By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
I know it’s not nice to brag, but I can’t help it. Three months ago, as reported in this column, I brought home a scrawny stray cat who we found (or who found us) at a cabin in the woods. She was literally starving, and we could feel sharp bones underneath her grey fur. We named her Percy, which is short for Persistence, because she worked us over with her sad eyes and pitiful meows until we had no choice but to rescue her.
Fast forward to today: Percy the Persistent now looks a lot more like “Percy the Pudgy” or “Percy the Proudly Plump”. To put it bluntly, she is fat. And I, too, swell up a little when I see her furry belly as she rolls onto her back to play with one of the kids. I might be terrible at keeping houseplants alive, but I can grow a housecat with the best of them. That frail little bag-of-bones I brought home three months ago could now pass for a hairy version of Jabba the Hutt. She looks like she’s been snorting Miracle Grow or feline steroids. (The picture on the right is not our cat, Percy. It’s just a particularly fat cat I found online… but we are getting dangerously close to this size. )
Of course, it’s not hard to remember to feed Percy. She reminds us every time we’re in the kitchen, weaving impatiently between our legs. She gets a small cup of wet cat food each morning, and we keep her bowl re-filled with dry cat food most of the day. Despite the 24-hour buffet, Percy still thinks she’s starving. She eats every meal with gusto, as if it just might be the last scrap of food in the universe. And every morning when we feed her again, she looks surprised that her good luck continues to hold out.
I don’t know if cats can suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after being lost, but Percy seems to have a touch of it. When the kids go to school and I leave the room, she gets nervous. Ninety-nine percent of the time, she’s totally silent except for the tinkling of the little cat bell on her collar. But when she thinks she’s alone, she lets out a slow, mournful meow and wanders the hall moaning until I call out to let her know I’m still here.
Keeping Percy company while the kids are away isn’t always easy. Yesterday I let her sit in my lap while I typed at my computer keyboard, stopping now and then to scratch under her chin. For the first few minutes, she was content. But then she got interested in the ink pen on my desk, so she batted it to the floor. Then she stepped onto my keyboard which put a bunch of “s8#%*rqpxsmgh2&g9uza” into my document and played havoc with my spell checker. Then she perched in front of my computer monitor, blocking 80 percent of the screen. I tried to peer around her but every time I moved my computer mouse, she chased the on-screen cursor as it zipped across the screen. Watching a cat chase a computer mouse is entertaining but not exactly conducive to getting work done, so I shooed her away to a sunny spot on the floor where she promptly fell asleep for the next two hours.
At least Percy’s quirks are predictable. Every evening around dinner time, when the kitchen is buzzing with activity, she plops down in the middle of the busiest traffic area and stretches out on her side. She seems oblivious to the fact that the five of us two-legged creatures are constantly stepping over her or around her. I’m not sure if she’s just self-important or if she’s strategically choosing the spot where she’s most likely to catch a falling dinner crumb. Perhaps it’s both.
After polishing off an evening snack, Percy morphs into what I call “ninja mode.” She may be a lethargic lump of fur by day but, at night, she is quick, fierce and ferocious. Should I dare to wiggle my foot under the bedcovers, she immediately lowers her body into a crouch, flattens out her ears and watches the subtle movement intently as her pupils become big black pools – a sure sign that a predatory pounce is seconds away. Suddenly she springs forward and lands squarely on the offending foot, wrapping her furry legs around it and baring her teeth impressively.
Satisfied with her stealthy kill, she rises majestically and jumps off the bed. I watch her as she glides out of the room, and there’s no denying that, in three short months, she’s acquired the swagger of a fat, entitled housecat. She throws a backward glance over her shoulder that seems to say “Take that!” and then she meanders toward the kids’ bedrooms to check for any more feet moving under the covers. We’ve all witnessed a dramatic evolution. If she keeps growing at this rate, she’ll be able to bench press our 3-year-old in no time. Stay tuned.