Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Cat Who Played Fetch

Jack-Jack Oinkpuff Orange Squeakbox Moir, the Cheeto Padawan came to live with us when he was eight weeks old. His new compatriots, Dolby and Perry were a dozen years old each and regarded the young upstart with some misgiving. Jack-Jack, for his part, was completely oblivious to the negative vibe. He was all about the fun.

At the time, Gavin was in a phase where he had to systematically remove every single tire from each of his toy cars and trucks and then get me to put them back on again. He never tired of this game. In particular, he had this wonderful eighteen-wheeled truck that doubled as a matchbox carrier and it actually had eighteen separate rubber tires that could be removed from the plastic wheel rims. In short order, these were all over the living room.

Jack-Jack flipped. They were the perfect cat toy. He could play with them on his own, but he far preferred when one of us would toss or roll one across the living room floor. It wasn’t long before he started bringing the tires to us, wordlessly begging us to throw them.

For the next several weeks we found these 3/4-inch tires in every nook and cranny of the house, in every possible state of disrepair. When we moved furniture, we found tires. When we swept out corners, we found tires. When we opened the hide-a-bed, we found tires. Or, at least, pieces of tires. The tires didn’t last all that long.

That fall, Eiledon participated in a running club which required her to wear her hair up. I purchased a cheap package of thick, multi-colored hair rubber bands for her and emptied these into my bathroom drawer. They didn’t stay in her hair too well and she tended to discard them any old place. Day by day, the supply of rubber bands in my drawer dwindled.

One morning, as I was making breakfast, Jack-Jack tripped lightly into the kitchen and dropped a fuschia hair rubber band at my feet. “Cute,” I thought, picked it up and tossed it down the stairs. A blur of orange fuzz tore after it at breakneck speed and I returned to my task. Moments later, the distinct sound of the metal clip on a hair band hitting the wood floor at my feet caught my attention. There sat Jack-Jack, the fuschia hair band between his front paws. He looked up at me plaintively.

“Okay, Jack-Jack,” I said smiling, picked up the band and tossed it again, figuring the matter was done with. I’d hardly flipped my oatmeal pancake when he was back, fuschia band dangling from his teeth. He meowed eagerly and the band fell out of his mouth and hit the floor. “How odd,” I thought. “He plays fetch?”

It took me a LONG time to finish making my breakfast that morning, as I had to stop every fifteen seconds and throw the stupid hair band down the stairs again. I showed Dan at the first possible opportunity: “This cat plays fetch,” I declared and, sure enough, he pursued and retrieved a chartreuse hair band multiple times. We got bored LONG before he did.

Eventually, it became a challenge to see who could last the longest. No greater sense of victory have I experienced than the time that Jack-Jack finally gave out and flopped onto the wood floor at the top of the stairs, exhausted.

So obsessed was he with these simple pieces of elastic that once when I was actually using one as it was intended--in my hair!--he climbed onto the back of the chair I was sitting in and proceeded to swat at my head in an attempt to dislodge it.

We figured he’d eventually grow out of it. But it’s been almost three years and just this morning, when I was making my oatmeal pancake, I heard the distinct sound of the metal clip on a hair band hitting the wood floor at my feet. He’s on his second package of hair bands now—he got them for Christmas. I can’t even imagine what we’re going to find if we ever move out of this house. In the mean time, at least he gets some exercise.

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