C.W. Gusewell


Curiosity will kill the cats' reserve

Given their similar histories, one might have expected they’d be instant friends.

Both were refugees from the rough streets of Brooklyn, N.Y. – “rough,” at any rate, for a cat with no dependable home. The principal difference was that one was an adult, the other just a youngster.

Tip, the older, is a gray tabby, named for the white last inch of her tail. She joined us seven or possibly eight years ago.

The other, called Laika after the Russian space dog, a Moscow stray – the first creature to orbit in space – arrived four years later, hardly past kittenhood.

Neither showed any uneasiness with the canines of the household. Dogs are commonplace in the feral world. It was human contact that most alarmed them.

Tip took up solitary residence in a little-used room off the kitchen, seldom emerged and staged a hissing protest if any other cat dared to enter.

Laika, also gray, is a timid little soul. “No bigger than a squirrel” is how her rescuer, our daughter, described her. Her refuge of choice was an upstairs bedroom, a place of safety with two dressers and a queen bed to hide under.

Never, during their years in the same house, has either one of them seen the other.

But that may change.

Tip has begun emerging from her lair – not to socialize, only to explore.

One early morning, sitting at the table with my newspaper and coffee, I detected a sly motion out of the corner of my eye.

It was the gray recluse, passing through the kitchen and around a corner into the main part of the house, looking back over her shoulder to see if she’d been noticed.

That was the start. In subsequent days she’s expanded her range to include the whole first floor, including the breakfast room, even when the chairs there are occupied.

And on a day not long after that, Laika was spied on the stair landing, seeming quite composed as she observed the activity below.

So curiosity has lessened the distance between them. Sooner or later there’ll be eye contact. What sort of contact may follow remains to be seen. Will it be a raucous collision, with much screaming and spitting?

Or, just possibly, might they be able to see beyond their differences in size and age, remember the hardships and hazards they had in common, and understand that it’s not competition but shared luck that governs their lives today?