Miss Kitty, the calico cat who lives with us, has us figured out. And we continue to discover more and more about our constantly shedding purr factory.
Because she is partly an outdoor cat, Miss Kitty keeps her claws sharp and ready to use. Too ready, sometimes. When she purrs, her paws knead the closest soft surface -- usually my midsection -- and her claws etch interesting patterns into my skin.
I call Miss Kitty's claws thorns, If you've ever messed with a black locust tree or a patch of blackberry briars, you know what I'm talking about.
It is never Miss Kitty's intention to hurt anyone. It just happens her paws conceal needles. When she first arrived at our house a few years ago, my wife and I both sported nasty scratches, the result of Miss Kitty's impulsive reactions to various external stimuli, like the many monsters she perceived, especially the Leaf Monster.
While many of her fears -- a self-preservation mode, I suspect -- have subsided, she still leaps into killer-attack alert when she hears a leaf fall on the brick patio outside our family-room door.
No. 2 on her list of skittish fears is a plastic garbage bag, like the one we use in the kitchen wastebasket every day. The wastebasket is mounted on one of those slide-out contraptions hidden under the counter. It is, as the crow flies, about five feet from Miss Kitty's dish near the refrigerator.
Miss Kitty rarely stays in the kitchen when she sees anyone mess with the garbage bag. Whenever I reach into the cabinet to get a new bag, she scurries to another room. She knows that the bag will make a jarring noise when I fluff it open to put into the wastebasket. The sound terrifies her.
Because we know nothing about her early history or how she learned to survive on her own until she came to live with us, we can only guess what lies behind Miss Kitty's little terrors. She has mellowed considerably. We have been gash-free for a couple of years now.
The cat has even come to accept the daily application of ointment to the bald patch on her face that is either congenital or of unknown origin. The vet suggested using suntan lotion, because without protective fur the cat's skin would be likely to sunburn.
Now I've heard everything.
The exposed skin apparently itches, and Miss Kitty sometimes scratches a bit too enthusiastically. My wife's remedy is antibiotic lotion applied three times a day. You might think this would be an ordeal, but it's not. Miss Kitty doesn't twitch a muscle as she lies in my lap and my wife applies the ointment -- right next to the cat's right eye -- with a cotton swab. And, wonder of wonders, Miss Kitty leaves the lotion alone rather than removing it as soon as possible.
Of all the things we've beheld since Miss Kitty arrived, however, none beats her singing.
That's right. When she drinks the dab of whole milk my wife pours from the special container in the refrigerator, Miss Kitty combines purring, growling and humming. It's a cross between a far-off jet, an idling Ferrari and an old man humming the latest Lady Gaga tune before he puts in his false teeth.
Get the picture?
For Miss Kitty's part, she thinks she has it made. If that's all it takes to make humans laugh out loud, life is good.
R. Joe Sullivan is editorial page editor for the Southeast Missourian. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org