They look so innocent, don’t they? Of bank robbery and murder, as my Dad would have said. In actuality, these cats are naughty little fiends who try to get away with anything they can, including chicken bones if we don’t keep a sharp eye out and a lid on the garbage can.
Their names are Toby (the tabby) and Dushenka (the calico). (Dushenka, if you’re interested, is Russian for “little soul,” but has a colloquial meaning of “sweetheart.” But I digress.) All our cats have had nicknames, from the descriptive (Mr. Underfoot), to the sickening (Toto-Booboo), to the ridiculous (Sir Boinks-a-Lot), to the obscure (Naughty Baby Fek’lhr). But when these two take up the sport of door-darting, they acquire new ones – Buddy and Ms. Whisht.
Dushenka is the primary door-darter, and in a way, I can’t blame her. Before she came to live with us, she was a mostly-stray cat in our neighborhood and it might be expected that she would want to pussyfoot around in her old haunts or beg handouts from other suckers. But we don’t let our cats outdoors for health and safety reasons, and once she joined our little family, she had to follow the rules.
Except, of course, she didn’t. One day I looked out an upstairs window and said, “That’s a pretty calico walking up the neighbor’s drive. It looks a lot like Dushenka. Hey, wait a minute…!” We would chase her, to no avail. We would stand outside and call her name fruitlessly, then give up. After about half an hour I would go back out, lean on the car, and call her name again. Shortly she would amble into the cul-de-sac and flop down on the macadam, where I could scoop her up and tell her she was a naughty girl, which she ignored. Toby got out occasionally too, but he wasn’t used to the outdoors, so he was much easier to round up.
When we moved to a new neighborhood, though, we had new worries. This wasn’t familiar territory for either cat. If they got out, they might not be able to find their way home.
Of course, it happened. Dushenka slid through the screen door opening (which I would have sworn was only two inches wide) and made for the street. Dan and I threw on pants and shoes and followed as best we could. She wandered about, inspecting the row of houses across the street as we followed along behind her. When we got within about seven feet of her, she would casually stroll into the backyard or over to the next house or into a stand of trees.
Finally, we gave up, exhausted. We were headed back to the house to start printing up Wanted posters, when I noticed that, about seven feet behind Dan, Dushenka was coming trot-trot-trot in his footsteps. She followed him all the way home and flopped down on the patio, looking smug.
She had invented a new game, which was fun only as long as we played it.
Cats are supposed to be furry, adorable purring machines that sit on your lap and provide you companionship, right?
Here’s the truth: Cats are all that, but they can also be naughty, pesty, and downright embarrassing. Having a cat around the house is often entertaining, not always in a good way. But we love them anyway.
Speaking of entertaining, you can expect cats will yak on the carpet when you have important visitors. That’s a given. But we’ve seen worse behavior.
Little Maggie, a half-grown stray, once interrupted a lively game of Trivial Pursuit by dragging a hiking boot (of the smelly variety) into the living room, by one shoelace. It made loud clumping sounds as she strove mightily to bring us her kill.
And on the subject of gifting humans with dead things, Django used to save his kills “for later” by putting them in his pantry. It wasn’t our pantry – it was the innards of our sofa. He also left half-mice lying around, usually in the bathtub, where they were at least easy to clean up, but not so great for visitors.
Toby and Garcia both had a craving for pizza – so much that they liked to walk or even jump on them. I tell you, there’s nothing like a paw print in the cheese to spoil your appetite.
Unless it’s tongue prints in the butter. If you leave butter out on the table or the counter, a cat will assume it’s an invitation to snack. Their rough little tongues leave striped impressions that instantly betray their endeavors, even if you don’t catch them at it. It’s disgusting. Take my word on this.
Other food violations abound. Once my husband and I were eating in front of the television, our plates on the coffee table, when our foster cat Joliet took a notion that she wanted to dine too. She swooped in, seemingly from nowhere, and without hesitation snatched a steak from right off the plate and skedaddled, steak flapping in her wake. We could barely afford steak for ourselves, much less Joliet, so we rescued the rib eye and washed it off. I’m just glad that wasn’t one of “in front of guests” incidents.
Then there’s what cats do to their companion humans. Kittens are probably the worst. Our cat Louise grew into a polite, sweet-tempered cat. But when she was a baby, she was a vampire kitten with a fetish for toes. Kittens have tiny, pointy teeth as sharp as little needles. And they are relentless. A moving toe is a prime target, but even the stationary toe of a sleeping person is considered fair game. (Until she grew out of the habit, which kittens do (thank God), her nickname was Naughty Baby Fek’lhr, (a joke only geeks get).)
Toes aren’t the only body parts at risk, and biting is not the only thing you have to worry about. Dushenka licks. Last night she licked my nose and forehead. More often she licks my husband, anywhere he’s got hair, which is pretty much everywhere.
The cats we have right now are Louise (The Queen of Everything), Garcia (Horrible Mr. Horrible Face, Mr. Underfoot, Red-Headed Stepchild, Baby-Cat), and Dushenka (Li’l Bit, Ms. Crazy Eyes, and Baby-Cat). Other memorable cats have been Matches (Badness, Checkers), Chelsea (Chips), Shaker (What-a-Pie), Maggie (Gelfling, Gertzie-Girl), Laurel (Keet), Joliet (The Silly Pet), and Bijou (Angel Kitty).
Then there was Django. He was named after guitarist Django Reinhardt. I figured if Dan could have a cat named after a guitarist, so could I. A robust gray-and-white male, he was the one we called Sir Boinks-a-Lot.
Would you like to guess how he got his name? Hint: It wasn’t because he boinked a lot.
No, he just tried to boink a lot.
Gender didn’t matter. He would go after either boy-cats or girl-cats – neither with any degree of success. He was neutered.
His intended didn’t even have to be another cat. Or even animate. We once caught him trying to mount a feather duster.
But the escapade that earned him his nickname was when he tried to have carnal knowledge of my husband’s elbow. Never mind that there was no orifice. Sir Boinks-a-Lot was determined to make one. He kept drilling and drilling, but he never struck pussy (so to speak).
Dan’s theory was that when he worked on his computer, his forearm resembled the shape of an aroused female cat. His hand and wrist were the head, his arm the body, and his raised elbow the…er…target zone. Or it could be that Django was near-sighted with no sense of smell. Django never tried this with me, but maybe my wrist and elbow were just not as appealing.
My theory was just that he was a horny bastard.
Alas, Sir Boinks-a-Lot is no longer with us, though he proved as determined about fighting cancer as he was about finding someone or something that welcomed his advances. We still miss him terribly.
I think even Dan’s elbow misses him a little. Although it’s tough to tell with an elbow.