By Paul Bendix
Cat HouseUploaded: Dec 2, 2013
Monday morning, my wife's day off, and I get my wobbly legs out of bed, swivel toward my wheelchair...but not quite. It's an early hour, late in life...and I know something is wrong. A cat is sitting on my wheelchair. She stares at me, imperious glare saying "make my day."
I don't have the energy for this. There is no shooing this cat off the wheelchair, not without hissing and a bloody scratch. Even an able-bodied person would be ill-advised to pick her up. I face the wheelchair. I face the cat. I face facts. Turning, I sit down very slowly, hoping the cat will get the message. She does, hissing and bounding away.
Moments later in the kitchen, teakettle struggling to boil, I try to make sense of the small zoo that is my life. It's all questions, no answers. If this is a zoo, why am I living in one of the cages? Which of us is tame? Where can I find the zookeeper?
You'll have to ask my wife why one cat is named Nutmeg, and the other Paprika. The first, the wheelchair occupant, has a rich nocturnal life, much of it shared with me. Being the less mobile of our bed's two human occupants, I offer the most reliable sleeping surface. The best part is my bladder, which is the cat equivalent of a warm waterbed. Nutmeg responds to this semiaquatic environment by imitating an Evinrude. Depending on one's mood, it can be a long night.
Paprika, totally black, likes my wife's head. This places me halfway between two purring cats. The vibratory effect is subtle and disquieting. Airliners have been torn apart by similar forces. The usual effect is to put me back to sleep. Not that this lasts very long. For both cats intersperse sleeping with ongoing research. Nutmeg likes to probe around my face, sometimes gently pawing my nose. Paprika seems fascinated by my breath, drawing close to collect samples.
Which is all perfectly harmless until these activities reach feline critical mass. Explosive hissing, high-pitched shrieks and a crash to the floor...when cats collide. If they actually do. It's hard to say, for I am asleep at the beginning of these cat fights. By the end, I am totally awake, not to mention rapt and adrenal.
With any luck, these cat fights function like an alarm clock, waking me at more or less the right hour. There is even a 10 minute snooze effect. That's how long it takes to wake one of the dogs. Did I mention that we have two? The more demented dog, Bixby, likes to chase Paprika...a sporting event accompanied by canine cheers, a.k.a., barking. Somehow, my wife can sleep through it all. One of us is missing something.
Thing is, I find myself missing all of them whenever we travel. This is a sure sign of Stockholm syndrome. Or maybe capture-bonding is just another term for...life in a zoo.