Friday, September 23, 2016

Johnny the Fierce and Pooms the Neurotic

The picture of Johnny and Pooms sitting next to each other on a couch didn’t really do them justice and was somewhat misleading, because A) the picture didn’t quite give me an idea of the scale of the size of the cats, and B) I have never since seen the cats occupy the same room without getting into a tussle resulting in a lot of noise and clumps of fur floating through the air. This is particularly bizarre since the cats grew up together, and were adopted as kittens by a young couple- Pooms first, and then Johnny half a year or a year later. Then the baby came and so the cats went, somehow ending up with a German lady though the details of the story are a bit fuzzy. A few years later, the German woman went as well, back to Germany according to the story, and was not able to take the cats. The guy I’d spoken to and who brought the cats to us fitted into the picture somehow, though no one’s really sure how. It seemed that the longer the story got, the less sense it made.
When Pooms wandered out of the carrier, we thought, “wow, that’s a large cat.” When Johnny exited his mobile prison, we thought, “that can’t be a cat, can it?” We thought maybe the guy had gotten confused and had brought us a mountain lion or a puma by mistake. Nope, no error in caged felines had been made. It just turned out to be one of the largest cats I’ve ever seen in person. Pooms, at around 5 kilos (11 lbs), is no miniature cat. She carries much of the weight in her middle, which probably explains her waddle. Johnny carries his 10.6 kilos (23 lbs) everywhere. The explanation for his girth is in his heritage (and also in the quantity of organic, free range poultry cat food that he chowed down on daily until being put on dietetic food after a trip to the vet). We somehow ended up with a Norwegian Forest Cat, one of the largest breeds in existence. How this double layered, water proof cat ended up in Jerusalem, I have no idea. As a cat bred by the vikings in the frozen Norwegian tundra, this doesn’t really seem to be the ideal climate for him. This discovery was only made by accident, after someone mentioned that the Norwegian Forest cat and the Maine Coon are the two biggest cat breeds. We lived with a Maine Coon for 16 years but I had never heard of the second large breed. I decided to do a Google search one day when I had obviously run out of cat videos to watch online, and to my surprise, the first picture that popped up looked almost exactly like Johnny. And so did the second one.

    From the face shape to the tufts of fur in strange places (ears, neck, haunches, and in between the toes) to the massive paws, Johnny had to be at least part Norwegian Forest Cat if not completely. He seems to be at least part viking as well when his belly, paws, or tufts are touched.
Before the cats figured out how to use the stairs (they had obviously never encountered such an apparatus in their previous residences), they were stuck on the first floor together. Pooms spent most of her time hiding behind a stack of folding chairs or behind boxes, while Johnny had free reign of the floor. On any occasion when Pooms ventured out to explore or sit on the couch, Johnny would wander over and a scuffle would ensue. Pooms would end up on the kitchen counter and Johnny had to be coaxed away so she would be left in peace. It was not always Johnny who would initiate the fight, but Pooms seemed to resent his presence and if she didn’t throw the first paw, Johnny would. Inevitably. Every single time without fail. How these cats made it this long with each other was a mystery. We hoped they would settle down at some point, maybe get used to their new home and settle their territorial dispute.
Then one day Pooms disappeared. We searched high and low. Behind boxes, under beds, in every single closet and small space we could find. Twelve hours later we had to admit to ourselves that she was not in the apartment. So we searched outside, and on the neighbors’ balconies, under bushes, and at all the known cat feeding stations in the neighborhood. We made signs and hung them all over the neighborhood. I had to come to terms with the fact that she was most likely dead. I felt awful. This poor sweet, squeaky, little cat had somehow gotten out, either by a window, the balcony, or the front door. She had either fallen a great distance to the ground, or had wandered outside and had had to defend herself from the veteran street cats. Either option was horrible to think about.
Then a week or so later, after I had given up all hope of finding her again, I got a call from the neighbor saying she had found our cat three days before in her laundry room. She had heard meows for three days before finding a cat behind her washing machine. But she was sorry to inform me that she had shooed the cat out of the building, obviously not seeing the lost cat sign which had been hanging prominently next to the front door of the building since the day she had disappeared. I immediately called my father and informed him that the cat had last been seen alive three days ago and could potentially still be in the area. He ran out to look for her and call her name. The same neighbor ran out after him to inform him that the cat was in her apartment. How Pooms had gotten there (twice) is a mystery to all and will probably never be revealed, but she was quickly recovered and returned, chowing down on a few days worth of kibble.
Johnny was the only one not pleased by this development, as he had been the reigning feline for the past week. He at least had the courtesy to allow her to finish eating before swatting at her, but that was a brief reprieve. Even after both cats learned how to use the stairs (it only took two weeks), two entire floors was not enough territory for the both of them.
We all realized that this was not a sustainable situation. I knew that when I did finally move out, I was going to have to take Johnny with me as I was the only one he had bonded with. I was also the only one who had learned his body language, knowing when and where to pet him so as not to get the viking treatment. Poor Pooms showed the signs of long-term psychological trauma, hiding most of the day and hissing and running away from Johnny any time he approached. She was clearly an anxious cat, always on guard against attack.

This was the impetus for my quick move out of the ancestral manse. Interestingly, my life seems to be determined by small 4 legged creatures, both at work and at home. Which is still way better than a few bosses I’ve had.