Saturday, September 13, 2014

It’s all happening at the zoo

I met Raymond J. Johnson, Jr. (not his real name) only last November.

At first, our relationship was appropriate.  Platonic.

But before long, innocently, at least on my part, one thing led to another, and yadda yadda yadda. 

Now, he behaves toward me like a neurotic, possessive, controlling boyfriend.  

Don’t tell my husband.

JJ, as he likes to be called, has to know everything I’m doing – where I’m going, when I’ll be back. 

He insists on knowing with whom I’m hanging out.  (He also demands proper grammar.)

He follows me from room to room whether I ask him to or not.  “Act like I’m not here,” he says and stations himself close by, manicuring his nails or pretending to nap.

But make no mistake; should someone intrude on our together time, he separates me from his perceived competitor like a well-trained cutting horse.  He trots along beside me, parallel to the offender, then swerves wide to single him out and force him to the sidelines.  

He’s very adept.

Here’s the worst of it:  At night, when Mr. Plath is away on business, JJ patrols the perimeter of my bed, ensuring I sleep only with him.  It’s gone that far.

My other kitty, mild-mannered Uma, has become persona non grata.  A refugee in her own home.  Exiled to the guest room.

That’s right, JJ’s a cat. 

I’m told not to anthropomorphize kitty behavior.  OK.  But how else can you explain it?  What words are there besides the ones in the English language? 

I know he’s a cat, but I’m telling you, he’s inordinately concerned with my whereabouts.  And if Uma gets between him and me, he pounces on her and bites her soft tissue.   

She and I have to sneak our time together. 

Like now. 

He’s out on the deck acting tough, chattering at hummingbirds, unaware that she’s on my lap while I write.  But soon enough he’ll come in to check on me and find her here.  He’ll rise up on his haunches and stare into her sleeping face (she pretends not to see him at first).

He’ll sniff her nose and poke her as though he just wants to say, “Hi.”  Reflexively, her tail twitches.  That’s his signal to nip and pester until she becomes disgusted. 

No emotions?  OK.  We’ll just state the facts:  After a period of time during which JJ repeatedly and tirelessly niggles at her perimeter, Uma stands up, whips her tail back and forth, narrows her eyes and heaves a sigh before hopping down and leaving the room. 

Come on.  That’s kitty disgust.  There’s no other word for it.

He watches wide-eyed as she departs, shocked at her ill-humor, then hops onto my lap and settles in.  The space was vacant after all.

And that is kitty entitlement.  Kitty arrogance. 

Don’t believe in complex animal thinking and emotion?  Consider this:

In wolf packs, one role is that of the omega wolf.  In wolves’ rigidly defined hierarchy, the omega’s job is that of jester – providing stress relief and instigating play.  Scientists have observed wolf packs to mourn the loss of their omega, to become lethargic and to suspend playful behavior for weeks until the position is assumed by another member of the pack.  

Elephants also appear to grieve the death of family members, returning repeatedly over years to the site of their skeletal remains, lifting and replacing the bones, ruminating before leaving, only to return again.

But maybe we should say “grieve” since animals don’t have emotions.

Primates display “anger” when they perceive they’re being taunted or treated unequally – given substandard treats compared with their peers.

Dogs display “joy” when their people pick up the leash.  Come on!  You’ve seen them grin like goofballs when you rattle the treat bag.  They’re “happy,” right?

I’m sure of it. 

Therefore we’ve worked out a kitty protocol in the Plath household.  Despite JJ’s expectations, Uma is fed first as is appropriate to her station of senior kitty.  She takes her rightful place on my lap for TV time in the evening.  Only then can JJ can settle in.

You must establish some boundaries.  Otherwise emotions run wild – in cats and people; animal behavior takes over – in people and cats; and there’s chaos at the zoo.