I’ve been blogging on Fridays about Tajji, our newly-adopted retired seeing eye dog, all the training we’re doing with her, how she’s recovering from the stress of many years of service. The cats have played no small role in helping her to adjust, and she in turn has provided them with interest and amusement.
“What’s that? Oh, you’ve brought us a dog to play with. She’s awfully big. And furry.”
“Um, this dog is exceptionally rude. She moves too quickly and looks directly at us.”
“Um, this dog is also exceptionally stupid. Sure, she’s finally understood how to greet us politely and that we don’t like big things moving fast in our general direction. But when we tell her we’d like to play, she acts brain-dead. And what’s with her bowing to us? What the heck does that mean?”
“Shakir (black male) has finally educated the dog to the point where they can romp, even if the dog does get carried away. He bestows upon the dog the great honor of grooming her, despite getting a mouthful of fur – the dog is incredibly furry! But she seems oblivious of his signals that he’d like her to groom him in return. Gayatri (brown and white tabby, with one eye) is of the opinion that being slobbered all over does not constitute grooming.”
Both cats have now marked the dog as Theirs by rubbing their jaws along her muzzle or feet. But cats have lives beyond taking care of the dog. They engage in various typically feline behaviors, each having staked out several prime napping areas (that vary according to seasonal sunlight).
Gayatri has turned out to be musical. She’s an extremely vocal cat and will meow loudly under many different circumstances:
“Where have you been? How dare you neglect me for this long?”
“I know you want to nap but I want to knead your stomach more.”
“Piano! What is that sound? I must sing with it!”
The last isn’t entirely true. As far as I can tell, Gayatri’s vocalizations bear no relationship in pitch or tempo to the music I’m playing. She seems to be saying, “Female monkey is sitting still. This must be an invitation to curl up on her chest and knead it ferociously. What’s this shelf, conveniently placed so that I can have access to said chest and why is the surface unsteady? What’s that noise – oh, not worthy of my attention. Just noise.”
As you can deduce, Gayatri often comes running (meowing loudly) when I play piano. She regards the keyboard as the perfect intermediate step from the floor to my chest. Unlike other cats, she doesn’t seem to make the association between stepping on the keys and the resulting noise. It makes no difference to her that I happen to be playing those same keys. Attempting to play while a cat is walking across the keyboard, often stepping on exactly the keys I need, is an exercise is futility. My perfectly good piano instantly transforms into one with half its notes unavailable.
The fascinating thing is that Gayatri does not do this with at random. Chopin and Brahms do not summon her, nor do Satie, Bach, Kabalevsky, or Turlough O’Carolan. She comes running when I play “Song of the Lonely Mountain” from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Sometimes I sing it, but not always, and that seems to make no difference. It would be lovely if she wanted to sing with me, but such is not the case. Nor is the song quality of the piece the determining factor, at least I think not. The O’Carolan pieces have the same strong beat and melody lines.
I suspect there is a hidden attraction, like a fantasy pheromone, sensible only to cats. Undoubtedly, if I played the theme from Harry Potter, she would respond. (I’ll save that experiment for the future and report back to you.) My belief is that, being a cat who lives with two writers, one of whom loves Tolkien, the Peter Jackson movies, and who is hard at work at a fantasy novels, Gayatri feels it incumbent upon her as the resident avatar of Bast to show proper appreciation and encouragement.
The cat may have another opinion. They always do.