Sunday, 27 February 2011

Strangers In The Night

Once, long ago, Orihime, the weaving princess, wove beautiful cloth by the bank of the Milky Way. She was so busy with this important job, she never managed to do anything else, such as meeting interesting men. And then one day, Orihime happened to meet Hikoboshi, the handsome young cow-herder, who worked on the other side of the Milky Way. The two fell instantly in love and married.

Unfortunately, once they were married, they were so happy together, they had no time for anything else. Orihime stopped weaving her beautiful cloth and Hikoboshi stopped tending his cows, letting them wander all over Heaven. This caused so much trouble, that Orihime's father, Tentei, separated the two and forbade them to meet. Orihime was brokenhearted and begged her father to relent. Tentei finally gave in and allowed the two to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month -- if they promised to work hard and do all their work.

And so every year, on the 7th day of the 7th month, Orihime and Hikoboshi meet for a delightful day of sweet togetherness that makes the remaining 364 lonely days somehow bearable.

I tell you this tale because of my two cats, Mitzi and Maverick. When we first heard about them, we were told that they were a pair, that they had been together for a few years and had grown used to each other's company. In fact, it may have been that I wanted to hear this and was actually told something else, but this is what I expected when we got them: two companion cats, rather devoted to each other.

Reality has been such a disappointment.

On the day they arrived, we let them out of their cat boxes and allowed them to wander around the kitchen and hallway. The two belted out of their respective boxes, then did all the usual cat things -- jumping onto chairs, darting under tables and work surfaces, sniffing every single item in the room. Every few minutes, they would come within each other's orbit and briefly touch noses as though to say, "You holding up okay?"

But after these fleeting meetings, they split up -- and remained apart all evening.

Later, they returned to their cat boxes. I've never known cats who were perfectly happy to be in their cat boxes; in fact, I've never known cats who would willingly enter their cat boxes, but never mind. They had many chairs they could have slept on together, but they preferred their own solitary little cubicles.

Over the course of the next week, they continued to do this. Even when we allowed them free access to the entire house, they made sure to return to their cat boxes to sleep. Gradually, they began to find their own special places. Mitzi preferred our bedroom; Maverick's favorite spot was the third step down on the staircase.

But never, not once, did they snuggle up together. In fact, if one of them happened to jump onto a bed or sofa the other was on, entirely by accident, their reaction was exactly what you might expect from a fellow train passenger who had wandered into your sleeper by mistake: embarrassed confusion -- "Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't see you there!"

Even when they join me in the garden, these cats play separately. They do not chase each other, groom each other, bask in the sun together. They lead completely parallel existences. It's like living with a middle-aged feline couple, determined to see their way through a cheerless, though amicable, marriage.

So imagine my shock when last night I walked into our lounge and found Maverick hunched over Mitzi, licking her ear. For almost five minutes I stood there and watched, spellbound, as this took place. Then he jumped off the sofa and found another place to sit, and for the rest of the evening, the two continued their usual let's-ignore-each-other routine.

Who cares if the only reason it happened was because I accidentally dropped tunafish on Mitzi's ear? Who cares if they went against tradition and did this on the 27th day of the 2nd month? For five minutes, Orihime-Mitzi and Hikoboshi-Maverick crossed the skies and met for a romantic rendez-vous and I was there to witness it.

Let us hope the heavens soon get over the shock.


Vijaya said...

Lovely stories. What an odd pair, Mitzi and Maverick -- I'm glad you had a glimpse of their parallel worlds intersecting.

Even my ornery and cantankerous first cat groomed the second one after she arrived on scene (an incorrigible kitten). It took months, but once he showed her some affection, it only grew. Now she misses him ... and thinks the kittens are just terrible.

Anonymous said...

How sweet. Reminds me of my cats. :)

Murr Brewster said...

I've done the human equivalent of smearing myself with tuna fish for a long time now. If it gets results, who cares about the motivation?

Kit said...

Our cats are the same, even though we've had them since kittenhood. As kittens they used to curl up together, but since they have been grown, they have studiously ignored each other all the way. We since got a younger male cat and the older male will groom him and wrestle with him and generally beat him up in a playful manner, to which he submits, even though he's bigger and stronger, but the older female turns her nose up at them both equally.
Love the image of embarrassed train travellers - that just about sums it up!

Girl Friday said...

Aw that's so cute. What goes on when we're not watching...

