Eyes In The Dark

About this time, ten years ago, our cat Bitsy died at the age of eighteen. He left behind a legacy of fluff, entertainment and a young companion called Holly. Honestly, I don’t think he liked Holly, and probably wished that we never took her on, but he was lonely after his brother died and driving us nuts at dusk when he wanted company to hunt the hedgerows, so we took on the “small and non-aggressive, non-dominant cat”.

Sometimes the description on the packet is misleading.

Bitsy, taking a stroll

Holly is still with us, although we only ever use that name for the vet’s paperwork. Holly has various names, as did Bitsy, and as did his amazing fluffy tail, which alone would need another thousand words. When she first arrived, Holly became known as Small Cat since she was half the size of Bitsy, and perhaps because she had clearly failed to graduate in any of her Basic Cat Skills training courses.

A rare action shot

Bitsy, the Fluffy Master, taught her to climb trees, walk along fences, balance on the top of a fence post (although she never mastered scratching her ear at the same time), and generally fake it as a fully qualified cat. The faking it is the operative term, because Holly never quite got it right. As we used to say, anything that Big Cat can do, Small Cat can do eventually, sort of. Holly would produce something that almost looked right, even if she completely missed the point.

Holly, aka Little Missy Trouble

At every lesson, and every attempt, the words were writ clear…

No, Small One, more like this…

Yes, Oh Fluffy Master, like this?

No… no… oh, no…

Climbing trees is a prime example. When Bitsy and his late brother, Tigger, played tag they would race up and down our apple trees as if the trunks were just another piece of level ground. Holly worked up to climbing the three-metre high cypress hedge behind the house, but that was comprised of multiple trunks with regular and intertwining horizontal branches, so not so much a hedge as a living climbing frame which appeared to be uniform wall of green from the outside, rustling to the movement of the cat within.

No, Small One, come down smoothly, with grace, and flounce that tail, and…

But, Oh Fluffy Master, I can… wheeee! Ow. Ow-ow. Ow. Ow-ow-ow…

Holly proved skilled at falling out of cypress trees, and rattling down in a controlled tumble like the ball in a pinball machine, progress marked by the quivering foliage, until she finally emerged at the bottom, where she then failed that other essential cat skill, the nonchalant air which says I meant to do that, and didn’t I do it well?

Perhaps that was when she first practised dark glares, because embarrassment can do that to a Small Cat.

Bitsy completely failed to teach her to fight, which is probably just as well, and also a testament to his amiable nature. Holly ignored Bitsy’s refusal to teach fighting, and attempted to wrestle with him on a regular basis, pitching her two-plus kilos of incompetence against his five-plus kilos of zen-like judo mastery. Holly would leap, and grab, and wrap herself around his neck. Bitsy would shrug and dump a pile of frustrated black fur on the ground.

That is probably when she also gained the moniker of Little Missy Trouble. Being the epitome of unstoppable persistence, she would leapt again, grab again, and again, and eventually Bitsy would get irritated, reach out with one big, fluffy paw and hold her head to the ground.

Enough, Small One.

Yes, Oh Fluffy Master….

Stop wriggling, Small One.

Stopped, Oh Fluffy Master.

Still wriggling, Small One. And stop squeaking.

Stopped, Oh Fluffy Master. Promise.

And then leap again…

Perhaps she first started developing those furious stares and furious squeaks when her head was held down, because that sort of embarrassment can leave a mark on even the blackest cats, and trouble the most persistent of Little Missy Troubles.

After Bitsy turned up his furry feet, Holly took over the patch, made it her own, and firmly adopted the name Squeak, largely because in keeping with her stature, she has a small voice. Loud, but small, and perhaps a little bit whiny.

Without Bitsy’s guidance, and weary but superior glance, Squeak caught a rat, brought it into the house without killing it, and then let it loose. Clearly Bitsy missed passing on the basics, or Squeak wasn’t paying attention.

Yes, Small One, play with the mice all you like, but rats get it in the neck, immediately.

But I wanna play a bit, Oh Fluffy Master.

No Small One, pay attention now, mice play good, rat play bad. And stop smacking my tail.

