Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Herding Cats

Today, something a bit different.

The Thinking Nationalist has now been appointed the "leader" of a group of
five special individuals - the "Lineshack Lane Cats".

This aggregation of unique feline personalities came to us courtesy of
our neighbors who moved out suddenly two weeks ago, leaving their
former pets behind.

Now, pet abandonment is a growing problem in this troubled economy.
Unlike humans, pets can have a really hard time fending for themselves
once domesticated.

There's no unemployment insurance for laid-off pets.

As these feline characters had, in my opinion, done an excellent job
in keeping the whole neighborhood free of pests such as mice,
large insects and above all the pigeons, The Thinking Nationalist
decided to step in and help.

First, I found some old pie tins and bowls in the cupboard. They
would make nice food dishes. Next, I covered up the patio
work table with an old paint drop cloth, and put the old
patio chair cushions underneath, making a nice shelter
from the Las Vegas summer heat. Finally, it was off to the
grocery store for the all-important $3 bag of Purina Cat

I then put out the food and some water, and waited.

One by one, at first singly and then all at once, the
cats fell upon their new-found treasure, feeding as if
they hadn't eaten in weeks (which was probably the case).

As they gradually came to associate my presence with
food and water, they became both friendlier and noticeably
fatter, which led to some unusual occurrences.

When I would go out to the street to get in my car, two
of them would follow me, as if to make sure I too wasn't going to
"leave" them. So to provide some reassurance, I opened the door
and they promptly hopped in. As I happened to be going to the
grocery store I let them ride along, and when I came out with
the groceries they promptly found two special items - the Cat
Chow and some canned tuna, which they immediately pulled out
of the bag.

These aren't dumb cats. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

As the days went on, I gradually got to know some of them a little better.

Here's the lineup of the "crew":

First, the "Furball". The largest and most dominant cat, this jet-black
longhair is literally All Fur, which sticks so straight up and is so
unkempt it's hard to discern where his body ends and tail begins.

He resembles nothing so much as a giant black porcupine, with a
perfectly round face framing a huge pair of piercing, lemon-yellow eyes.

Next comes "Scrappy" - the smallest of all the cats, what this little
black-and white shorthair lacks in size he makes up for in sheer
chutzpah. He's the first one to the side door at feeding time,
yesterday elbowing Furball away with a huge swipe across the snout.

Scrappy has also taken upon himself the task of "Quarterdeck
Watch" - noticing when The Thinking Nationalist comes and goes,
and appropriating to himself a prime spot under the shaded table
for this purpose.

Next is "Stripey", a large and somewhat lethargic gray-green
striped tabby , easily the friendliest of all the cats. He'll follow
me out to the street to ride in the car, sometimes accompanied
by Scrappy. I'll sometimes let him ride with me to the store,
and he rides "shotgun" as well as any dog.

I just have to be careful I'm not buying any salmon or snapper
for our dinner.

Rounding out this "crew" of five are two part-timers.
First, the Siamese - a medium sized Seal Point with a bushy tail.
He's fortunate that he actually has a home - he lives across the street.

But, as he shares his home with a mean, short-tempered Chihuahua,
he spends a lot of time over here - usually under the table with
Scrappy. That there's also free food and water here doesn't hurt

Last but not least is "Junior" - a slender, orange shorthair tabby, with
a very loud voice. He also belongs to someone else, as he's been neutered
and declawed, and sometimes we don't see him for a few days. But when
he is here, the others have given him the job of notifying me when the food
bowls are empty - and he keeps yowling until I emerge at the patio door
with Cat Chow and water.

As of right now, we have a routine. Promptly at 6:30, either Junior or Scrappy
will come around to the bedroom window and either scratch the window
or meow. Reveille. Time to shake loose. Go to the kitchen, get the Cat chow
and water, start the coffee, serve breakfast. Usually, all five will be lined up at
the door.

After breakfast, the Furball, the Siamese and Junior usually leave. Since the
Furball disappears daily until well after five, I suspect he has a day job.
Scrappy takes up his duty station under the table right by the door.
And Stripey retires for the day to the chaise lounge, from where he
keeps a watchful eye on things. He knows the First Rule of feline
survival - never let yourself get out of sight of a full food bowl !

Beats trapping pigeons or mice any day.

But, except for feeding time, getting them together is impossible.
I wasted a can of sardines trying to get them to sit still for a group
photo. And if I try to step out the door with the camera, they scatter.

I just have to get used to it - I can't herd them.

But they sure can herd me.

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