Monday, December 22, 2008

Encounters of a third kind

I am currently in a house with 6 cats, 2 dogs, and five other humans besides me.

The power struggles between the cats are interesting largely because they are so subtle. A stranger would think all the cats are getting along just fine, but they aren't looking close enough. True, each cat's doing his/her own thing--Pope's on the rug in the living room, Bea's on the table in the dining room, Callie's under the guest bed, Toby's dozing on the in-law's bed, Burt's on the chair in the basement, and Delta is sleeping in the closet downstairs--but they are missing those rare encounters where these seemingly laid-back animals display their ferocious, mostly hidden, natures.

When they move through the house, it's mostly uneventful, or so it seems. Except for the alert ears, the penetrating eyes, the deliberate cold shoulders, the twitching tails, one would think the cats are fine in each other's presence. But then an encounter happens, explosive, shocking, over as quick as it began: a yowl, a BAM-BAM-BAM of a paw against another cat's head, fur on end, fangs bared. Then something is decided (we humans don't know what the outcome was) and the cats return to their docile selves, ignoring each other, going their own way.

Who was the victor? Who gave way? We'll never know.

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