Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Old Cat's Song

Father Phillips Brooks:
The earth has grown old with its burden of care
But at Christmas it always is young,
The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair
And its soul full of music breaks the air,
When the song of the angels is sung.

Our old cat Panzi (nearly nineteen) has a sad little song she sometimes sings.  It has three notes to the bar and a descending pattern.  It starts loud, then softens as it descends four – sometimes five - bars.  WAW-a-WAW (pause), waw-a-weh (pause, a minor note on the  “weh”), weh-a-weh (pause), weh-a-weh (pause), weh-a-weh (very softly).  A sad little tune, sung perhaps as often as four times a day.  Breaks my heart to hear it – but: is she really sad?  Impossible to know.  She has another very loud “Yeow!” that sounds as if she’s been stepped on or has been struck by a pain in her tummy, but if you go look for her, she’s sitting calmly by herself and again there is no evidence of meaning in it.  I’ve been told this is old-cat senility.  On the other hand, she will climb into our bed at night, and sometimes in the morning when she thinks I ought to be awake, and comes to rest on my chest wanting to be stroked and scratched.  Sometimes she will exhale a brief, breathy purr.

Meanwhile Snaps has discovered walking on a leash.  He has been trying for a couple of months – and he’s done this before – to escape out our front door into the hallway, where he evades capture an aggravatingly long time.  So last time I caught him just in time, and having a few minutes, I slipped an old collar and leash onto him and let him out.  (The collar and leash once belonged to another cat who would walk outdoors on it and I’m not sure why I kept it.)  He loves it!  He walks around very calmly, sniffing at other folks’ doors for five or ten minutes, then sits looking at me until I pick him up and bring him home.  He won’t let me lead him, but stays close when we’re walking.  I complained to someone about the way he falls over when I try to lead him, and she said, “No, you’re the one heeling.”  And it’s true!  Residents who come across us on our walks think I’m so very clever training a cat to walk on a leash, when the truth is, he’s the one who has trained me.

Here’s a very charming story from Monday’s Washington Post (I hope this link works):

Christmas is a mere three days away, the anticipation is wonderful.  Friends coming on Friday, we’re going to family on Saturday.  Gifts galore!  Penny ante poker New Year’s Eve, a carol party New Year’s Day, an SCA event called Twelfth Night January 9.  We learned years ago you can’t cram all this anticipation into one huge, exhausting Day, and so spread it out the whole twelve days and in this case a little beyond.  Remember Good King Wenceslas on December 26 and sing “We Three Kings” on the Twelfth Day, January 6.  But if you don’t celebrate Christmas, or are sick of it already, be patient, on December 26 Christmas will vanish from the airwaves and the stores will suddenly appear heaped with Valentine’s Day stuff.


Anonymous said...

The "cat song" sounds interesting.

Monica Ferris said...

I wish I could have warning when she's going to sing, so I could record it. It's the same song every time, very touching. Maybe I could get one of the two people I know who write as well as sing to make a little melody of it.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Hugs to both your kitties, and enjoy your walks!

Anonymous said...

Could you have Sophie start singing it in one of your future books?

Monica Ferris said...

I've been thinking about Sophie lately. She's obese and no longer young - but can you imagine the outcry if I start her down the trail to her grave? OTOH, cats and dogs don't live as long as we do, which is about their only fault. (Except Snaps' extraordinarily stinky poo.)

Betty Hechtman said...

I've tried the cat on a leash a couple of times and it never worked. We let our cat out into our backyard. He gotten old enough that he has no desire to jump over the fence or escape to the wide world. and when we call him, he comes right in. I think he might have forgotten hie's a cat and thinks he's a dog.

Monica Ferris said...

Betty, sometimes I wonder if Snaps doesn't think he's a dog. He comes quickly to greet me when I come home, standing on his hind legs to brace one forepaw above my knee and reaching with the other for my face to ask for a stroke. And no matter where I am in the apartment, or where he is, if I call him, he will come. And now this walking on a leash business. Cats are centuries behind the dog in the evolution of their domestication, but still, they are on their way. Snaps learned breathtakingly swiftly what "Want to go for a walk?" means. So I think they're smart, they're just not as motivated to please us as the dogs are.