by Rebecca McLeod
Rebecca starts a new series of stories about her cats.
Cast of characters:
Tikky: A suave 15.5 lb black tomcat with green eyes. Not as smooth as he thinks he is. Timid. Confirmed bachelor. Tuna addict.
Babycat: A badass little black female cat with unholy glowing yellow eyes. Only eight pounds, but the undisputed ruler of the Fleming/McLeod household. Has a soft spot for Floppy the kitten.
Floppy: A goofy little tabby and white kitten with a ringed tail (the other cats tell him that his father was a raccoon). Not a deep thinker, but an enthusiastic doer.
Tikky, the big black cat waited for the mail. He was of the minds that by doing all the things dogs traditionally do (fetching slippers and mail; licking faces; following the humans from room to room); he postponed the possibility of them getting an actual disgusting, slobbery dog. It wasn’t too difficult – I mean, dogs weren’t known for their exceptional brainpower – and he could nap in a sunbeam while he waited for the mail to pop through the slot.
At about three in the afternoon, the mail slot opened.
“Heya Big Fella,” called the mailman, peering through at the cat. Tikky blinked politely, and tried to ignore the teasing tone. 15.5 lbs was perfectly respectable.
Babycat, who was sleeping on the giant cat tree, snickered.
“Hey Marshmellow, hey Butterball Turkey Dogcat, Labradoodle!” she called down at him, careful not to speak loudly and wake Floppy the kitten. No one wanted a repeat of last night.
Tikky’s ears flattened. Babycat was, well, a word he didn’t dare to say. She might have been only half his size, but she’d lived out on the street for several months and done…things. Floppy said that she’d killed a coyote and eaten it (she’d shown him the tail); she had connections to the Russian mob; and some of the moves she used when beating up Tikky were easily recognizable as martial arts adaptations for the feline form.
Tikky had been on the street too – they’d all been strays. Babycat had been feral for several months, Floppy had been lost for a couple days, and Tikky had been on the street for exactly twenty minutes before the SPCA came to pick him up. He was so happy to see them that he hopped into the truck on his own, turning himself in for the comfort of regular meals and a clean litter box. During those twenty minutes, he had been harassed by obnoxious prairie dogs, terrified by passing cars, and a homeless person had tried to make a pair of gloves out of him. It was October in Saskatchewan (snow already thick on the ground), and so this was understandable, but still far too much for his delicate sensibilities.
He’d been Mom and Dad’s only cat for nearly nine months – their firstborn, and he’d been spoiled rotten, although horrified to learn that he’d be living with a group of rats. The rats had their own homes – he would have called them “cages” – but the rats cheerfully insisted that they could get out any time they really wanted to, and that the cages were closer to luxury condos. Certainly they had hammocks, toys, exercise wheels, and he suspected they had their own televisions and he knew that the Boys’ Cage had a Jacuzzi.
Then, in early August, things changed. Dad was taking out the trash one day and he heard a plaintive “yew, yew” from the fence by their apartment building. He dumped the trash and then came back to take a look. It was a tiny black female cat – hardly more than a kitten – with big amber yellow eyes and huge ears like sails. She carried her long tail in a question mark crook and trotted up to him, purring and rubbing around his ankles. No collar.
“Wait right there, little girl,” he asked, running up the four flights of stairs to ask Mom if he could bring this little cat in to feed her and help her go to a rescue if no one owned her. Mom said that he should know by now that she could never say no to an animal.
Dad rushed back down the stairs with Mom and the cat carrier. The little black cat was still waiting there, and “yew”ed politely at Mom too. Mom picked her up and put her in the carrier. They took her upstairs and put her in the bathroom with food and water so that “Tikky wouldn’t beat her up.” All the rescues were full, so with one thing leading to another, eventually Tikky heard the “Tikky, come meet your new sister” speech after about a week of hearing the strange cat in the bathroom. He looked at her, five pounds of little female cat, and hissed, figuring he’d better set the record straight: this was HIS family and no hussy was going to horn in on his action.
The little female cat narrowed her yellow eyes, arched her back, and delivered a growl that sounded like something a primeval sabre-tooth would make. She leaned in.
“If you jack this up for me, I WILL CUT YOU,” she snarled. Tikky’s eyes went wide and he backed up quickly. No doubt if she’d met the same homeless man that he had, she would have made gloves out of him.
“Welcome to the family,” he managed. She smiled, and sauntered away to eat out of his bowl. That was Babycat – named so because she was the baby of the family. Privately, Tikky thought it was because she ate babies.
November that same year (2013), Dad got ready to leave Mom so that he could start his work in the States. Mom said she wasn’t worried at all (she was worried) and Babycat and Tikky did their best to make her feel better. About a week before Dad left, he was again down in the parking lot, taking out the trash – he did this a lot because Mom hated this chore. He heard the saddest sound in the world, a very young kitten crying at the top of his lungs.
“I need an adult!” howled the kitten from his hiding place by a set of old tires and a replacement door. Dad didn’t bother asking Mom – he ran upstairs, grabbed the cat carrier, and came back down. Behind the door he could see a little ball of matted white fur. He set down the carrier and opened the door.
“C’mere, little guy, let me take you somewhere much warmer.” The little kitten peered up at him, then hopped into the carrier and sat down. That was Floppy. Even after feeding him for a week, at the vet’s he only weighed 2.5 lbs. Tikky had expected that Babycat would eat Floppy for dinner one night, but her motherly side kicked in, and she raised the kitten as her own. Later, Tikky realized that this was because whenever things came to a vote, Floppy would always vote the same way as Babycat.
Tikky began pawing through the mail. Bills went on Dad’s desk; political ads went in the litter box; coupons went on Mom’s desk; and Mom’s credit card statements went in Mom’s craft basket under everything else (Mom loved her retail therapy to her detriment). As he sorted the mail, a postcard fell out of the folds of a grocery flier. Tikky frowned. On the front of the card were…rats. Rats at a luau with leis and Hawaiian shirts. He flipped the card over and got chills.
In very small writing, the card read: See you soon!
Check out some of Rebecca’s rat stories in KRL’s rodent ramblings section.