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Cats, Rats and Bats

One evening when I was ten or so years old I heard a peculiar squeak in my bedroom. A little brown bat had somehow escaped from the attic through a hole in top of my closet and gotten himself tangled up in the nylon curtains at my windows. Daddy carefully took the little curtain-wrapped creature outside and untangled him, freeing him into the great outdoors. That suited me just fine!

Years later when I was grown and my kids were small, one evening I left a tub full of freshly picked field peas in my laundry room. When I got up the next morning there was hardly a pea left a rat had climbed in beside the washing machine hoses and found himself a treasure trove of groceries. When we pulled the washer out from the wall, there we found not only the remnants of our field peas, we found remnants of tomatoes and peanuts too. I'm sure he was disappointed when we covered up his handy hole with sheet metal.

I don't like bats in the house, and I despise rats in the house, but I sure do love my house cats. My two kitties are middle aged now, Smokey about 15 years old and her niece Misty 13. Smokey is bigger, solid black and a bit plump while Misty is light gray and sleek.

Smokey's mother was a seal point Siamese who resided with my daughter. She never seemed interested in going outside until the day she disappeared like a flash through an open door. Several days later the family found her, hurt and hiding in some brush. She had been hit by a car and was paralyzed in the hindquarters. The vet said she might recover, just keep her warm, give her something to drink and wait and see. She slowly recovered movement in her hind legs and hips and pretty soon was eating and drinking like normal, then more than normal. She began getting fatter and fatter Aurora was expecting!

Though mostly well, Aurora did not have the strength to deliver her kittens. Dr. Hoffmeyer performed a C-section and Aurora became the proud mother of eight solid black kittens. Some had the short hair and body shape of a Siamese, and Smokey was one of those. Others looked more like their dad, obviously the black Persian who roamed and Romeo'd the neighborhood.

Smokey came home with me when she turned six weeks old. It was soon obvious she didn't like riding. I had snugly enclosed her in a pasteboard box for the short trip and she yowled the entire way, wriggling and pawing and pushing against the box flaps. I hadn't driven a block until this tiny fluff ball with very sharp claws and a loud voice was making her way up my back and across my shoulders. On arrival at my house I had to peel each tiny claw off my shirt one by one to take her inside safely, where she immediately found a sunny spot by a window and fell asleep. All that riding and yowling had worn her out! As I dabbed peroxide on my shoulders and arms, I contemplated how to house this feline acrobat until housebroken.

Thinking one solitary kitty must be lonely, we added Misty to our household a couple of years later. Her silky fur and lady-like meow made her an ideal companion to grown-up Smokey, we thought. Smokey had other thoughts. Smokey refused to acknowledge there was even another cat in existence, much less in the house. She was an in-and-out cat during the day while Misty was a strictly indoors dweller and as long as the twain didn't meet, things were cool. Occasionally at night war was declared when they both claimed the same chair, or same lap, or same toy, but except for an occasional spitting match, everyone survived without any problems.

When Tim and I moved from house to condo, Smokey's in-and-out days came to a close. Now she was confined to the same living space as Misty and that didn't set well with her. Duplicate arm chairs, food and water bowls, stuffed mice and plastic balls helped keep the peace. It was a misleading peace, I soon learned, and just who was doing what was surprising.

My son was visiting one day and told me, "Mom, you need to fuss at Smokey, she's picking on Misty." He had seen Smokey chase Misty down the hall and under the dining room table, thinking naturally the larger Smokey was the "heavy" in this spat. I just smiled and said, "Wait a while."

Misty had gotten bored with her quiet, mundane lifestyle. Now that she had a playmate in the house all day, she thought up lots of neat games but Smokey didn't always cooperate. She'd simply sit like a sphinx in an armchair, occasionally twitch her tail and keep an eagle eye out for the little gray ghost.

Sure enough, my son and I were watching television that evening when we spied Misty creeping toward the chair where Smokey was curled on my lap. One little step, another little step, and suddenly Misty lept into the air and whopped Smokey on the nose. Smokey got traction on my thighs and away she went in full gallop, chasing Misty down the hall and back up. Around the recliner and through Tim's office, Misty led the way. She finally took refuge under her usual dining room chair and innocently peered from between the chair legs. You could almost hear her saying "na-na-na-na na na, you can't get me, ha-ha!" as Smokey fretted and fumed and swished her tail a few moments. A few moments later both cats were side by side and head to head, snacking away in the kitchen on kitty nibble.

"See what I mean?" I told my amazed and amused son. Things are not always as they seem in the kingdom of cats, at least not at my house. All in all, I prefer the entertainment and companionship value of cats over bats or rats any day.

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