Yesterday was Star Wars Day. (May the Fourth be with you!) (And also with you.)
This quote came to mind when I woke up this morning:
Darth Vader, referring to the Death Star: Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.
But I’ve discovered something even more powerful than the Force.
The Force Runs Strong in My Family.
My mother liked science fiction from her earliest years. Her own rigidly-religious, super-proper parents didn’t approve of any of that fantastical stuff, though, so she and her siblings had to hide their comic books and novels from them. It was quite the race against time for the four kids; ideally, they’d finish the comics and novels and then return them to their five-and-dime for store credit, which they’d use to partially finance the next round of contraband. But if their parents–especially their very strict father (who bore no resemblance at all to the jolly, sweetly-ornery grandpa I knew growing up)–found these illicit reading materials, they’d throw them away and force the kids to start over from scratch. This cat-and-mouse game continued through their entire childhoods.
When Mom moved out from home, she immediately began amassing a truly impressive collection of SF and fantasy novels. I cut my teeth on Bullfinch’s Mythology and had my suspicions about what the League of Grey-Eyed Women was hiding.
So when Star Wars came out in 1977, you know my mom was right there and ready.
The admission line stretched all around the square block-shaped movie theater, and I didn’t understand why so many people were waiting all that time just to see a movie. I figured it out quickly when the movie began to play.
Star Wars had quite an impact on me at that very formative age. Lasers! Space princesses! Dashing smugglers with crooked grins who always shot first! Magic bathed in all the glorious flippy-dippy technospeak the 1970s could conjure!
I came out of that theater knowing that the Force was a more awesome power than all the planet-killing space stations one could construct or command.
Then two kittens entered my life and showed me what real destructiveness looked like.
The Awesome Power of the Kittens.
One of the earliest pictures I shared on here was what happened when the kittens discovered a paper bag full of dried catnip. Lord Snow, our giant white geriatric kitty, enjoyed the fruits of their labors, but we knew where to lay the blame. Set the Wayback Machine for December 2015:
Not that Lord Snow is completely innocent, though he may seem genuinely perplexed. You’ll notice that he has catnip on his head, which means he had to be standing right underneath that shelf while the kittens were pulling down their prey. We’ve since learned to keep that stuff in the freezer–and those bags of flour and cat food behind Lord Snow? Those all live behind a closed closet door now because you only have to vacuum up a few pounds of flour once before you get the clue. (I’m still finding dried pinto beans from when they got into that sack.)
I’ve learned that I can’t stop them. I can only hope to contain them, either by convincing them they don’t really want to do whatever it was they’re wanting to do, or by the extensive use of preventive measures.
This morning I woke up to hearing what sounded for all the world like a wrecking ball in the kitchen. The nice thing about living in my household is that I never need to worry about who’s making the noise; I only have to wonder what the destruction’s going to look like when I get out there. Like Calvin’s parents did years ago in the comic strip, Mr. Captain and I quickly evolved a turn-based system of investigating these noises, though sometimes we decide that temporary ignorance is bliss.
This morning, I had to rescue an unopened roll of paper towels from Bumble, who has decided they are his enemy. Don’t let him looking all casual fool you. This is a cat who knows that at any given moment he is surrounded by breakables that await only his attention to reach their final form of “landfill.” It’s really my own fault for thinking I could hide paper towels from him.
A Day in the Life.
For all that cats may have domesticated themselves rather than been domesticated by humans, they sure seem to have a lot of old wild traits. It’s difficult, for example, to figure out just how intelligent cats are (and what form their intelligence takes!) because they don’t really give a flying shit what humans want them to do. All we know is that they are, in fact, pretty smart. Maybe it’s just me but they seem to be getting weirder every year, too. Maybe they’re still at the tail end of their domestication and haven’t quite finished the process yet.*
Whatever the case, this is how my days go with these two furry chainsaws:
They wake up about an hour before Mr. Captain’s alarm goes off, or when they hear us stirring, whichever comes first. At that point, it is time to eat. They don’t understand “Later, OMG, please let me sleep.” They also don’t understand “Wait just a goddamned minute here–you’ve got dry food still! Go eat that!”
