There is a morning ritual among the bipedal hominids in our house that we refer to as making the bed. Our cats are of two opinions regarding this practice, and the schools of thought on the matter seem evenly divided.
On the one hand, there are those who see the exercise as an interruption of their morning routine; even vandalism of a sort. They have just settled into the warm, comfortable nest of bedding that their silly humans have vacated, and now those same foolish creatures return to rearrange the comfortable jumble which they themselves were no longer enjoying. In the process of doing so, they disturb the tranquility of any and all felines invested therein. This is the assessment of the older cats, who abhor the making of the bed.
On the other side of the argument are the kittens, who have infiltrated the same tangled pile of linen, but do not sleep. Bright-eyed and quivering, like children on Christmas Morning, fur bristling and tails a-wag, they slip crazily into the hollows and out of the caverns formed of the sheets, throws and comforters. Their excitement and anticipation are electric. They are waiting for the Blanket Ride.
Cats are not pack animals like dogs, but neither are they solitary, hermetic creatures. When food, safety and reproduction are not in dispute, they are quite sociable, and they will form into colonies. In a territory as small and crowded as our two-bedroom apartment, they have no choice. Here, community is imposed upon them.
Of course, there is the matter of hierarchy. When kittens are born, their mother's will is their law. As they grow, they play and squabble until they have established their own proper stations. So it is in the homes that they will come to share with us monkeys. We too have rules, doctrines and practices that the sensible cat or kitten must learn to respect, or, at least, to violate surreptitiously.
The Tall Lady and I would like to believe that the hierarchy in our home issues from us, but in point of fact, it begins with our four year-old adopted cats, the Flying Fellini Sisters. Xena is our big, perfect cat and her sister Gabrielle is the little, odd one. They accept the burden of foster kittens under the strongest of protests, and have become notorious as the kittens' grumpy aunties. They have despised and terrorized every kitten we have brought into our home. Surprisingly enough, all of the kittens love Brie - she of the snarl, the hiss and the heavy paw - but they worship Xena. They will follow her everywhere, braving her haughty disdain and trying to prove themselves worthy to learn her secrets.
This time, though, the balance is shifted. Our new foster cats do not live merely in the terrible shadow of Aunt Nasty and Auntie Grouchy. Sumi and her babies are learning about community under the gentle, kind and patient tutelage of seven month-old Bianca. All four have come to love and trust her, and she adores all of them. She is Sumi's little sister, and the smaller kittens' other mother.
Still, the kittens are little, and mistakes are made. After she had enjoyed the Blanket Ride yesterday morning, Bianca settled down at the foot of our newly-made bed for her early nap. Little, sleepy Sachi, with eyes hardly open yet, stumbled down to join her and nuzzled into the long, silky fur of the bigger kitten's neck.
As I left the bedroom, there was a loud, surprised squawk behind me. I turned to see poor, shocked Bianca struggling to pry loose the four month-old foster sister, who had latched on to one of her nipples, and was trying in vain to pull a pint.
Another lesson learned, I suppose. You get to choose your friends, but with family, y'gotta take what you're given.
To donate to
the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association