Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 21, 2014

Taking the risk

Cathie Shaffer
The Independent

ASHLAND — Tabby, my lean, mean high-falutin’ cat, thinks other creatures are best seen and not acknowledged. That also means us humans. She is the epitome of the theory that we are servants to the feline species. Quick to make her demands known, she expresses her displeasure with a growl or a quick show of claws.

The other two housecats are sweet and easy to love. Batman, the biggest of the three kitty girls, would spend her sleeping hours either on my lap or on my bed if given her choice. Bitsy, the smaller young cat, likes to sleep at the upper right corner of the bed.

Did, I should say. A week or so ago, Tabby decided she was going to sleep with me.

The first night I decided it was a fluke. The weather was changing, the house was warm and I had a bedroom window open. The second night was cool, but Tabby still took her place in the bed. Since then she rushes up the stairs and is in the middle of the bed before I can get in it.

The other cats are intimidated by Tabby, even though they’re both younger and bigger. At five years old, the only cat for a long, long time, Tabby refuses to relinquish the title of queen of the house. In the right mood, she allows — not welcomes — the others into the room. Most times she hisses when they approach the bed.

So here’s what the routine has come down to:

I say to the house in general “I’m going to bed now.”

Tabby, who likes to sleep on top of the TV next to the open staircase, hits the steps. The other two cats appear from wherever they’ve been napping and follow.

They hang back. Sometimes, apparently sensing Tabby’s ill will, they let me go upstairs first. They’ll loiter in the hall while I get ready for bed and then slide under the covers.

Sometimes I’ll hear the two young cats sneaking in or feel them rubbing against the bed to size up the situation. If the response is a sharp hiss, they’ll slink back out. If Tabby is quiet, they’ll risk the jump up.

I find their reticence to be quite amusing. Tabby sleeps tight against me. All night. Moving with me when I move. And since my bed is a queen size, that leaves a whole lot of room for two more cats.

I know Tabby won’t leave her comfy nest beside me to go after them. They don’t. There have been times when I’ve been almost asleep and started back awake by a paw on my cheek as one of them test to see if all is well. Apparently if I don’t wake up, neither will mean old Tabby.

I’d blame Tabby’s new behavior on advancing age except she’s only five years old, too young for the kitty version of senility. I’m pretty sure she hasn’t developed a new love for me, her mistress, because she’s very good at ignoring me when I’m standing two feet from her. I suppose a good cat psychiatrist could figure it out but I’m not all that concerned about the why of it.

I prefer to think that she has come to see that life can be good if she learns to love and trust. That this signals a positive change in her behavior as she recognizes the other cats admire her and the dogs respect her.

My family and friends are more suspicious. All right, they may have years of experience with Tabby to form their opinion of her real motives. And yeah, I do have a soft spot for her because she has that independent, feisty personality.

But I can’t subscribe to the theory that Tabby is engaging in a plan to win me over, lure the other critters into unacceptable behavior and figure out how to call the animal control officer as soon as I leave for work one day.