Monday, July 20, 2015

COPY CAT 1 -- Splotch

Guest post by Jean Lorrah

It's only a month since my Zen cat, Dudley, died, but in that time the behavior of my other two cats has changed. 

The cat that Dudley adopted, Splotch, is still somewhat bewildered. At eight years old, Splotch is a big, strong, beautiful animal, sweet to people but a bully to dogs and other cats. He is quite vocal, with an unusual gravelly meow. 

He is a certified therapy cat, but doesn't have the patience Dudley had. Every time he meets a new dog in the program, he is not satisfied until he boxes that dog's ears. No claws come out, but he has to show each dog that he's the boss. After that he's happy to be friends. 

Splotch came to us as a half-grown kitten, so he probably can hardly remember life without Dudley--and of course Dudley was his parent figure, mentor, and tutor all his life. He was used to Dudley going away with me and not coming home for days at a time when we traveled, and later when he had to stay overnight or longer at the animal hospital. Splotch was secure--Dudley always came home to him. 

But when this time Dudley didn't come home from the vet's within a few days, Splotch started looking for him, quickly realizing that he was not hiding inside the house. It was out in the garage that Dudley taught Splotch to hunt mice and crickets. 

One of Dudley's favorite parts of the garage was the loft, which is low enough for a cat to jump into from the top of the car. Splotch always preferred staying on the car roof while Dudley napped in the loft. There were occasions through the years when either Dudley fell so sound asleep up there that he didn't hear me calling, or else he just didn't want to come down and come inside when Splotch did. So in his hunt for Dudley, Splotch insisted on going out to the garage. 

It was a busy day, and I had to open the garage door a couple of times to get at tools and gardening equipment. Around dinner time I realized I hadn't seen Splotch for hours, and wondered if he had gotten out sometime during the day. 

Normally when he gets outside, Splotch goes to the south side of the house and huddles under the bushes either until I come looking for him or until twilight, when he comes up on the porch and cries to be let in. However, twice over the years Splotch has disappeared completely, only to return drunk as the proverbial skunk. He loves and responds to catnip, so I've never been sure whether there is a patch of catnip back in the woods, or if perhaps someone is growing some wacky weed. 

The last time Splotch got into whatever it is was last summer, when he didn't come home at twilight, or when I gave the dogs their bedtime walk. Worried about him, I didn't sleep well, so when the dogs alerted me after midnight I went outside--and sure enough I heard Splotch calling from two houses down the street. 

I keep a light on my driveway, and my neighbors light their front yard, so I could see Splotch approaching. He strolled in a devil-may-care way under their trees--but every few steps he would LEAP into the air, four or five feet high. Then he would stroll a few more feet and LEAP again. Oh, my, but he was intoxicated! But he finally made his way home, and slept off his hangover. 

So when I couldn't find him the day he went looking for Dudley, I wondered if he had decided to go off and find something to make him feel better. If he had, I knew he would come home, but at bedtime I decided to check the garage once again. This time when I called him he answered--from Dudley's hiding place in the loft. 

He came down, came inside, and wanted lap time. At 14 pounds, Splotch is quite a lapful! It was clear Splotch had finally accepted that Dudley was gone, and he both needed comforting and wanted to comfort me. Since then he has been trying to figure out his new place in the house. 

Dudley was a floor cat, and now I frequently find Splotch sleeping in Dudley's favorite spots on the floor instead of his own favorites on the couch, the back of my chair, and the top of the bookcase. One evening I was watching television when Splotch did something he had never done before: he jumped up on top of the cable box and began attacking the TV screen, trying to catch some horses running through the picture! 

That was an argument I had had with Dudley a hundred times, especially during the Olympics when he always tried to catch divers or figure skaters. Then he would sit on the cable box with his tail hanging in front of the electric eye, so I couldn't change the channel--which Splotch now proceeded to do. And finally Dudley would settle down among the wires between the cable box and DVR and the wall, where Splotch finished off that evening. He had never, ever been up on the TV table before. 

 Splotch apparently decided the TV table was no fun, as he has not gone back there since. He has also repented refusing to make friends with Blue, and keeps approaching her to no avail. I hope she will make up with him as he works out that he is now senior cat in our house, and it's time to grow up.

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