By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
It has been almost a year since Percy, the Persistent Stray Cat, insisted that we rescue her from her skinny existence in the woods. After 12 months of roaming our halls and eating our food, she has transformed into the spoiled, smug, extremely fat housecat she was always intended to be. She has nearly doubled in size and has so much hair that, when I brush her, there’s enough spare hair to make an entirely new cat.
Even though Tom pretends to still hate the idea of having a housecat, I can tell that even he has warmed up to her. The boys admire her ninja-like reflexes. But nobody is as close to Percy as 4-year-old Kate. She’s like the furry little sister she never had.
When we first brought Percy home, she was so skinny and frail that when she opened her mouth to “meow”, all that came out was a faint squeak. Kate saw her first attempts to communicate and asked me what Percy said. (Note that 4-year-olds still believe their parents understand all the secrets of the universe, which includes the ability to interpret cat language.)
I hoped her assumption about my ability to “speak cat” might work to my advantage so I quickly translated the meows into things Kate needed to learn about having a cat.
“Percy said you should feed her every morning because she’s very hungry,” I said in a knowing voice.
“Oh, okay,” Kate answered seriously. “I’ll feed you, Percy. Don’t worry because I’m a big girl and I know how to feed a cat.”
And feed her she did, every morning for the past year, and I’m pretty sure Kate has also passed out more than a few cat treats, too, which would explain Percy’s girth. Anytime Percy squeaked out a meow and I was in the room, Kate asked for a translation and I’d give it to her.
“What’d she say, Mama?”
“She said you shouldn’t touch her tail because she doesn’t really like that. She said you should play with her using a string instead.”
“Okay, Percy. I’ll hold the string, and you try to catch it,” she’d say, always directing her attention to the cat.
One day when I was trying to convince Kate to wear a certain headband in her hair, I used Percy to convince her. The cat was there weaving between our legs, so I told her that Percy said she wished she could wear pretty headbands.
“Percy, headbands are for kids, not cats,” she said, adjusting the headband that was suddenly more desirable. “Besides, your hair looks beautiful just the way it is.”
With the help of my newfound second language, I talked Kate into lots of things, including bath time, putting on her shoes, picking up her toys and not being so loud when I – I mean Percy – had a headache.
But something interesting happened last week. Kate and I were in the kitchen and Percy was trailing close behind us, as usual. When she meowed, Kate suddenly didn’t need my translation services.
“What’d you say, Percy? You said you want a treat?” Kate said, bending down close to her furry friend. “Guess what, Mom? I can understand her now, just like you! She said she wants a cat treat, and she wants me to have some candy, too!”
Ah. The student becomes the master.