Sunday, May 26, 2013

Our Cats, Part 1: Kyrian

It's a well-known made-up historical fact that Al Gore created the Internet for the purpose of facilitating us talking about our cats. This is the first in a three-part series of the Cats of the House of Terra. Enjoy.


AKA: Kye-Guy; "Handsome, Handsome Fly-Guy"; Metrosexual Kitty; Kneady Boy, Kyrian Eliason
Age: Two years

The death of our 19 1/2 year old black cat Spooky in October 2012 was a devastating, though not unexpected event in our family. There had been signs that she had been slowing down, signs that we chose to ignore or rationalize, the pet owners' equivalent of whistling past the graveyard. But when the time came and it was clear that, after a sudden stroke, that she was in pain and losing her mental awareness, the hard decision was made.

Her loss left a void in our house, and the question became "when do we get another cat?" There had been talk that it would be at least weeks before we'd bring in another cat. At Carol's urging, we ended up hitting the Nashua Humane Society the Saturday after Spooky passed. I was not too keen on the idea, but Carol really wanted me to have a cat with whom I could have the same close relationship to as she had with Spooky. Because even though Spooky was a loving cat that enjoyed hanging out with everyone, ultimately, she was Carol's cat. Or, to be precise, Carol was her human!

So, off to the Nashua Humane Society, Carol, our youngest daughter Rhiannon, and yours truly.

Getting a cat isn't as simple as going to the supermarket and picking up a gallon of milk. There has to be that spark, that connection. It's like the definition of art: "I can't describe it to you, but I know it when I see it!" So there we were, at the Humane Society, looking for a cat that, though it would be the family cat, would be the one that bonded best with me. I was still skeptical and not very enthusiastic.

After checking out some very nice kitties, it was clear that the spark, that zing, didn't happen at NHS.

"Well, so much for that," I said. "Let's head home."

"There's the Animal Rescue League in Bedford," Carol suggested.


On to the ARL.

Once there, we looked around for a while, but still, nothing. No connection. No zing. There had been one cage we kept passing since it was situated along the main corridor, but the occupant was constantly sleeping and thus escaped our notice. After spending a good amount of time in the large facility and experienced the kitty version of 101 Dalmatians, no. Nothing. Time to go home to our empty cold catless house and wallow in sadness.

I had my back turned to the cage with the sleeping cat as I suggested to Carol and Rhiannon that we should just go.

"Dad!" Rhiannon shot back, pointing. "That cat just tried to swat your butt!"

I turned around and saw this handsome tabby, looking alert and trying to put his paw through the cage to reach out to me.

Now, I know there's a lot of opinions and arguments about the possibility of life after death. There's also discussion about whether there's such thing as ghosts, and even further, whether higher-functioning animals like dogs and cats can be ghosts. But we're convinced that, when we were at the Bedford shelter, the ghost of a little black cat who wanted to make sure her humans were happy swatted the dozing tabby on the head, saying "Hey, dummy! Wake up! The best thing you could possibly have is about to pass you by! Wake up!"

Another couple had noticed the tabby's antics and started taking an interest in him as well. Fortunately, Rhiannon dashed off and found a volunteer, and we set up a small room so that we could have some one on one with this feisty cat called Nugent, this eighteen month old tabby.

Nugent? Really? Does this cat come with its own gun collection and insane right-wing ideology? Or is it a has-been rocker desperate for attention?

Nugent had been found as a stray in Vermont. He had a collar that he had tried to get out of, but instead it got stuck under one of his arms and burrowed into his flesh. It had required surgery to remove it.

Well, we fell in love with him and decided on the spot to adopt him. But that name had to go. That's when Carol brought up Kyrian, the name of a non-player character bard in my old Forgotten Realms Dungeons and Dragons 3.0 game. Yeah. Kyrian. That works.

Kyrian it was.

We live in a house on the border of Nashua, with plenty of room inside for an active cat. Kyrian took to his new home immediately, and quickly established himself as the Master of All He Surveys.

Kyrian, we discovered, is part Egyptian Mau. The Mau is characterized by leopard-like spots on the under-belly, a tendency to chirp rather than meow, and has the habit of waiting by the door for their master to return home. Although it's clear that Kyrian isn't a full-blooded Mau, those characteristics are all there.

Kyrian loves the knead. When he first came home, he was kneading everything; blankets, furniture, us, THE AIR. In fact, Carol and I still recall the evening of the Presidential election. My son John had come up to visit and to vote, and we came home to find him sitting in his favorite chair, watching tv, with Kyrian on his lap, kneading vigorously. John's expression was one of slight but continuous pain. Kyrian was already making friends.

Nowadays, he still kneads, but it's mostly just laps, and mostly mine. It's not so bad when his claws are trimmed but otherwise, well, the Spanish Inquisition could have taken a few tips from him on the subject of torture methods.

Speaking of torture, there's also the farting. Well, again, not so much these days, but when we first got him, his kitty digestive system had to adjust from the standardized shelter food and feeding schedule, to the variety and greater quantities that we provide. Kyrian proved to be the master of the SBD (Silent But Deadly), although mercifully, the frequency has diminished, something we're all grateful for.

We've also never seen a cat who loves to groom as much as Kyrian does, which is why he's also known as the metrosexual kitty.

Some cats are fast, others are excellent jumpers. Kyrian is the master jumper, often getting a respectable amount of air when he does vertical leaps in an effort to grab the feather dancers we use to play with the cats. He also loves jumping up on counters, especially when we're cooking. This has led to addressing him in the same stern tone and name usage that you use on your kid, when you start using their full names, including the middle name, as in "Robert Maxell Smith! You put down that bottle of bleach and that duck right now, young man!".

Well, this is a cat. He has no middle name. We're not that insane...yet. So I've taken to saying "Kyrian Elaison!" when I'm addressing him in a disciplinary way. Since "kyrie elaison" means "Lord, have mercy", it's strangely appropriate.

This comes into play especially when I'm cutting up chicken on the cutting board. Kyrian jumps up on the counter, studies it, then tries to bring his face in contact with the chicken. After a sharp "Kyrian Elaison!", he backs up, then studies the chicken with what can only be described as an appraising glance, then, slowly, he reaches out with a paw to take it. After another sharp exclamation of his "full name", he withdraws the paw, studies the situation a little more, and tries again, this time with the other paw.

Cats are smart; and don't let anyone try to tell you otherwise. Kyrian knows the word "meat", and when he sees the fridge door open, he walks on over and chips "mreet". Fortunately, he also knows what "no" means, as well as "no more, all gone".

And so, Kyrian is well situated in his new home, and though he loves the family and enjoys socializing with any visitors, he's definitely "my cat", or to be honest, I'm "his" staff. But if he senses that someone other than myself is feeling down, he unerringly goes and sits with them for a while to cheer them up. His ability to know when to do this is uncanny. Maybe it's something like that whole "animals sense weather changes and earthquakes" thing.

Ah, but soon after Kyrian made himself at home and declared himself Lord and Master of the House of Terra, a new fuzzy face was lurking in the wings, ready to pounce.

Next time: Crazy Ed comes to stay

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