C.W. Gusewell


Cats play musical chairs

Mickey, the orange tiger with only four teeth, and Scoop, the black panther with three white whiskers, are prized family members – both large enough to be the alphas of the house.

Fortunately, they are alike in temperament – congenial and affectionate. The food source is dependable. So, as is obvious from casual observation, hunger has never been an issue.

They’ve both been with us from earliest kittenhood and, being secure of their place, they have no need to war for status. Timely surgery long ago relieved them of the torment of lust.

The only competition between them is for what they both consider the prime location on the bed.

Mickey claimed it first. It is the valley between the pillows of us two larger sleepers. For several years, Scoop was content to pass his nights on a nearby cushioned chair, or on the bed in what used to be a daughter’s room.

Then eventually, waiting until the reading light was off, he made his move – but only to the bottom end of our bed. There, if on a warm evening the covers got disarranged, he was ever alert to the opportunity to lick or lovingly nibble on an exposed foot.

It seemed that might suffice. In recent months, though, he has edged farther up. Not all the way – for that would be an outright provocation – but near enough that Mickey, a conciliator at heart, now often can be found sleeping atop shoes on a storage shelf, or on a carpet in the glow of the bathroom night light.

And during the day, when the bed is made and entirely unoccupied, Scoop goes all the way up to the pillows.

Among humans, such territorial incursions would result in lawsuits at a minimum, or maybe worse – perhaps threats and sanctions, followed by missile launchings or drone attacks.

But cats, at least the ones we’ve lived with, are more pacific creatures. And Mickey has accommodated.

I work at home, and as I write this he is sprawled in all his considerable majesty sound asleep on the desktop at my elbow. Somewhere under him is the calendar, which, if I could see it, would remind me of my appointments and obligations for the rest of the day.

There’s quite a lot of him, so he’s also covering a list of important telephone numbers, the address of a friend to whom I owe a belated thank you, and scribbled notes for the column that may follow this one.

Since the shifting occupancy of the bed, he has made a point of joining me regularly as I work, and I wouldn’t dream of disturbing him.

In fair societies, privileges tend to even out. Scoop has never spent time here – has never even demanded to be admitted. And there’s no indication he resents that. I believe he understands this is Mickey’s office and mine.