Until they’re fed, they will be pests. Bother likes pawing at Mr. Captain until he lets her under the covers, while her brother (on those occasions when he doesn’t wish to walk all over his sister while she’s thus ensconced) goes for the more direct and attention-getting tactic of doing stuff he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that I won’t like. He’s learned the words “No!”, “Out!” and “Get your orange ass down from there!”, but that doesn’t mean he has to like hearing them–or that he’ll feel compelled to obey. His favorite move lately is leaping from the floor directly to the top of my 5.5′ bureau, then looking baffled at me as I yell at him.
Bumble has grown into an incredibly strong, vibrant cat–eclipsing even Lord Snow in sheer size and muscle, though he’s still got about 5 pounds to go before he’s heavier than the older cat (and a lot more practice tussling before he can hope to beat that grizzled old veteran). His coat is radiantly healthy, soft, and plush. His feet are prodigiously huge even for his impressive size, so I think he’s got some more growing to do. He’s not exceptionally bright, but he is charming–and he still chases his tail, which makes up for a lot in my book.
Bother’s coat might be nowhere near as soft or plush, and she might be developing a bit of a pot-belly, but she’s still adorable. She’s incredibly affectionate, and much better-behaved than her brother. While I get their food ready every morning, she waits politely and patiently for her bowl while her brother darts into the kitchen every five seconds and gets chased out again. (I know he’s just doing it to claim territory, but this is my kitchen and it’s too small for him to be underfoot in there without being in real danger.)
Neither of them really understands this whole “obligate carnivore” thing very well though. They will do ridiculously undignified things for lettuce–and will even steal it from the fridge or my plate if they can. (I know that cats often eat grass and I have had many that did sometimes, but this seems to go way past that behavior and into genuine enjoyment of the taste. Thankfully, lettuce appears to be totally okay for cats.)
After they eat, they sack out for a while. For the rest of the day, they’ll do a cycle every couple of hours: running around like they’re on diet pills, then dead to the world, then up again and freaking out all over the house. If I want to grab a nap, I need to do it during their downtime, but my reward for my good timing is being joined by all three of them–even Lord Snow, who long ago got over his distaste of sharing the same piece of furniture (and ZIP code) with his rivals. There is very little that is as pleasant as sleeping with three sacked-out purring kitties.
And if I want to sew, then I have learned to my detriment that I need to do it while they’re either sleeping or else busy elsewhere. I could walk naked down Main Street and not receive the single-minded attention from shocked onlookers that I can get while threading a needle around these two.
This morning, while putting clothes away, I found a little stuffed fish they used to like playing with as babies. In the six hours since then, I’ve had to stop writing numerous times to fetch the toy out from under every bookshelf in my house and every appliance with enough room to admit the thing. Bother’s sleeping on top of it right now. She’s no dummy.
That said, I wouldn’t trade any of these forces of nature for anything. There’s something really nice about a Bumblecat who follows me around everywhere and wants to “help” me fold laundry, or a Botherlet who insists on joining me in the bathroom (where my job is to offer her my forehead for constant bonking while she stands on the counter next to me while I’m, uh, busy). I think even Lord Snow has gotten used to them; right now they’re all sleeping behind me, and he’s within kissing distance of them both.
We’ve got some serious stuff coming up, but I wanted to pull back a little for this update. In a lot of ways, our whole community has adopted these cats into our hearts, and I can’t tell you how much I love seeing the pictures and stories you share in turn! See you in the comments, and this weekend for our next regularly-scheduled post!
* A fascinating detail from that Slate article: it takes a certain amount of awareness for an animal to comprehend what it means when a human points at something–like the location of a treat. Lord Snow and Monster never understood pointing; they always seemed to think it was a quaint dance move that required only their bemused and brief indulgence. Bumble and Bother, however, understand pointing perfectly right away. I’ve only had one other cat that seemed to understand pointing, and even she wasn’t always on the ball about it. What I’m saying here is that I for one welcome our new feline overlords.