Charles Gramlich said...

A lot of older married couples spend a lot of time apart and even sleep apart. But when the mood strikes!!!!!!

Bish Denham said...

At least they aren't fighting, right? They orbit each other, aware, perhaps comfortable in the knowledge that the other is there.

Lily Cate said...

We had two kitties, Lux and Lola, who were inseperable. Then we lost Lux very unexpectedly.
We brought home a friendly new kitten, Zorro, but Lola has always kept her distance with him.

This winter, little Zorro came down with something. He looked a little droopy for two or three days, and the whole time, Lola stayed very close, cleaning his face for him, and sleeping much nearer. Once he recovered,he was on his own again, but she showed her true colors for a moment there.

Kim Ayres said...


Mary Witzl said...

Vijaya -- Me too! Your cantankerous cat and kitten pair were what I envisioned Mitzi and Maverick would be. And then we got stuck with the Odd Couple.

I can't help wondering what they'd do if we got a third cat. I suspect their bad habits would multiple and our furniture would be the worse for the wear in no time. It looks like we'll just have to make do with these two!

Medeia -- Are yours cold fish like ours? It seems so unfair, doesn't it?

(I'm so thrilled to have another cat blogger pal!)

Murr -- :o) I've got a whole drawer full of cat jerky treats -- I'll buy cat love if I have to. Anchovies get even better results than tuna fish, by the way. You do get odd looks from non-cat people, but who cares about them?

Kit -- Cat relationships and pecking orders are every bit as complex as human ones. We used to help out in a cat shelter and it was always funny to hear about which cats couldn't stand which others and which got along very well. Alpha cats tend to get along with gentler, less aggressive cats; put them with other alphas and the fur flies. Maybe we've got two alpha pairs?

Girl Friday -- What amazed me was that they didn't even seem the least bit embarrassed that I'd caught them at it. As though what they were doing was something they did all the time -- which it most certainly was not.

Charles -- Glad to know that Orihime and Hikoboshi have spanned the heavens and met up in your household. Keep it going and more power to you!

Bish -- That is true: they aren't fighting. I'll have to tell myself that when I see them ignoring each other so spectacularly. I like to think that they are comforted and enriched by each other's presence, but I fear it's just wishful thinking.

Lily -- I love the idea of cats nursing each other through illnesses, that is so sweet! We had a few adult tom cats (one Siamese, one tiger) who carefully guarded kittens after they were born, when their mother was away; one tom cat we had actually 'nursed' a kitten.

I hope Zorro will reciprocate if Lola ever gets ill!

Kim -- Mitzi will enjoy meeting you one of these days. Maverick, on the other hand, is a fraidy-cat who will run and cower -- be forewarned!

Marcia said...

I guess ours live pretty parallel lives, too. They are amicable, BUT when it comes to contact they are more likely to wrestle than groom each other.

Carole said...

You are a true writer. To see the the parallels and then to write about it makes me smile. I think you are a genius with the thinking. (and writing.)

Robin said...

Great story! I really can see those cats living their parallel lives! We have 2 dogs, brother and sister,who have the opposite problem. They are constantly making out. It's embarrassing and incestuous. Sometimes my kids will yell out, "Get a room!"

Anne Spollen said...

Our kittens, biological sisters and together every minute of their lives from conception on, give each other baths every day -- for a time. Eventually, one of them nibbles an ear or a neck and a fight ensues.

Aren't cats fun to watch?

Mary Witzl said...

Marcia -- If only our cats would wrestle each other occasionally! They are such wet blankets when it comes to entertaining us. I love watching cat fights -- the fur flying, the hilarious noises they make, the posturing and slinking and ears folded back! All these guys do is pussy-foot around each other, like a couple of ultra-polite house guests.

Carole -- Thank you, and how I WISH other people felt the same! (Say, why don't you set up a publishing company? ;o))

Robin -- We had cats like your dogs! They always got amorous whenever we had the staidest possible guests over. It could be very embarrassing having to disentangle obviously mating cats who'd lodged themselves under the coffee table. We also had a cat who had a thing about people's jiggling, I won't go there. But believe me, it was excruciating.

Anne -- If you've got a couple of cats and a paper bag, you really don't need a television, do you?

We used to have cats who groomed each other constantly, slept side by side, and were generally loving and kind to each other even with the occasional (always entertaining) spat. The two we've got now are a couple of cold fishes.