Friday, 23 August 2013

Astro Physics for Cats


     You've met Pusia, my adorable roommate. You've met Mru, her distant cousin (in spirit, at least) who lives with my partner, Beata, in Kerry. Both Pusia and Mru share a love of their home territory. They're roughly the same age. They don't like to travel. In human terms they're both in their mid 40s so it would almost be unreasonable to expect them to do so.

     You haven't yet met Geshe. Now Geshe is a beautiful ginger tom who came to Beata by a circuitous route. That's a story for another day. Today I'm going talk about how Geshe became a temporary house guest of mine. How his sense of adventure nearly ended in disaster. How Pusia and Geshe played out an almost deadly recreation of the "Big Bang" in a game of cat and cat. And how the experience nearly finished me off!

Red Letter Day

     Beata had booked her ticket to Poland. She was excited at the prospect of going home to see her family and it would be a week of catching up and relaxing. Mru is quite an independent cat who will happily make friends around the neighbourhood and survive on her wits easily for a week. Timo, the dog, has a good friend next door who loves to take him walking so he'll be fine. Geshe, on the other hand, is just over one year old. He needs someone to look after him properly. He's still the baby of the family...

     Geshe likes to think he's an indomitable explorer. He almost proves it on a regular basis and disappears for hours on end but, at the end of the day, he's still a young one and needs the comfort and reassurance of his humans when it gets a bit scary. It was too much to leave him all alone for a week. Beata tried arranging to leave him with a friend who lived close by but coincidentally she was also going away at the same time.

Sending Out an SOS

     I got a call one day asking me to look after Geshe while Beata was away. I was wary at first. Pusia hadn't been with me long and I didn't want her to feel threatened. I'd already had one incident with her which had resulted in a traumatic session at the vet. Geshe is a big cat. He's strong and he's already shown that he likes to try and rule the roost. He's constantly pushing Mru around and I feared that he'd try to do the same to Pusia. My poor, sweet, little cuddly and defenceless Pusia.

     I have to admit that I wasn't keen on the idea. It took a bit of convincing at first.

     "I'm sorry," I said, "but Geshe is too big and strong to come here with Pusia."

     "He'll be fine!" Beata said.

     "No he won't! He'll attack Pusia."

     "He'll be on strange territory. He'll be afraid of her!"

     I was dubious but I succumbed to Beata's wishes. It's a familiar scenario. I'm a man, after all.

Moving In

     The time came for Geshe to come and stay. Beata arrived and we got his cat transporter out of the car. We let him sit in it while Pusia came up and sniffed around. She was very wary. He was inside, hissing his head off at her. She seemed quite indifferent to the situation. Ha, I thought, you can be nonchalant while he's locked up behind bars. Wait until you meet him face to face!

     "Ah well," I said, "we'll just give them a bit of time to get used to each other!" It wasn't long before both cats were staking each other out from a distance and hissing unhappily. This didn't bode well. I had images running through my head of nursing Pusia at the vet having been attacked by Geshe.

     At first we put Geshe in the spare room and shut the door. He was uncertain of his surroundings. He's used to being let outside so he was also a bit frustrated. Pusia seemed to be distracted elsewhere and showed no interest in Geshe's taking up residence. I was relieved that she was out of harm's way.

Wolf In Sheep's Clothing

     We left it like that overnight and then the next morning I said,

     "OK! Let's let him out and see what they do."

     I fed Pusia and then, much to Pusia's surprise, I took an extra dish of food upstairs to the spare room. She followed me and watched me go into the room with some interest.

     Geshe devoured his food and was ready for a bit of exercise. Oh dear, I thought, he looks way too sprightly. But nevertheless I had a week ahead of me where the cats had to coexist. I thought, the sooner I start the process the better. As Geshe ate I opened the door and went out to sit with Pusia at the top of the stairs. If he attacked her I wanted to be close at hand to intervene.

     She sat patiently listening to him eating. She remained just out of sight around the corner. When he'd finished he immediately saw the door was open and we heard the click clack of feet approaching the doorway. Pusia tensed. I tensed. Geshe trotted happily onto the landing.

     Without any warning Pusia leapt at him full pelt! She landed on his back and one almighty struggled erupted as she rolled with him on the floor. Poor Geshe broke free and ran back to the relative security of the spare room where he hid under a desk, shaking. Pusia stared at him from a distance and growled angrily. My goodness, I thought. This is an interesting development!

     Suddenly the tables had been turned. Geshe was a shivering wreck in the corner of the room and Pusia was clearly targeting him as an intruder. This had not gone well and it didn't bode at all well for the coming week.

On Women

     Not for the first time in my life, all the important females I knew were displeased with me: Beata for letting the cats meet too soon; Pusia because I seemed to be protecting Geshe. Beata was leaving for Poland that evening and I wasn't at all confident about the situation!

     "It'll be fine!" she said. "Just leave him in the room and go in and play with him when you can." She reasoned with me  that a week was a short time for him to endure confinement if it kept him safe. The argument was pretty convincing but it was problematic for two reasons. 

