Friday, February 27, 2009

They've got personality
Now that I’m volunteering with so many different cats I’m continually fascinated at how different their personalities are. Anybody who says, “I don’t like cats, they’re too…. (aloof, demanding, independent, needy, crazy…insert adjective here) for me,” just hasn’t been around enough cats. Each week when I go in I meet new kitties and it’s always a learning experience.

Let me illustrate (note: the names have been changed to protect the reputations of the kitties.)

1. Miss Marple. Super-sleuth Miss Marple wants nothing more than to investigate. Once you get her into the GAR (get acquainted room) she’ll leave you alone in favor of sniffing, exploring, and staring out the window in the hopes of witnessing a murder. Or at least another cat. She doesn’t knit and, as far as I know, has never actually solved a crime, but she is completely disinterested in love. Oh, she’ll take the time to investigate you too. She’ll sniff you, bat at your shoelaces to see if they’re loaded with explosives. Look for Cyanide in your pocket; but for the most part it’s all about what’s going on in the world around here.

2. ADD Kitty. Pipe cleaner! Random piece of paper! Bit of treat left over from last visitor to GAR! Oooh, look, a window! ADD Kitty has the attention span of a 3-year old on a sugar high at Disneyland. He’ll run around chasing his tail and then suddenly stop for a good, long lick at his foot. He’ll bat at the pipe cleaner like it’s the best thing since catnip and then, without warning, notice (for the 15th time) that there’s a nice big window to look out of and there are people walking by. He’ll jump into your lap and nuzzle against you, purring like a steam engine until he catches sight of an abandoned piece of paper in the corner and attack it like he’s bringing down a gazelle. Life is an endless parade of new experiences for ADD Kitty, mostly because he seems to have absolutely no short-term memory.

3. Blanche Dubois. You love me, don’t you? I mean I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers. Poor Blanche, she needs constant reassurance. She may stray a few feet away, but she always comes back. She feels safest if she’s in physical contact with you, preferably on your lap. “Love me, love me,” she implores, as she pushes her cute little pink nose into your hand so you can give her the attention she needs. She’s the ultimate lap cat, a streetcar named “you’re not planning on moving anytime soon, are you?”

4. William “Refrigerator” Kitty. He weighs about 280 lbs. (Ok, maybe 18, but that’s enough.) He could play linebacker for the 49ers. (Hell, at this point I could play linebacker for the Niners.) He’s just a big bruiser. When he head butts you, you feel like it’ll leave a bruise. When he jumps for the pipe cleaner, the chair rattles when he lands. And when he tries to curl into your lap he finds your lap is nowhere big enough. He hangs over all sides like a sack of flour, only purring and not to be used for bread.

5. The Austen Rogue. Every Jane Austen book has one. Mr. Wickham from P&P. Willoughby from S&S. The charming rake with the good looks, dashing manner, winning personality, and faithfulness of hyena. Austen will look at you with those big green eyes and instantly steal your heart. You’ll fall for his charisma and put all your effort into winning his love. You’ll carry him to the GAR, pet him, play with him, give him fishy treats and he’ll look at you like you’re the only woman in the world for him. Then the treats run out and he’ll turn his back on you. He’ll grow weary of the attention you lavish on you and stroll casually to the window, in search of greener pastures (or more treats). And the same cat that couldn’t wait to leap into your arms when you opened the door to his cage will jump back into his cage without a second glance. He’s done with you. You’ve served your purpose. Your heart is broken.

Then there are those rare “perfect cats” that make you fall in love a little. The ones who can’t get enough of your lap but who are also playful and full of personality. The ones with the quirky meow or the loud, non-stop purr. The ones who eager come to you and seem reluctant to say goodbye. The ones who stick their paws out of the cage when someone walks by as if to say “you spin me right round, like a record baby.” (Or something more sensible and feline.) Those are the best of all. But each one is special and each one I work with is deserving of love, security, and a good home.

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