better.
Her perspective helped me to see how I was making things worse, and how I might influence the mood around me.
“Keep trying,” she’d said. And so I shall. One skritch at a time, for cats and people both.