Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fighting for Love

Tony and Binket don’t get along. This is like saying that the tsunami in Japan dampened spirits a bit. Cats when annoyed with each other usually pose sideways, dance around, fluff up their fur and make noises anywhere from severe automotive trouble to people being tortured. There’s a lot of spit and threats and insults thrown. There can be a retreat after both cats have decided that each could take the other with one paw tied behind his or her back and a lot of mumbling and might-have-beens afterwards. That’s not what happens with Tony and Binket though.
Victorian Trade Card Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

Binket, in her defense, did get here first. She was a rescue baby from southern California, just a tiny handful of calico fluff from an abandoned defense manufacturing plant. The property owners sent a few stray cats to clear out the mice. The people with this easy mouse-control idea forgot that cats left unneutered will multiply almost like mice. Now rescue groups will scoop up what they can from the grounds to see if they can be neutered, rehabilitated and placed in loving homes like mine.

Binket came complete with a roaring case of ringworm, a fungus that spread to the dog, the other cat, my husband and me. We all got the treatment. The dog lost his “job” as a volunteer companion for severely handicapped people. The rescue people said that couldn’t possibly happen when I called to warn them they might want to up their disinfecting so other rescues weren’t affected. I didn’t want to argue with them. These were two addled ladies who were trying to hold back the tide of unwanted animals in Orange County, just barely keeping it together to save the ones they could with nearly no money. If they bought bargain brand bleach, it was probably watered down and less-effective in killing the fungus, God love them.

Even though Binket was raised from just a few weeks by the softest touches in the Universe, my husband and myself, she ended up being a cranky kitty, so much so that I started to look up the theories of inheritance of disposition in cats. Apparently, if you’re a cat and if your father was a cranky kitty, you’re probably a cranky kitty. That’s what the latest cat science had to offer me. So I was a little dismayed that cooing, cuddling, coddling nurture did not have as much effect on No No Bad Cat’s nature. She buffaloed her older adoptive sister into submission which didn’t seem remarkable, except that she’s slightly smaller. Napoleon complex, maybe.

Peepers is the kind of cat to open pantry doors and snooze undisturbed for hours. More than once we’ve heard strange noises coming from the kitchen only to find that we do not, in fact, have a poltergeist. It’s only a 10 pound Siamese mix who has had her linen drawer closed and is now ready to get up and go about her kitty business. She really isn’t pleased that there is anyone in the house with her besides me in the first place but has grown used to Binket. Her way of dealing with conflict is to burrow until the blast is over.

Our little feline family grew and Eleanor joined us. I had thought I met Eleanor on the worst day of her life. It turns out that every day is the worst day of Eleanor’s life. She is the Omega Cat. No matter what the contest, she comes in dead last. Strangely, Binket, who by now had fallen deeply, madly in love with the dog, a romance still in full flower, adjusted well to Eleanor’s arrival. I think she sensed immediately that Eleanor was no threat to her Alphaness and dragged her around like a feathery 5 pound toy. Eleanor seems to like this sort of abusive affection from Binket so we determined not to interfere. After all, when you have a cranky kitty, any sign of positive relationships is a sign of hope.

It all came to a crash when I brought home Tony. True, Tony’s a male cat but I venture to say that never a more unsuspecting, unambitious, shy on brains and soft in the middle male cat has ever graced my doorstep. He’s like an animated stuffed toy and just about that smart. He seldom has an idea about anything other than warming up on the nearest warm thing, often my laptop computers. He steps on the telephone when I’m on conference calls, has a couple of favorite soft toys including one we call Stewart Little, is jolly with the dog, is scared of his own shadow and otherwise takes up cat space. He’s an unusual looking cat, considering he’s just a brown tabby. OK, he’s downright funny looking. I took him to the vet to see if his physique was in any way a dangerous health deformity. She laughed and said, yes, he is funny looking and it’s likely his parents were funny looking too. Instead of being that sleek, long luxuriant short-hair that model cats are, he’s a lot like a bean bag or turtle with an itty bitty kitty head. There’s quite a bit of extra Tony to Tony so he weighs in at about 16 pounds.

We went through all the standard instructions of how to introduce the new kitty to the household. Peepers seemed to think he was OK as long as he didn’t do anything aggressive and Tony’s not that kind of guy. Binket, though, went ballistic. Even when I put them on either side of an interior doorway with catnip on both sides to associate each other with psychedelic herbal pleasure, Binket did everything she could to kill Tony. She crammed as many paws and claws under the door, hissed and spat, and tried to figure out how to open the door by pounding on it. Tony immediately went on the defensive, which for him meant he tried to compact his generously padded and floppy frame into as tight a ball as possible and whimpered. This adds fuel to the flame for Binket. She knows now that her mission in life is to destroy her enemy. It doesn’t matter that he’s nearly twice her size.

She’ll do anything to slip into the section of the house where Tony is and attack him. Tony wets his pants, screams and cries and is generally dumbfounded at the assassination attempts. Naturally, I try to prevent this scenario, if for nothing else the cleanup needed afterwards.

Recently, though, Binket got a surprise. Tony fought back when she cornered him under a desk. She had grabbed his ear and he, amazingly, chomped down on her foreleg. A lot of screaming and flailing later and Binket retreated long enough for me to separate them, clean them up, comfort them both. Binket’s bite needed tending by the vet after a few days and she came home bandaged with anti-biotics.

Tony is his usual floppy, purring like an Evinrude, delighted to a frenzy over my just-washed hair, snuggly on cold mornings self. His ear has healed and you’d never know he’d been hurt. Binket has changed a bit though. She’s become snuggly instead of cranky. She wants to be a lap cat, now, after 5 years of dancing on the tables and shooting out the lights. She still doesn’t like Tony but she isn’t on the attack so much. Now she just wants to dash in and sleep on the bed. I’m good with that. She doesn’t resist being picked up and carried around and petted like she used to. Maybe this was a good thing.

This has been a 5 of Swords moment in our little family. What looked like a win when Binket exerted her aggressive bullying had always been a loss. But this recent battle lost seems, in the long run, to be a win overall. Binket? Happy? Who knew it was possible?

That win-lose scenario plays itself out in our human interactions all the time too. Sometimes winning the battle is losing the war. And sometimes, just sometimes, losing the battle means getting what you wanted in the first place. I think Binket had to push her limits to allow snugglies in her little cat life. I know people like that.

Best wishes.

1 comment:

  1. I can so identify with this, Marcia! I have five cats (5 of Swords!), and at one time or another, they all have spats with each other. So far no serious bites, but that doesn't mean it won't happen. One of our younger cats, Sammy, makes it is daily routine to chase the somewhat older Karma. He does this several times a day. Whenever I hear hissing, I can be pretty sure it's Karma warning Sammy to stay back -- which of course Sammy never does. Thanks for a great blog post!