Before we had James, in fact before we were remotely ready to consider a child, we decided to share our life with a cat. We trundled off to our local vet who runs a cat adoption program and that’s where we were introduced to a ginger domestic long hair (cat version of a ‘bitsa’) that we were to name Keith.
So Keith had the run of the house for a good number of years before James came along. Such was his ownership of the facilities that Kylee and I often wondered whether we owned him or whether he was just gracing us with his presence.
When we brought Baby James home from the hospital we wondered how Keith would go with the new addition to the house. After all, in his mind, Keith was higher in the pecking order.
To the most part Keith wasn’t too interested in the new kid. Occasionally he would sniff at the little human in the bouncer as he walked by, even rarer he would lick the foot of the human as it dangled in the air. But to the most part life hadn’t changed too much for Keith.
That of course was never going to last forever.
As Baby James aged and his awareness of his surroundings developed, he came to realise that he not only shared the house with Kylee and me (the people who comforted him with food in the night) but there was another member of the house. From his seated positions on the lounge room floor Baby James would watch as Keith meandered from one sleeping location to another.
Sometimes as sign of his superiority (based upon his ability to move), Keith would swish his tail in Baby James’ face as he cruised past. However, sometimes as a portent of future exchanges, Keith would linger a little too long in Baby James sphere of influence and would come away from the meeting with a little less fluff on his tail.
As Baby James became mobile, we would often discover him setting a course in Keith’s direction. We still had little to worry about, as Keith not only possessed speed, and nimbleness, he was also blessed with the ability to put vertical distance between himself and his pursuer. He would look down with a yawn at Baby James on the floor as he lounged across the top of the sofa, safe in the knowledge that he could be on Everest, such was the logistical impossibility of Baby James scaling the 3 feet between them.
It would be interesting to read Keith’s blog (if he could type) to get his view of the period when Baby James learnt to pull himself to stand with the assistance of the furniture. For it was this great leap for mankind that put Keith’s safety on shakey ground.
Baby James now had legs. He could cruise around the lounge much quicker than his crawling allowed. And cats being cats, Keith was more interested to find his favourite snooze place. So, Baby James often surprised Keith with an ambush. He would slink around from the blind side and before Keith knew it, Baby James had a handful of tail as his trophy.
Now, Keith is certainly no Horse (for those who need a reminder or a point of reference, Horse is the tough cat from the Footrot Flats comics) but he wasn’t going to let a surprise attack go unchallenged. So, inevitably as an emboldened Baby James headed back for more fur samples, he often found his second foray was met with a swipe of claws across his hand. Which would then result in quick succession with the dropping of Baby James’ bottom lip, a tear (or tears) appearing in his eyes, a search for Daddy, followed up with a loud cry once Daddy was spotted in order for comforting first aid kisses to be administered. Stat.
As I type this account of Baby James and Keith’s fledgling relationship it occurs to me that you, the reader, might be thinking that I’m a bad parent for sitting back and watching these exchanges take place. Allow me to clarify. Keith was often removed before a situation could escalate. Fights between siblings are inevitable. Baby James was often informed of the possible consequences. And I was often home alone and in the kitchen preparing dinner when the events referred to happened. And anyways, things that happen to us should be turned into positive learning opportunities.
The learning for Baby James would seem obvious.
To the most part Baby James adheres to the Victorian maxim of look but don’t touch (clearly we neglected to inform him that children should be seen and not heard) when it comes to Keith. He has even taken to extending gestures of goodwill to Keith in order to ‘BFF’ the relationship.
These days James will put forward his own food and drink as peace offerings. But, occasionally he forgets that he is dealing with a wild animal and the ginger ninja strikes with speed and accuracy as a reminder to James of the previously learned life lesson. And it’s left to me to put it in human language … Hey Kid, Don’t Mess With the Cat!