You may have heard that cats have issues with territory.
Hm. It might be more accurate to say that, when territory’s at issue, each cat is a cranky old guy with a farmer’s tan, sitting on the edge of his farm, atop a pile of hay, brandishing a sawed-off shotgun and snarling, “Get offa ma land, ya hear?”
The last thing I expected, upon my return from vacation, was to find a turf war in my little corner of the Community Room.
No, I’m lying. The last thing I expected to find was Richard Simmons and Gene Simmons dancing the mazurka in sparkly purple leotards while singing about Captain Crunch.
But the second-to-last thing I expected was a heated turf war.
Apparently, when you leave your land for a few days, interlopers encroach. Matter of fact, if I had an automatic translator for Webster‘s anxious meows when I returned, it would have him shouting, “Encroachment! Encroachment! Mom! Mom! Mom! Do something!”
But being a foolish human bean, I didn’t have any idea what he was talking about. Silly me, I thought he wanted some “missed-you” hugs and mooshes. (Well, he did. But that was secondary.) Silly dangerously daft me, I thought it would be a fine idea to pick him up and plop him back on his desk, our desk.
That’s about the time the sawed-off shotgun came out.
“Meoooooooww!” Webster was…ticked.
“Whatza matter, baby?” I asked. His eyes widened, and he leapt off the desk, storming off in a huff.
Webby? In a huff? But…why?
Each time I went to retrieve him, he was happy to cuddle and purr with me anywhere in the Community Room…except for his longtime territory, his/my/our desk. I’ve never believed that cats “punish” their humans – not even when we commit major infractions like daring to disappear for a few days – so I couldn’t fathom that he was mad at me.
He wasn’t. He’d just seen something that couldn’t be unseen.
Being human – and, therefore, much slower-on-the-uptake than even the daftest cat – it took me hours to see it myself. Not that it was entirely my fault.
Encroachment was just inches away from my face…but blocked by a big, fat computer monitor. Around lunchtime, I was suddenly shocked by a sight that registers just below that Richard-and-Gene-Simmons duet on the shockometer: a calico. On my desk. Chirping.
It turns out this saucer-eyed lady had been lolling behind my monitor all morning – and, as I’m told, all week last week.
Encroachment bears a name, and it is…Chickadee.
The story goes something like this: when our newest cat with cerebellar hypoplasia (that’s 1, 2, 3, 4 CH babies, if you’re keeping track) cleared from Quarantine, Danielle knew where she was headed. The least-wobbly of the weebles, mildly-affected Chickadee still set off Danielle’s swoon button – our Sanctuary Operations Manager has a soft spot the size of Asia for CH cats, and Chickadee was no exception. So, naturally, Chickadee would be moving to the Community Room – and, hopefully, to Danielle’s desk.
That’s where things got a little funky. Apparently, when I wasn’t here, Webster didn’t want anything to do with my desk. (As someone put it, “it’s like he said, ‘that desk is dead to me.'”) He staked out a claim with Danielle, leaving the shaky new calico to find a vacancy…
…and that’s how we got today’s turf war.
In all fairness, Chickadee hasn’t so much as hinted at raising a ruckus. She’s as happy as a bluebird in a suet sea just snoozing behind that computer monitor, only to poke out her pretty head every so often and chirp. Well…and nosh on someone else’s noshes.
Someone tabby. Someone not keen on all this encroachment.
But we must salute Webster (which we do every day around here – nay, every hour): he’s been disgruntled but obliging of the newcomer. Rather than hissing or itchin’ and agitatin’, Webby has just meowed plaintively and jumped off my desk. His desk.
Over and over and over again.
I’m as Chickadee-smitten as the rest of the humans here, but my loyalties are unwavering. So, roughly 157 times, I gently lowered the interloper to the floor, to a cozy bed on someone else’s desk, to a nice little nook. I would have paid her fare for a summer-long excursion to Paris, if it would have eased Webster’s agita.
But, as the old song goes, the cat came back.
I can’t take it personally or feel too flattered by Chickadee’s persistence about living on my desk. After all, she’s far more interested in the tiny, triangular corner behind my computer monitor than in me. (She’s clearly got an eye for HGTV-worthy design; that corner is home to a neglected tower of writable CDs and a few dozen dust bunnies, plus about 450 metric tons of Webster-fur.)
Then again, she’s got a goofy, giddy, licky side that’s sweeter than any birdsong, and she’s not afraid to use it. Just when I was about to gently relocate Chickadee for the 158th time, she poked her pretty head into my hand, rubbing and purring madly, and gave me those baby-kitten eyes.
And then she licked me.
Fortunately, the winter summer of Webster’s discontent seems to be fast ending, even if the interloper isn’t going anywhere. This just might be a two-cat desk before the week is out. At this late hour, Webster is - somewhat hesitantly – back in his rightful throne. So long as he doesn’t let his glass-green peepers peek behind the monitor, he’s okay. His world makes sense.
So can the long-opposed “cat people” and “bird people” ever get along? Let’s consider this an experiment. And let’s hope – even if it’s against hope – that Webby and the new bird-girl of Ringoes may be the ones doing the mazurka before the first leaves fall.