A saga of cats continues

Some readers may recall that in May, we brought home a cat from the Sonoma County Animal Shelter.[1] I named him Captain James T. Kirk, because he shares a lust for adventure and a certain recklessness with the Star Trek character by that name. Because his coloration is mostly black, my mother was extremely reluctant to let him out at night, but he kept pushing the limits, and eventually, she gave in. Soon thereafter, he started disappearing for the entire day, not coming home until quite late at night, often after my mother had gone to bed. We were seeing very little of him.

Eventually a neighbor called, saying that the cat was spending more and more time at their house, and asking if they could adopt him. My mother, correctly I think, said yes, but Captain Kirk apparently did not choose to be adopted. When that door opened, he started showing up here a bit more.

It’s been up and down since. When a storm came through, we saw quite a lot of him. As it dried up afterwards, we saw less of him.

I’m still on the outs with my cat, or the cat who was my cat, Admiral Janeway.[2] Apparently when I threw her from the window, she hit a shrub—that my mother had recently had pruned—and got scraped up pretty badly. She’ll recover, but neither of us quite knows what to do with the other. Sometimes it seems like we might get back together; sometimes she’s aloof. She has, in the meantime, become increasingly friendly with my mother, helping to fill a gap left by the Captain.

Last night, Admiral Janeway curled up next to me for a time, while I worked on a pilot study for my dissertation. Then she wanted into my closet, where I normally don’t allow her, because I’m afraid I’ll close the door, not knowing that she’s still in there. I let her in, and she curled up in a paper bag holding some ethernet cables I brought with me when I moved back in with my mother, nearly four years ago due in part to my financial situation.

But last night also, the Captain returned. I had gone to bed, leaving the door ajar so Admiral Janeway can get in and out to the cat ladder and to her food and water fountain (I’ve moved those back into my room and moving the cat ladder would be, for a variety of reasons, a real hassle that I really don’t need right now). The Admiral was still curled up in that paper bag in the closet. The Captain went to sleep next to me on the bed.

The two cats have been seeming to get along for the most part. It took a while to get to that point. The Captain finally acquiesced to the reality that the Admiral is no longer the playful kitten she once was and the Admiral finally—and this was not easy—accepted him as a part of the household.

Until this morning. My mother has been feeling abandoned by the Captain because she sees so little of him and has been irritated that he sometimes comes in just to eat. We have to get expensive organic cat food because the Admiral has an allergy to most cat foods, and having a cat door in the back door has meant that a beautiful black neighbor cat (I think named Frisky, but I haven’t been able to check the tags on his collar) has been able to come in and eat from the Captain’s bowl. (Apparently he and the Captain get along fine.) Given her druthers, my mother has probably been wanting to close that cat door for a while—she’s never been enthusiastic about feeding the neighbor’s cat and accepted it only because a neighbor was feeding the Captain.

But this morning, my mother was talking to her sister on the phone and Admiral Janeway curled up on her lap. The Captain came in, saw Admiral Janeway curled up on her lap, and attacked, hissing and swatting at Admiral Janeway, whereupon my mother chased him (the Captain) out of the house and closed the cat door. As my mother explained it to me, she said she couldn’t have a cat using this place as a crash pad and attacking another cat who at least shows a little loyalty.

One of the attractions of cats for me is that they choose you. If they don’t choose you, they move on. There’s an autonomy there that—when they aren’t just taking advantage of you—validates their affection in a way you can never be assured of with a dog. (And dogs have a relationship with poop that is, for me, beyond the pall.) But it also means, inevitably, that sometimes you don’t know where you stand with cats. That’s where I am right now with Admiral Janeway. It’s also where I am right now with my mother’s relationship with both these cats.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “A New Housemate,” May 16, 2012, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=4767
  2. [2]David Benfell, “A Bully is Getting Bullied,” October 26, 2012, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=5227

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