Oops. Pardon my mug.

If obliviousness were a respected skill, by now someone would have awarded me an honorary doctorate in it.

Walking along the hallway of the home where I’ve lived for a decade. Stop in surprise. “Hey, how long has that wall sconce been there?”

I’ve spent most of my life living almost exclusively inside my head, so I am proud of my recent accomplishments. Nowadays, each day I experience the outside world, for many minutes at a time. (The minutes are not consecutive. But still.)

Several decades ago, a friend gave me a mug for Christmas. It was covered in cat drawings. (Drawings of cats, not by cats.) I was surprised, because that friend was not known for kitschy or cutesy. I glanced at one frolicking cat on the mug, forced a smile, thanked my friend, set it aside.

The mug sat in a cupboard for ages, until I came to appreciate the camp value of having a cat mug. I began to drink my public coffee in that mug. I carried the mug with me around offices, into meetings, probably even as a volunteer in my kids’ classrooms. It turned out to be a hell of a sturdy mug. All those years, all those trips out in the world, hardly a chip to be seen.

Only very recently, washing the mug, I realized.

Those cats aren’t frolicking. They’re having an orgy.

I can’t tell you how many people noticed. My obliviousness extended to other people’s reactions to my dirty cat mug.

IMG_0923

 

The Only Cat in the World

I lost a dear friend today.

Our cat Bop always wanted to be the only cat. Probably only cat in the world, certainly in the household. Those other cats were irksome; unnecessary. She spent a decade demonstrating why she was superior to the rest of her breed. She helped with paperwork:

BopPapers

She critiqued my writing:

BoponKeyboard

She kept her spine supple, the better to chase other cats:

TwistedBop

She practiced the art of fine sleeping:

BopCoversphoto

She lived for thrills. We had an aggressive rabbit, Cookie, who would attack any cat that dared go near her cage. Yet, whenever Cookie went out in the yard, Bop would hang out in the forbidden zone:

Bop grew up to disdain other animals, with one exception. She enjoyed our rabbit Cookie, a bold and aggressive rescue bunny. Bop loved to hang out in Cookie's cage. An extreme sport. Cookie would have killed anybody (not an exaggeration) she caught in her cage.

Bop was smart and affectionate, and friendly with humans. She tolerated the dog. When I walked the dog she would start the walk with us, and run to meet us when we returned. She devoted much of her life to the thankless, Sisyphean task of eradicating other cats from the neighborhood. She mostly but grudgingly got along with our cat Luna, who joined the household from the same shelter on the same day:

Events-71

I didn’t want to bring Bop home. She was homely, mangy, and her stomach was distended with worms. When my daughter tried to cuddle her at the shelter, Bop took a clawing flying leap over my daughter’s shoulder and shot away. We caught up to her three rooms distant. My son persuaded us to choose Bop because of her lively personality. Lively became over-the-top! She also became quite sleek and beautiful when she got healthy.

Time has done its flying thing. The girl who holds kitten Bop in that last picture is now applying to med schools. The boy, holding kitten Luna, becomes a father next spring (and along the way, grew several inches taller than his sister).

Luna grew up to be friendly to all other cats. Average Luna with Bop and you get a normal cat.

Big problems arose a couple years ago, when we adopted three new shelter kittens, Bo, Leo, and Arrow:

SackedOut

As they got older, Luna became fast friends with them. Here he is with Leo, who became enormous:

LeoLunaCuddle2014-04-20 00.13.06

Bop hated the kittens and attacked with intent to kill. We were expecting trouble from her, but not so violent nor so persistent. We had to isolate the kittens for many months. When Leo and Bo got bigger, they stood up to her attacks, so – like any bully – she backed off. She still liked to hide behind doors to ambush them, but when she sprang out they would flatten and hiss and the incident would be over. The third kitten, Arrow, remained terrified, which inspired Bop to continue to chase and harass Arrow.

We always wondered whether Arrow and Bop knew how much they looked alike. Here is Arrow (reacting to Bop):

Arrowtarget

Here is what Arrow saw (Bop, acting tough):

Bopmean

Until recently, even the other kittens couldn’t tell Bop from Arrow. We put a bell on Bop for a while, to help distinguish her, but she kept escaping the collars. Too smart for us. Mistaken identities led to many double-takes and ill-chosen encounters. Arrow would run up to play with the other kittens and they would flee, mistaking her for Bop, leaving her with the feline equivalent of a WTF expression. Conversely, enemy Bop would appear and Bo and Leo would run toward her, mistaking her for their buddy Arrow. Bop would hiss or lunge, demonstrating their mistake, and they would flee, looking confused.

A few months ago, the vet said that Bop – only 11.5 years old – had terminal cancer and a few months to live. We all figured that Bop the contrarian would survive for years. After all, Cookie the rabbit did that after a similar diagnosis, and they were kindred spirits.

But that isn’t how it turned out.

Over the last several weeks, as Bop grew sicker, the young cats grew bolder, bringing a ding dong the witch is dead atmosphere to the household. One day, even Arrow felt comfortable nosing around Bop’s special sleeping areas. It made me cry – it was a proof of how sick Bop had become.

Today was Bop’s last day, and it was a tough one, although it concluded with a tribute of a moon that reminded me of Bop’s ultra-white and densely black fur:

moon

I loved the underside of Bop’s front paws. On one paw, she had all white toes, with one black exception in the middle. On the other paw, she had the opposite coloring.

Bop, you didn’t need to be the only cat to stand out. You were a difficult animal – my difficult animal – and I’ll miss you every day.

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge is Gone but Not Forgotten.)

Rush Hour at the Cat Door

It is important to be the first one out in the morning. On this morning, Bo (orange, left) seems to have the advantage. He does not. As soon as the cat door opens, Arrow will squeeze under his chin and shoot outside before he takes a step.

CatdoorPoisedDark-photoshop

On your mark!

I am a cat. I pace and meow to exit, and then, soon after, I return to lounge indoors. Sometimes the pacing lasts longer than the trip outdoors.

There are three cats here, one obscured by another's bushy tail.

There are three cats here, Arrow is obscured by Leo’s bushy tail.

Giant orange tabby Leo is usually third of the three to leave. He doesn’t get the fuss about the morning exits, but competes because his buds do.

Didn't we just do this yesterday?

Didn’t we just do this yesterday?

A rare photograph captures the exit of the usual winner. Arrow does everything at warp speed. This morning, the others haven’t yet realized the door is open by the time she is outside.

The others don't even know the door is open, yet.

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing fast.

P.S. to discerning blog readers – yes, these photos are missing two of the five cats. The youngsters use this cat door to the backyard. The oldsters prefer to leave by another door.

The oldsters avoid the youngsters at rush hour.

Oldsters Bop and Luna avoid the youngsters at rush hour.

(This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge wants to see habits.)