Friday, April 18, 2008

Don Juan Seamus De Marco, or Mr. Personality (Pt.1) Artful Dodger and Tatiana

Seamus has almost always been a solo kitty, but he has had a number of pals over the years via neighbors and strays, as well as his share of enemies, both imagined and somewhat real. For Marcie and me, his interaction in the various communities of cats was like a window into a rather structured feline society.


But the specialness of Seamus for us is and was in his distinct and strong individuality. It was on display from the moment he entered our world.


Marcie had known Seamus for about a week when I met him. She had found him at a Petco adoption cage, where non-bred cats are put on display for adoption  She did not want to adopt from a store, but he won her over. From a note card to me:


“He was full of the devil,” she said. “He pranced and pounced all over the cage and bossed his brothers and sisters around, climbed up to the top and swatted at my hand through the roof when I took his favorite mouse on a string. He was just Mr. Personality, and I knew he was the one. He’s your total kitty match.”


So, the next day she plunked down $40 and adopted him. She did not name him, preferring that I did those honors, as he would be a gift. She had one problem: my birthday was two weeks away. So, she left him with her parents, where Seamus met his first adult cat, Samantha.


“Oh, he was too rambunctious for Sammie,” Marcie told me when she explained his appearance a week ahead of my birthday. “He had to be separated from her.”


He had apparently inspired numerous swats and hisses, and had not limited his wild interactions to Samantha. He had, in fact, even entered pitched battle with Mr. Stoddard’s shoelaces. Unfortunately, this protracted, multiple-episode melee took place while Bob was wearing the shoes in question. There were unintended casualties among the local toe population.


The decision to evacuate him was made posthaste.


It did not take long for Seamus to meet some new friends, though. We had a lot of cat people as neighbors. But he almost blew his first pair of pals and, I am proud to say, bad lunch food saved the day.


When he was first taken outside, he met “Dodger,” a large neutered male with long fur and a sweet disposition, and “Tatiana,” a beautiful long-furred calico. Both were companions to Chip, our neighbor and law student, who was more than willing to introduce his cats to the newbie.


It was a difficult debut. Upon seeing the two very large (if wonderfully gentle) cats emerge from the other apartment, his head went down and fur puffed out, his back arched high and his tail went ramrod stiff and bottlebrush puffy. The longest hiss I have ever heard leaked out of him for almost 10 seconds, impressing both Chip and Dodger, who sat back and watched nervously. Tatiana hissed back and ducked low.


Seamus strutted and walked slowly, growling and spitting whenever someone tried to pet or pick him up, a tiny little kitten doing his best to emulate a whirling, noisy, furry cactus. However, a trick brought everything to a calmer level. I placed a place of fried hot dog bits between the cats. Dodger and Tatiana sniffed at the food and started eating. Seamus became curious.


He very gingerly worked his way to the plate, snaking his paw inside and snagging a piece from between the two larger cats, then hopping off with a hiss from behind it as he carried it in his jaws. I took another piece and rubbed his face and head, as well as his ears, then put it back on the plate.


When Seamus came back for another piece, still puff-furred, Dodger caught a whiff of his head and sniffed. Seamus slipped in and started licking the plate, as Tatiana had gotten the last piece. Dodger started licking him, to low complaining growls as Seamus cleaned the dish. Tatiana soon hooked a paw around Seamus and sat down, grooming him. Seamus complained and focused on the food, less vociferous in his protests. Dodger reclined and watched calmly.


Then we had a breakthrough. I heard the little motor kick over and Seamus purred as Tatiana licked him. Then, as he grew tired of the plate, he tried to walk away. Tatiana corralled him and pulled him in close as he mewed a bit. His head was suddenly in her fur, though, as she held him. He tried to nurse instinctively on her belly and she groomed him more.


He had made two friends in much less time than most said it could happen, and they would remain his companions until we moved. But he had the love of his life to meet yet, and other cats awaited him in the calm byways of Cortez Hill.