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Friday, November 9, 2012

Cats I Have Known Part One:Kliban

It is impossible that the cat was holding me still with its claws while
I ran in place, but that is the way I remember it.
If you've known as many cats as I have, you will realize that there are cats who take to you right away and cats that are stand-offish and skittish: cats who evince outright fear or dislike and whom you must win over with time and patience.  Our first cat, Kliban, fell into this category.

Kliban, a former stray, had been given to us by our real-estate agent after we bought our first house.  He was a big orange fluffy cat and we named him Kliban after the cartoonist.  Not that the namesake was orange and fluffy so far as I know, but he was famous for his book Cat, that helped ignite an entire cat craze of the '80's (You don't remember Kliban?  Look him up on the internet.)

Once installed in the Martin abode, however, Kliban did not seem fully at ease.  There seemed something lacking to make his contentment complete.  He hid under the bed and glared out from behind the dust-ruffle with his yellow eyes, and if you peeked in at him, he made a rrow sound in a rising and falling note that clearly said in Cat-talk, "I have extremely sharp claws and teeth and won't hesitate to use them should, say, someone's hand be unwise enough to stick itself under the bed at me."  The part about the claws was pure bluff because a previous owner had de-clawed Kliban, but the teeth part was accurate enough.

Nancy and I pondered.  How could we make kitty feel more at home.  Nancy suggested if we let Kliban outside to explore his surroundings, he might relax a bit.  Moreover, unless he came out from under the bed, sooner or later he was bound to poop there, which was an incident better avoided.

So we let him outside, and by let him, I mean put him, nor he did not relish being scooped out from under the bed and carried to the door.  Once outside he promptly ran off and disappeared.  This is the great drawback of stray cats.  They frequently continue to stray.  No good to say to them, "Your straying days are over, Feline Friend, for here you have a home."  If a cat chooses to stray, stray he does, and there's no stopping him.

The cat had been in our possession less than an hour and we'd already lost him.  Nancy and I searched for him.  You should know that our yard had an ivy-covered gully in the front yard with a stream running through it.  There were also numerous pine trees and azalea bushes.  In short, a multitude of places for a cat to hide. Orange, however, is not a color that blends against the background.  After only a short look, Nancy announced, "There he is!"

I crouched in the ivy as close as I could get to the cat, speaking in calming tones.  There are questions, however, no matter how innocently asked and how pleasantly voiced, that will make the hearer jump up with a startled shout.  Nancy's question at this juncture, "Honey, what does poison ivy look like?" was just such a question.  My response to this query startled Kliban, and he was gone again.

We next spotted the cat in question sitting in plain view on top of a neighbor's car.  Nancy and I crossed the street, and I approached carefully, uttering reassuring kitty-kitties.  What Kliban thought about having been released a few minutes ago and then instantly retrieved, we did not wonder.  Just as I reached out to give him a comforting scratch behind the ear, the better to win his confidence, he jumped off the roof of the car and behind a brick wall into our neighbor's back yard.

I went through the gate to get him, and this time he allowed me to pick him up.  I will not say he was calm, but rather watchful.  Wary.  He seemed to be a cat who was monitoring developments closely and meanwhile considering his next move.  When I passed him over the brick wall to Nancy, he made it.  He set up a rrow-rrow-rrow like the approach of a distant siren, and claws extended from all his feet at once.  It is impossible that as Nancy tried to unpin the cat from me, I was actually running in place, unable to pull free from those little fish-hooks with which cat's paws are equipped, but this is how I recall it, and certainly how it felt.

In any case, I distinctly remember Nancy asking, "Is he clawing you with his front claws or his back claws?  Because our cat doesn't have front claws."

We had gone after the neighbor's cat.

We later learned our neighbor had watched the entire procedure from behind the safety of her kitchen curtain, afraid to intervene; after all, if these uncouth ruffians come after a mere cat, what would they do to her?  And besides, she reasoned, quite correctly as it turned out, her cat could take care of itself.

When we returned to the house - somewhat bloodied and shaken, I - Kliban was waiting sweetly for us at the kitchen door.  Some change had taken place in his attitude.  We had braved poison ivy, and sharp curved claws for his sake.  We had frightened and possibly permanently estranged our neighbor.  All for him.
Kliban had found a home.

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