"Don't let any cats out," Q warns as I edge past him to go out the
back door. He is assembling his cat food factory: arrayed before him
are six double-bowled feeding dishes, into each of which he carefully
spoons exactly the same amount of canned and dry food. Some of the
cats mustn't eat with other cats-- they'll gobble their own and then
poach a colleague's. So there is a fairly elaborate shuffle of cats,
deploying some in the kitchen and others outside. Q is a tender
shepherd of cats.
I, on the other hand, believe in survival of the fittest. "Come and
get it, you jerks!" I yell out the back door, and it's first come,
first served. I do make an exception for bony old Whats-Her-Name, who
prefers to eat hers unmolested on top of the picnic table and may not
eat at all if she lacks the requisite privacy. This just seems fair:
I plan to be a bit eccentric myself in old age.
The cats are putting on fur for the coming winter. Unlike us, they
did not complain about the summer heat: each just found a shady place
and lay down it, entering a state of suspended animation and remaining
there until the cool of the evening. But they, like the rest of us,
do relish the new briskness in the air, and they love the earlier
dark. Cats come into their own at night: they hunt, argue, prowl,
date, knock things over. We are asleep when they do all this, so we
do not observe it. We must deduce it from its products: the dead
mouse on the porch, the shattered glass pie plate on the kitchen
floor. Sleep tight tonight: your cats are awake.
Six cats is a lot of cats. Too many, for heaven's sake, but we
inherited them all from our children and you know how that is. It
wouldn't be such a bad thing if a couple of them went home to Jesus, I
guess, and eventually they all will. But I have no nominees: each one
of them has a unique something I will miss when it departs this
world. Life goes on, but it's never quite the same. That's because
love -- even the love of someone small and furry -- changes the world.