March 26, 2006

The boys

Posted in The Cats at 5:17 pm by mamalu

We have two cats, collectively referred to as “the boys.” The older one, a black-and-white short-hair, has been with us for about four years. He was a stray who was hanging around the neighbourhood. Hanging around, I might add, not in a cringing hangcat kind of way, but sitting hopefully on people’s doorsteps. Our next-door neighbour took him in, and, since she has two dogs, proceeded to shop him around the neigbourhood. We were catless, following the death of Beatrix Potter-Cat*, so we adopted him and named him Wandering Aengus after the hero in the poem by Yeats with the marvellous closing lines:
“ And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.”

Wandering AengusGus has a tendency to stoutness (a fallout of the stray mentality of eating whatever and whenever he can), so he looks rather like a Kliban cat—broad of beam with little round marble eyes. He’s a hunter, and we have twice discovered decaptitated rats in the flower bed next to the front door (which have earned him the nickname Ratboy). He has a wide territory and is also a bit of a scrapper. He’s not a cuddly cat, but one of his most endearing characteristics is that he will roll onto his back and present his tummy to be scratched if he’s sitting out on the front door when you get home. I was rather crushed to find out from my husband, who has made a study of the cats since he retired, that Gus is quite indiscriminate about this and will roll on his back for pretty much anyone.

Travis McGeeWe acquired the other cat last July. We somehow got it into our heads that Gus would benefit from the company of another cat. This (as it turned out) misguided notion coincided with Gus’s annual visit to the vet who had taken in a mother cat and her kittens. The one we thought had the best chance of standing up to Gus had been named Travis by the staff. We didn’t particularly like the name, but it seemed a bit mean to change it, so we called him Travis McGee (McGee for short) after the John D. MacDonald hero.

McGee is a total charmer and has a remarkably sweet disposition, though after we decided to take him the staff variously pointed out how bad he was: “That Travis is trouble.” “He’s a meathead.” “He’s bad, but he’s handsome.” And from the vet: “Gus isn’t going to know what hit him.”

He will turn a year old around April 1, and we’re hoping that he will continue to have the sense of fun that colours everything he does. He likes to play—retrieving jingly balls and playing parachute when you make the bed. Gus knows only too well what hit him, but he has shown true nobility and has for the most part turned the other jowl, despite provocation and outright sass from McGee.

* BPC was a rather characterless long-haired tabby. I attribute her dullness to two things. She spent her first few weeks with us shut up in the basement until she was old enough for flea treatment (this was in the days before Program—or in the days before we knew of it). She also disappeared between November 11 and December 26 one year. It was either alien abduction or she got stuck in someone’s shed. She returned rail thin and easily spooked.