Posted by: jevcat | November 10, 2010

A History of Cats—Mine or Cat Chronicles, Part the Second: Ashfurred

One morning a few months after our first cat, Gabby, walked into my family’s life, I got to work and my office manager ushered me into the department head’s office, where a bunch of kittens were peering out from under the couch.  Her cat, Heidi (named because she hid from almost everyone and everything), had gotten out while in heat, and her human mom was trying to find good homes for the kittens.  I wound up going home with a small, timid ball of charcoal grey fur (as an adult, she was frequently mistaken for a Russian blue).  My brother claimed naming rights because he had already left for school when we named Gabby, and christened the new arrival “Ashfurred.”

Like her mother, she was afraid of her own shadow – I once saw her freeze in terror when a pigeon landed on the window sill, then dash under the bed, where she hid, quivering – but unconditionally loving to the family.  When we would all gather on Mom and Dad’s bed to watch tv together, she would go from one to another for serial petting.  She had more nicknames than any creature I’ve ever known:  Furred, Furry, Cinderfurry (for a habit of curling up in an often-dusty spot next to the stove), Babycat, Girlcat, Bunnyfeet (for her habit of sitting with large back legs and feet up like a rabbit), “my little knockwurst” (for her plump shape), Yoda (for the prominence of her ears when she was a kitten) – I’m sure I’ve missed some.

After a get-acquainted period in which Gabby tried to kill Ashfurred, she agreed to tolerate her, and sometimes a bit more.  As a kitten Furry did not like to wash.  She would sit up like a person on my father’s easy chair, and after a while, she would sigh heavily, give one long lick down one side, sit for a while, give another deep sigh, give one long lick down the other side, followed by another long pause.  The incredibly fastidious Gabby would sit on my parents bed, watching in disgust.  You could visibly see her impatience rise, to the point where she would be practically be drumming her claws on the spread (I swear I saw her do this).  Finally, when she could no longer stand it anymore, in one bound, she would pin Ashfurred to the chair and wash the wriggling, protesting bundle within an inch of her life, then jump back to the bed and curl up with the satisfied air of one with a job well done.

The two cats could not have been more different in personality.  Gabby was bold, regal, slender, bossy, demanding, kvetchy.  Ashfurred was quiet, gentle, shy, plump, loving, and accepting.  Our apartment had a very long hall and, when the doorbell rang, you could almost get knocked over by Gabby running to inspect the visitor for approval and Ashfurred running in the opposite direction to hide under my parents’ bed.  Gabby ruled with an iron claw in a velvet sheath, and poor Ashfurred paid the price for anything that displeased her.  When it was too hot, Gabby beat up on Ashfurred; when it was too cold, when she didn’t like what was in her dish, Gabby beat up on Ashfurred.  Ashfurred not only endured it all patiently, she would then go up and touch noses with Gabby.  If there is sainthood for cats, Furry deserves her halo.

Gabby was fun (and exasperating), and Ashfurred provided some respite from Gabby’s antics.  We were particularly glad Ashfurred did not pick up on Gabby’s preferred method of showing her displeasure with her human family.  This was done on Gabby’s official TP Scale:  if she were moderately annoyed, she would unroll the toilet paper onto the floor.  If she were somewhat more annoyed, she would unroll it into the toilet itself.  But if she was really pissed off, she would unroll it into the toilet, then scoop it out and spread it the length of the bathroom floor.  We learned to keep the lid down (when we remembered).

There was one exception to all Ashfurred’s goodness, though:  Ashfurred on catnip.  Gabby was one of those cats who was not susceptible to catnip, so we didn’t keep it in the house.  Then, one Christmas, one of neighbors gave us catnip mice for “the girls.”  Gabby sniffed hers and batted it a bit.  Ashfurred leapt on hers, began “killing” it with all four feet, viciously shredding it in minutes, and then raced around the house like a lunatic before collapsing to sleep it off.  It was like Jekyll and Hyde.  We bought some catnip after that but quickly learned it had to be kept in an air-tight glass jar with screw lid or Ashfurred would find and consume it in one feel swoop – or as close to that as she could.  The transfer had to be made rapidly, too:  those little plastic bags catnip is often packaged in?  Forget it – she tore apart my mother’s tote bag, found it no matter how crammed the tote or how deeply buried the catnip, and shredded the plastic to get at it.

In the end, my mom may have summed up best the difference in our two cats:  Gabby thought of herself as person and expected to be treated accordingly; Ashfurred thought we were cats, and if we were very peculiar looking ones, she was far too polite to mention it.

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