Her words are measured and parsed, quietly and only at the appropriate times. If there’s too much noise in the room, you might not even hear her. Athena speaks softy. She is tidy, thoughtful and methodical. Every move is calculated, purposeful and intended. She meant to do it. Athena plans carefully.
Unless she’s chasing her sister through the house. I didn’t know that tiny cat paws can sound like a herd until Athena and her sister Dawn joined our family. They thunder, the two of them, I swear. They barely weight a dozen pounds put together; I think there must be some kind of physics anomaly relating to the ratio of cat size to noise creation. Maybe there’s a physicist out there who will make a discovery about the nature of the universe and the time space continuum by studying cats.
Athena is curious. I know, that’s expected for cats. When Jasper and Lilah come running to the door to great us (or the UPS guy), Athena is right with them. Only she’s not wagging her tail. She just Wants to Know. But she wants to know about Everything. What’s in the box? Who’s at the door? What’s in the cabinet? What are the dogs barking at? What’s in the drawer? Why does the vacuum cleaner make that loud noise? What are you doing? Who are all these people? Is that food?
If there’s food involved, that's Very Important because it probably is meant as a snack for Athena. Actually, all food is really hers; you just haven’t realized that yet. And by “you,” she means anyone including 2-legged and 4-legged creatures.
Athena was named after the goddess of war and and wisdom. She has a spare, Egyptian look about her. Her color is similar to Dawn’s, though she is all dilute tortoiseshell instead of a combination of tortoiseshell and tabby. White, gray, orange, tan, gold and other colors are scattered throughout her fur, with one lovely splotch on one half of her chin, giving her an almost harlequin look.
Our first cats, Dawn and Athena are teaching us many things about felis catus, including how different two sisters can be, in looks, attitude and action. Dawn and Athena, part of our family since August 2010, have taught Jasper and Lilah to not only tolerate them, but to actually like them. Humans, cats, dogs: they are all members of the pack.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
“Mep.” That’s what Dawn says all the time. It’s an all-purpose word. It can mean, “Feed me.” It can mean, “I need a lap.” It can also be physical punctuation--a sound that adds emphasis as she lands on the chair, then the bench, then the bookshelf. And I’ve also heard it used as a curse word--actually, a string of them--when being sent to bed in the basement, unwillingly. With each step down the stairs, Dawn says, “Mep.” As in “Mep mep mep. MEP mep mep mep MEP!” I don’t need a cat/human dictionary to translate; I’m not even sure I’d want to.
Until Dawn came to live with us, I thought cats said, “meow.” Or maybe, “mew.” But “mep?” Now her vocabulary has expanded and there are many words, but to be honest, rarely a full fledged, field grown, 2nd-grade reader “meow.” There is “row,” “reeow,” and often just “meh.” Once, when it looked like she was about to climb up my left leg to get to the kitchen counter, I informed her that she would be a very sorry kitty indeed if she actually attempted the feat, as I had a water squirter in my hand and she would surely feel my wrath, she answered, with a tone of awe, “Wow!”
Imagine a dawn or a dusk with dark grey clouds as well as white puffy ones, and yellow and orange sun streaks through them. That’s the inspiration for Dawn’s name. When we first brought Dawn and Athena home, I went online to learn the correct words to describe their colors. Dawn is a combination tortoiseshell and tabby. However, she’s very light, which I’ve seen referred to as grey or blue. This makes her a dilute tortoiseshell tabby. Or for short, a dilute torby.
Dawn is a funny cat. Quirky. She “begs” for her dinner, standing up on her hind legs, with her front paws hanging down; she looks like a meerkat. I will admit when she started doing it, I encouraged it, so now it’s part of the feeding routine. But the two-circle spin that must accompany “kitteh nom” time routine was not my idea. Two spins, clockwise before every meal.
Like many cats Dawn likes to hide, and has the most satisfied look on her face when she thinks she’s hidden so well you can’t see her. Of course, most times she’s quite visible. She’s a great hunter too, as many a stink bug can attest. Well, at least those that survived the pouncing and batting and general kitten hunt activities. And she’s good at hunting her own tail; it always seems to sneak up on her.
Dawn and Athena, whom we adopted through Lifeline Animal Rescue, are our family’s first experience with cats, so we’ve had a crash course in all things feline. Sisters, they joined our menagerie in August 2010, and are now fully integrated into the group, nuzzling the dogs, trying to eat their food, and chasing dog balls. All four animals love to watch the birdies from our family room; often you'll see cats and dogs hanging out together on the bench by the window, tails and noses twitching, and each one of them sure that he or she will get one.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Jasper Fforde. As for Mr. Jasper, he truly is a handsome, striking dog. Luckily he can't understand what people say about him or he'd become quite vain.
Lilah, Jasper came to us from a kill shelter in Louisiana, through Husky House, and a local foster parent. Jasper and Lilah view themselves as brother and sister, though they obviously came from different litters. (Lilah is about a month and a half older than Jasper; our best guess at Jasper's birthday is late May of 2009.)