March 11, 2014

The raccoons of Ithilien

I was at the keyboard, trying to think of a blog topic, when my cat, Rosie, jumped onto my lap. I moved her to the floor and resumed staring at the blank screen and trying to think of a topic. Rosie jumped back onto my lap. I moved her to the floor. Her brother, Max, jumped on my lap and purred loudly, as if to say "Could it be any more obvious?" Therefore, I present to you tonight's blog: The story of Rosie and Max.

Rosie is the calico (or tabico, if you're picky about cat color nomenclature) and Max is her much bigger brother. They were litter mates, roughly the same size when we adopted them almost 2 years ago. Not anymore.

We suspect he is eating her food.

We adopted them in the summer of 2012, after the passing of Oedipa left a cat-shaped hole in our hearts and our home. Once we had grieved for what felt like an appropriate time, we found these two at an adoption fair at a Petsmart. They were part of a litter of barn cats who had been taken in by a Wisconsin farmer, then raised in a foster home in the Twin Cities. 

Rosie immediately bonded with 5-year-old Evie, sitting calmly on her lap while Evie petted her. It was apparent that these kittens had been in a foster home with little kids. I picked up her orange-and-white brother, thinking there was a nice symmetry to bringing a brother-sister pair into our house. Also, Rosie's calico sister was taken moments before we could lay claim to her.

Our household's transition from having an elderly cat, to no pets, to two rambunctious kittens, was startling. Some people say their cats have the personalities of dogs. Rosie and Max are more like raccoons.

If a loaf of bread is unattended, Max will devour it. If a child leaves a plate of food unsupervised, Rosie is ready to grab it. I can understand their interest in certain things such as bacon, cheese and Evie's aquarium. I am more puzzled by Max's insistence on chewing anything wrapped in plastic, his balloon-popping tendencies, and his hunger for toilet paper. Rosie just wants to eat whatever the kids are eating.

The cats have mellowed out as they have grown; we no longer have to lock them in the bathroom while we eat our dinner. A stern look or a squirt of water will usually get them off the counter or table. We learned that if we don't hang the toilet paper on the holder, Max is slightly less likely to shred the roll.

Their personalities are distinct. Max is more rambunctious, but is also the most aggressively affectionate cat I have met; his purr can be heard across the room. Rosie is exceedingly patient with the kids, is a little more reserved with the adults, and clearly considers herself to be Evie's cat.

Mostly, the two act as a team. They play, they cuddle, and they enforce Rosie & Max's House Rules:

1. If you open a closet or drawer, it will immediately have a cat in it.

2. If you drop your pen cap, a pistachio, or any other small object on the hardwood floor, it will become the world's greatest cat toy for 3.2 seconds until it's batted under the refrigerator or stove.

3. Don't pull out the refrigerator or stove, because it will immediately have a cat behind it.

4. If you put clean laundry into a basket, a cat will nap in it.

5. If you build a blanket fort in the living room, a cat will join you.

6. If you are attempting any type of complicated task involving small pieces, glue, or fold-out instructions, a cat will want to help you.

7. If you need to use the sink or shower, be ready to move one or more cats.

8. If you need to trap a cat for any reason, just open a box. Bags and suitcases work equally well.

9. If you are wearing black, someone with white fur will find you.

10. If you feel lonely, cold, sick, or sad, don't despair - A cat will want to cuddle with you.

And it will make everything better.

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