Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Queen

My cat, Puckett, has this unnerving habit of sitting in plain view and staring at me with extremely large unblinking green eyes.  If you hold up a finger and move it back and forth she will continue to stare at your face.  Her expression will then take on something along the lines of "What on Earth are you doing, you ridiculous mortal?"  And the unblinking green stare will stay fixed on your face.  I played a game with her once where I would stare back.  Then look away.  Then look back at her and she would immediately snap her head back in the previous position and once again fix her eyeballs on me.  I rarely see her blink.  It's as if she's thinking as long as I'm looking at her she will stare back at me with an expression of either contempt or curiosity.  It is not a staring contest one would win.  She will only look away when you do.  She occasionally gets the other two cats involved.  Once I felt like that picture that circulates on Facebook - the one that depicts a staircase with three black cats perched at the top, their eyes glowing.  The caption reads "That awkward moment when you realize...You don't own any cats."

Puckett is a formidable twenty pounds of tabby and she will use her bulk to get what she wants.  She was named for the chef, Wolfgang Puck, apparently because he was the fattest chef the animal shelter staff could think of when naming her.  When I first found her at the animal shelter she raised such pity in me as to prompt me to volunteer fostering her - I didn't want to adopt another cat at the time because I felt like Tess, Percy, and I were happy as can be just the three of us.  We made a good trio.  Adding a fourth might cause an upset in the balance.  However, I couldn't just leave Puckett at the shelter.  She was so large she didn't fit in the cat bed she had tried to force herself into.  Tabby fur overflowed the sides of the cat bed and one tiny orange kitten was wedged up against her back, snuggled into her warmth.  Puckett's nose and eyes were runny and all her fur from the shoulders back had been shaved off.  The staff told me it was because she had been found under a bush full of mats and burrs.  A little paperwork, one interview with the "Volunteer Coordinator," and I took Puckett home where I stuck her in the guest room with a litterbox and food in order to keep her away from the other animals.

This lasted approximately four days.  By the middle of the week Puckett had had it with being locked up and began scratching the guest room bed (loudly enough that she could be heard throughout the house) and meowing her pitiful high pitched squeak at the door.  For fear of her destroying my house, I let her out.  She gave Percy a sniff and stalked off, uninterested.  He'd spent the last four days outside the guest room door, wild with curiosity about what was behind door number three.  Him I wasn't worried about, as Percy gets along with everything.  I was more apprehensive about the dog.  Many cats just have no experience with dogs and upon seeing such a large and overzealous creature as my Tess, they tend to panic.  I was expecting the customary fluffy tail, hissing, and baring of teeth.  Puckett marched up to Tess, gave her a sniff as well, rubbed her head under Tess' chin, and then went to investigate the community food bowl.  Clearly nothing fazed her, not even a dog she had never seen.  I especially love watching the dynamic between Puckett and Tess now.  Last night I was in the bathroom and I saw Tess come out of the bedroom.  Puckett was coming the other direction.  They stopped briefly.  Puckett rubbed her head under Tess' chin and Tess licked her ears.  Then both continued on their way.  It was such a simple and casual show of the bond these two have formed.

Puckett has thrived in a home setting.  I sometimes wonder if her little "act" at the shelter was just that - an act.  When I would pet her she would roll over and over in enthusiasm and drag herself across the floor by her front paws.  In the beginning I wasn't sure she walked.  She seemed to prefer rolling from place to place.  But her affectionate nature and her pitiful origins were not to overshadow her personality of complete confidence and authority.  She definitely rules the other animals.  They all defer to her, even Percy who fancies himself the master of the house.  If Puckett wants pet, she gets pet.  When she chirps for food, food gets poured in her bowl.  She MUST eat out of a tiny green ceramic bowl.  If the larger food bowl is full of food and the small ceramic bowl has nothing in it, she will not eat, but sit on the kitchen floor staring with her wide eyes and chirp her almost nonexistent meow.  The other two cats have tried to eat out of this bowl at mealtimes and she will sit next to them for a moment, watching, then take her paw and swat them across the ears.  Both will immediately move over to the next bowl.  If she wants to sit on the bed, only heaven and earth can move her off it.  I have tried to gently push her off the bed before in order to make room for my feet.  She digs in with her claws and will not budge.  Where a mere tap will send the other two cats jumping to the floor, Puckett will establish her spot and nothing will induce her to give it up.  The harder one pushes, the more she digs in her claws and plants her twenty pound mass in place.  I have tried to pick her up bodily before in order to place her on the floor.  This results in all four claws gripping the duvet, anchoring her to the bed.  On nights when the Cowboy comes over to stay, he will leave his jacket on the floor over the shoes so as to give Her Majesty a bed to sleep on.  The one night he failed to do this, she pooped in my shoe, as if it were my fault.  When I scolded her she gave me such a baleful look as if to say "Well, train that boyfriend of yours better, Missy!  I have the others under control!"

This morning I got up to shower and Puckett was sitting in the hallway outside my bedroom facing the doorway, her paws crossed delicately in front of her.  Willow was in her cage by the window.  Tess and Percy were in the bedroom with me.  The queen was patiently and quietly surveying her kingdom and waiting for everyone to arise so that she could once again subtly assert her authority and fool everyone into thinking they are choosing to follow her lead.

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