Monday, June 7, 2010
The Cat Who Slept In Trees
Müss, after she passed through her infamous sock-hunting phase, began sleeping on a variety of perches at various heights from the ground -- table tops, dressers, shelves and, eventually, trees. She started with Edges. Edges: as in as close as possible to the edge of any horizontal surface on which she happened to decide was a perfect napping place. If she was on the table, where she wasn't supposed to be, she would lay right along the outside edge. If on the bed, she would carefully position herself on the very edge of the mattress. Occasionally, she would forget where she was and fall over that very precarious edge. Whenever that happened, her body language said it was obviously the table's fault or the bed's fault that she had ended up on the floor. She would sit where she had landed and lick her fur back into order, all the while radiating indignation at the offending object. She would then avoid that particular place for a time and find some other napping place that she considered more trustworthy.
When I would see her laying on the edges of things around the house, I would point out to her the safer middle area and encourage her to move inward.
"Edge, edge, middle," I said, as I pointed to those places.
She didn't listen. Müss was a very stubborn cat.
During this Napping Dangerously period, we had to move from the house in Hollywood to our present location in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silverlake. There were, in addition to the usual furnishings inside the house, several small trees on the property. There was a spectacular Hibiscus in the yard, just off the front porch. It featured quite lovely leaves and flowers on the outside and a tangled network of bare branches inside. As soon as she adjusted to her new house and yard, Müss decided that the Hibiscus tree was the perfect spot for napping. We would often find her asleep inside the web of branches in that tree. She paid little attention to the sparrows that perched on branches nearby or to the hummingbirds that whirred from flower to flower just a few feet from her perch. At first she would sleep in branches five feet or more from the ground, but as she inevitably found herself rudely awakened by crashing through the foliage to the grass below, she wisely chose lower and lower branches for her arboreal napping. After she had fallen off all of the accessible napping spots in that tree, she'd give one of the other trees a try, always progressing from a high perch to a lower one until that tree has also proven completely unreliable.
Eventually, she retired completely from naps in the trees and chose indoor places that were softer and closer to the ground. In spite of, or, perhaps because of, her penchant for high-risk napping places and other sorts of adventures, Müss went on to live with and entertain us for a very long time -- twenty years, which is very old for a cat. The day she lay down for her last nap was one of the most difficult days of my life. Even though she turned rather grouchy in her later years, her determination and her spirit of adventure never left her. Those were the characteristics that made her unique. In addition to forgetting where she was while she was napping, later in life, she sometimes forgot where she lived. But that's another story.