Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Different Kind of Cat

After Sammy Cat died, I didn't really know what to expect with this new little bundle of fur who had found his way into my apartment.  Part of me felt guilty:  I was still mourning Sammy and I knew that I would never love another cat the way I loved her.  Winston was adorable-- and lovable-- but he just wasn't Sammy.  Of course, as anyone who has lost a pet and adopted a subsequent one knows, it's true:  You never love two pets the same way.  This is why pets are good for us, because the prepare us for life with humans, too.  Winston was no Sammy, but I came to discover that Sammy was no Winston.  

Samantha was the Queen of All She Surveyed.  She was the epitome of royalty, a beautiful, elegant seal-point Siamese with hyacinth-blue eyes that looked like crackle glass.  She was stunning, and if you weren't sure, you only had to ask her.  SHE thought that she was gorgeous!

Winston was so different.  Yes, he was a male, obviously, and he was still a kitten (five months old, but still a kitten), but it was clear from the beginning that his personality was just... different.  

Whatever Samantha did, she looked like she meant to do it.  Fall off the furniture?  I meant to do that.  On one of his first days in my apartment, Winston was bathing himself on the ottoman and simply lost track of where he was and fell right off the edge-- boom!  He looked around, startled to find himself in a different place.  But rather than shrug it off with an "I meant to do that" attitude, I could almost see him shrug his shoulders and say, "Whoops!  I fell!"  then immediately he resumed his bath on the floor, where he had landed.  

If Samantha was a Queen, Winston was the Court Jester.  Not a regal bone in his body.

Similarly, while Samantha enjoyed being picked up and would frequently climb into my lap for cuddles, she would only allow herself to be held certain ways, and NEVER on her back (as my veterinarian discovered once to the amusement of me and the vet tech).  When I picked Winston up, he would go limp, the Amazing Jello Cat!  I could cradle him on his back like a baby and he would purr and put his paw on my cheek.  He would climb up on my chest and tuck his head under my chin, then give me upper-cut head butts.  But his greatest trick was his dismount.  He would lay in my arms on his back, stretching his front paws out over his head and looking down.  I would slightly tilt him and shift his weight, and he would pour out of my arms, backwards and head first, then land on the ground first with his front paws, then his back.  I called it Pouring Out the Kitty, and he did it his whole life, even when he weighed 18 lbs.

Kaos will sort of let me do that, too, but he's the only other cat I've met who tolerates being poured.

The other thing I had to adjust to was deliberate disobedience.

Whenever I caught Sammy getting ready to do something she wasn't supposed to do-- say, eat a plant-- all I had to do was say her name, "Sammy Cat..."  She would then begin an elaborate charade of carefully sniffing the plant, the pot, the rug under the plant, and would eventually look at me with a wounded expression, as if to say, "I was just admiring this beautiful plant.  How dare you accuse me of eating it!  I know I'm not supposed to do that!"  Then she would casually saunter away, biding her time until I wasn't looking.

Winston was completely different.  If I saw him getting ready to eat a plant, I could say, "Winston!" and he would look at me then go right back to eating the plant.  His expression was more, "Want me to stop?  Make me!"  No cat is totally obedient (hah! no kidding!), but Samantha at least had the decency to pretend to obey when I was LOOKING RIGHT AT HER and she KNEW it!  Not so with Winston.  He would look at me and push something off of a shelf, maintaining eye contact the whole time.  Little twerp.

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