Yes, oh Fluffy Master, but…

Wise as he was in the Way Of The Cat, it never occurred to Bitsy to mention that with rats, don’t let the little beast at your food bowl because it will only get bigger. In Bitsy’s world, no cat brought a live rat inside.

I did finally managed to catch the rat after it had chewed a hole in the cupboard under the sink, eaten half a bag of raw potatoes, and for the main course, devoured the internal wiring of the dish-washer.

Perhaps that was when Holly-the-Squeak started upping the intensity of the dark looks. For a Squeak to be out-squeaked by a rat has to be pretty embarrassing. Especially when the Fluffy Master told her not to.

I know the whole black cat thing means that all of her looks have a certain measure of intrinsic dark to them, but Squeak does glare, and brooding, and serious scowl at the lightless end of the spectrum. Those dark looks earned her the the most recent name of Scowly-owl, and are at least something which she does well. The Scowly-owl can glower from the sofa, sulk on my chair, or crawl under a pile of blanket and leave one perfectly sour green eye radiating disapproval out into the world.

If Bitsy were still with us, I think the Scowly-owl could out-scowl him.

If she couldn’t, I dare not imagine how dark the embarrassment would make her stares.

Oh.

Gotta go.

Squeak is calling from the sofa.

Lap time is required, so again she almost learned something. Bitsy would never shout.

Pay attention, Small One, this is how you train your people to be properly attentive. Today, we practice the purr of submission…

# # #

This was written in response to the #BlogBattle prompt of Owl, because the day after the prompt came out, Squeak gave me the scowl from my partner’s lap, and I reflexively commented on the Scowly-owl.

7 thoughts on “Eyes In The Dark”

  1. This was a fun and entertaining story. I could *so* relate to the interaction between those two cats since we have something similar going on at our place – except the older feline’s nickname is Cat Supreme. The part about the rat made me laugh, in that ‘Thank goodness that wasn’t me!’ way. The dishwasher wiring as a main course was hilarious (although I know it wasn’t funny at the time). And yes, everybody who owns cats are aware they really own us. About halfway through I started wondering how an owl was going to come into play (was Holly actually going to manage dragging one into the house?), and the way you worked in the prompt seems a good response to a rather challenging word!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If anyone was going to drag an owl into the house, it would have been Bitsy, who once brought a live jackdaw through two cat-flaps:).

      Every member of the cat-support community ought to have a list of the things they bring in. We’ve never had anything other than samples of the local wildlife (squirrels and weasels are devils to get back out of the house) but friends of ours had a cat who purloined items of underwear from neighbours laundry, apparently including items where they didn’t feel comfortable knocking on doors to return to the rightful owner.

      Fortunately for our dishwasher, I know how to use a soldering iron and spent a happy hour or two with the machine in pieces and using the wiring loom from a dead washing machine to bridge the gaps. The manufacturer only used each colour of wire once, so I just had to join blue to blue, green to green, etc until I was down to four white ones… fortunately when I traced where they went, one pair of white wires came from the same point so it didn’t matter.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That was so sweet and funny. I saw it all happen in front of my eyes, thanks to your words. Thanks for sharing.

    But, I have to ask – How do you know it was her who brought in the rat and not him? I’m assuming you have not seen it happen or otherwise it wouldn’t do that much damage.

    Like

    1. The incident of the rat happened after Bitsy died. If he had still been around, I am sure he would have been tracking the rat until it made a mistake. 🙂

      The whole problem was made worse by the fact that I was working away from home and my partner has a relatively poor sense of smell. I remember driving away for the week and saying “there’s a funny smell coming from the bin in the kitchen, so I’ll clean it out when I get back.”

      I cleaned the bin, which didn’t cure the smell, and went away for another week.
      In fact, the smell was the rat building a nest in the evaporator bowl (part of the auto-defrost) on top of the compressor in the fridge-freezer next to the bin.

      Fortunately, the rat didn’t fancy any of the wiring there.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was heartmelting and lovely — thanks for sharing this with us! I particularly liked, “…perhaps because she had clearly failed to graduate in any of her Basic Cat Skills training courses.” They really do have such vivid personalities, don’t they?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank-you!
      Our cats have brought more surprises into our lives than anything else. I suspect I have written more blog posts about them than any of our other animals, if you include the cats that aren’t actually “ours” but just drop by to cause trouble:).

      Like

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