     Firstly, if you ever met Geshe you'd realize what a truly adorable cat he is. To leave him alone in that room for so much of the day was heart rending. Every moment we spent playing together he loved the games and sprang everywhere energetically. Then every time I had to close the door on him his big golden eyes appealed to me for freedom that I couldn't grant him.

     The second reason was more complicated. Pusia had suddenly gone from quite a submissive cat to being a tigress who was prepared to draw blood in defence of her territory.

     She would take up high positions and watch my movements. Every time I fed her I'd use the distraction to take food to Geshe. Almost inevitably I'd come out of Geshe's room to find her eyeing me suspiciously at the top of the stairs.

     As the week went on Pusia began sniffing the door to Geshe's room. Occasionally she'd scratch at it and if I tried to comfort her with strokes she'd turn and hiss at me! This was not a situation to which I was accustomed.

     Gradually we got more used to the situation. But Geshe remained terrified of Pusia. Occasionally we'd be playing in the room and he'd hear her outside. He froze and looked at me with anguish that said "Help!" Every once in a while Pusia would go out on one of her hunting sprees. Beata had suggested I let Geshe out during this time so he could explore the house a bit. 

A Hunting We Will Go

     Having seen Pusia disappear over the hedge, and knowing this usually meant she'd be gone for over an hour, I went upstairs and opened Geshe's door. I had to give him lots of encouragement to come out but eventually he plucked up the courage to leave the room. Clearly he was suffering from post traumatic stress and he jumped at the slightest noise. The longer he stayed out the bolder he became and at last he ventured downstairs.

     It had only been about 10 minutes when I suddenly heard all hell break loose! The scene I walked in on in the kitchen was like something out of a Hitchcock movie. My windows are full length and Pusia, having returned early, had spied Geshe through the window from outside. He had been relaxing in the relative freedom of the kitchen. Unable to get at him, Pusia was hissing at the windows, following him from one to the next and looking as if she'd manage to break in! Geshe screamed and galloped upstairs to his room.

     Letting him wander was not a good idea. He'd only just reached the sanctity of his room and I'd only just closed the door when an agitated Pusia came tearing up the stairs and screeched to a halt at my feet. In a cartoon like scene she peered around my legs at the closed door and growled knowingly.

The Great Escape

     The week wore on and Pusia learnt to ignore the situation a bit better. Then on about day five of Geshe's internment I was lying on the sofa in the living room. Pusia had started to trust me again and so was lazing on top of me, purring happily. Suddenly she became alert and her ears mobilized. Such animation can only mean trouble.

     "What's up?" I asked. "Geshe's in his room. Your cat flap is locked so there can't be any feral cats. Everything's fine!" She remained in a state of agitation. "Come on!" I said. "Let's go and take a look."

     Pusia, for those of you who don't know this about some cats, is one of those who will follow me like a dog. Wherever I go she'll accompany me and sit contentedly in my company. We set off through the kitchen and climbed the stairs. Then with an all too familiar sense of dread that I'd experienced so many times that week I saw that Geshe's door was ajar. He'd managed to open it himself.

     Sure enough I looked down the landing to see his ginger form trotting towards me. It was a Matrix moment. I exclaimed, "Noooooo!" Pusia silently launched herself through the air like a deadly seek and destroy missile. Geshe, I'm sure, regretted ever having opened the door. Particle accelerator. That's what came to my mind at that moment. The resultant 'big bang' as these two felines met was certainly reminiscent of the predicted end of the world that was the likely result of even creating anti matter. Believe me, when two cats meet like this, it matters!

     Once again I found myself carrying out peace keeping duties and separating the rival cats. Not for the first time I saw a new side to Pusia that was vicious and quite frightening in its ability to inflict damage. It reminded me of the time that Timo attacked my neighbour's chickens and we pulled him away with feathers hanging from his mouth. The poor chuck didn't lay any eggs for a few weeks afterwards.

     Pusia was capable of removing a large amount of fur from Geshe's neck. He was well aware of this and made for his room the moment I managed to get him free.

Boarding School

     When Beata returned we joked that Geshe had a holiday with me. In truth, by the end of the week my house looked more like Alcatraz jail than a house. I had to place large pieces of wood on the lower half of the windows so that Pusia couldn't see Geshe. If she was outside and spotted him free indoors then it led to some uncomfortable situations. Her accusing looks reminded me of being caught smoking at school!

     As a safeguard I frequently had to lock her cat flap and frequently found her hissing through it when she wanted to come back in and found Geshe on the opposite side, wandering freely in the house. 

     The last indignity of all was that I had to wedge a plank of wood under the handle of the door to Geshe's room to stop him opening it and escaping. You couldn't help feeling sorry for him!

     Beata came home refreshed and happy. To be honest, that week is one that will haunt me for a long time. I think that Pusia has taken it all in her stride. She was very happy once Geshe had been repatriated to Kerry. Maybe it was just because she had me all to herself once again. But every now and again, from time to time, I see a look in her eyes that reminds me just who's really in control. That look says that this is her house, not mine.