There is an old saying known to every one to the effect that: 'When the Cat's away, the Mice will play.' I always felt that it was a statement that referred to an abatement of the natural and very logical cowardice and consequent dampening of the spirits of the mice in the presence of their predators. When the Cat no longer is sensed, the Mice can run amok or celebrate, dance and sing or do whatever it is that Mice long to do but seldom can.
The owner of the house in which I live is gone for a couple of days and I therefore have unrestricted access to the spacious kitchen on the upper floor. The prospect excited me most for the sake of the Puttikins who usually are forced to live in a rather small and shabby space with me on the ground floor.
The Puttikins' Holiday has not been an unqualified success. They say that prisoners become comfortable in their cells and often cannot stand the prospect of freedom. Those who are accustomed to small, enclosed spaces often are distressed when confronted with wide, unrestricted places or open skies. It is a sad fact and one that can be applied to Cats as well as human beings.
I have been able to do very little work of any kind or even eat a proper meal since I began 'Operation Air-Lift Puttikins'. I bring them up the stairs one by one to deposit them in the kitchen. I cannot carry more than one at a time. Inevitably, the first one to arrive cries piteously and loudly, standing at the door, poised to hurtle out of the room, until the next one arrives.
Even with two or three of them in the room, the response is not positive at first. They agitate one another, crying and pacing. Even the one that was introduced to the kitchen previously on a few occasions finds the atmosphere of general paranoia contagious.
They wail and rant at me, begging to be taken back into their 'cell' with their comrades. It does not matter how I respond. I can talk to them until I am blue in the face and they do not become more resigned to their temporary freedom. I can set out any number of delicacies and they will spurn or ignore them completely. Even the addition of one of their old litter boxes has not given them any sense of security.
The worst offender has been Pumpkin, oddly enough. I had no idea that he had become such a coward. When brought here alone, he wailed horribly even though I held him and caressed him constantly. Any noise at all, whether the firing up of the air conditioner in the wall or a tiny sound when the house shifted sent him into a paroxym of terror.
After an hour of complete and unrelenting agony for both of us, I surrendered to his stubborn fears and took him downstairs again.
This morning, I had to clean one of the Tiny Babies in the half-bath on the same floor as the kitchen. After doing so, I left her here while I fetched Ash, her father. Ash, who once was so paranoid that he feared his own newborn offspring, now demonstrates far more calmness than most of my feline family. He was one of the first to be brought to the kitchen as well when the door closed behind the owner. Yet, when little Iseult of the White Paw began to wail, he joined her in a duet.
The entire day has been spent with this sort of nonsense. After importing Apollodoro once Iseult and Ash became inured to the new space, I decided to bring Pumpkin back for an encore. Once again, his piteous wails rose to the heavens...
I took him into the little half-bath for a combing and while on my lap there, he became still at last. When I began to carry him back to the kitchen, he leapt from my arms to race back into the bathroom. The three other Cats followed with lightning speed.
The half-bath is far smaller than the ordinary space in which they live. There is no room in there even to swing the proverbial cat. All four Cats packed themselves into the room like sardines and for the first time in two days, they looked utterly content.
I surrendered and left them there. I think part of the struggle, apart from the terror, was due to the natural stubborn nature of the Cat. They are not obedient. They do things in their own way, in their own time.
Here comes Ash at last, sauntering out of the tiny water closet to leapt onto the chair next to mine. He is licking my hand now... No doubt the others, discovering that they have won a great victory against me, will follow sooner or later. By that time, however, I shall be obliged to take them downstairs again so we all can go to bed for the night.