Kathy Rohloff: One Cat Too Many

Columns / Dec. 1, 2005 12:00am EST

Kathy Rohloff: One Cat Too Many

My sister Madonna came to visit Vermont so that she could enjoy the fall foliage. It was the first time in the 16 years that I had been here that foliage was late by three weeks. She managed to snap a few photos of random bands of trees, but she missed the magnificence of a Vermont fall.

She did, however, take advantage of wonderful Indian summer weather, various excursions to tourist spots, some bargain shopping, and a lot of really good home-cooking.

During her visit, a couple from Connecticut also joined us for two days. The three of them were cordial and entertaining and didn’t mind the small menagerie of cats and a dog that constitute our household.

Lori and Jim were especially fond of cats since they possessed a large Maine coon cat. At first glance, they thought our Ogden was a Maine coon because of his size and behavior, but later they realized that he was just a very BIG cat with an attitude.

Our 16-year-old tabby, Jelly, availed herself of the foot of their bed during the night, which they delighted in. Our other tabby, the "fraidy-cat" Peri, actually allowed them to pet her. Since the golden retriever had adopted Madonna on sight, we spent the two days together in relative comfort and peace.

Lori and Jim were scheduled to leave early Sunday morning and Madonna stayed at home to fix them a big breakfast before they left. Russ and I had Sunday school commitments and needed to get to church.

While Madonna was fixing breakfast, Lori noticed that one of the tabbies was outside. The cat appeared anxious to get in and was meowing pitifully at the kitchen door. "How did she get out?" she asked Madonna as she opened the door to let the cat in.

Busily frying bacon Madonna said, "Beats me. I think that’s the scared one Peri, since Jelly is sleeping on the couch."

The tabby immediately began to scratch at the door leading to the basement from the kitchen.

"I guess she wants down," and with that remark Lori opened the basement door and the tabby slipped downstairs.

Now the downstairs is Ogden’s domain. Since he weighs over 15 pounds and is quite furry, he will often lounge on the cement floor or the clothes dryer to be cool. When he wants to come upstairs, he simply climbs the stairs and hurls his full weight against the door until we let him in. The sound is unmistakable and does not cease until he enters.

On this warm Sunday morning, Ogden was lounging on the dryer when the tabby sauntered downstairs. Within seconds the basement reverberated with hissing, yowling, and caterwauling. The noise intensified and soon Ogden began to throw his full weight against the door in rhythm with the horrific sounds.

Racing to the door, Madonna flung it open and encountered a tangled, yowling mass. The mass was a mixture of gray and tabby fur complete with multiple legs and two heads and two tails.

Not unlike a large tumbleweed, Ogden and the tabby rolled through the kitchen and into the study depositing quantities of fur along the way. When they smashed into the food bowl, bits of dry food flew like confetti through the air. They recklessly catapulted through the rooms three times with Madonna in hot pursuit wielding a broom around, over, and between them in an effort to separate them.

After what seemed like hours, but was in fact a few minutes, she succeeded. Lori who was poised at the front door managed to direct the tabby outside with her foot before Ogden tackled it again. The door closed right before Ogden hurled himself violently against it.

"What was THAT all about?!" she exclaimed.

"I don’t know. I’ve been here a week and have never seen the cats fight. I’ll tell Kathy and Russ when they get home," Madonna replied.

"That was horrible. I’ve never seen a cat fight that bad and I sure don’t want to see another. I’ll help you sweep up all this fur and cat food before we leave."

We arrived home within the hour. Madonna rushed outside to meet us, "Guys, Ogden tried to kill Peri, the fraidy cat, and I’m afraid that she’s run away."

"What?" we chorused.

"It was terrible. Peri was outside and Lori let her down the basement and then Ogden tried to kill her. I separated them and we got her outside, but I can’t find her anywhere. I’m really sorry."

"But why would Ogden try to kill her?" Russ said.

"Yeah, Peri never goes outside and she never goes down the basement. And she and Ogden have always gotten along." I said.

Madonna then explained at great length about the cat fight that had ensued during our absence.

She ended again with the statement, "I’m sure that she ran away."

I quickly entered the house and headed upstairs. Sleeping soundly under our bedcovers was Peri. It was then I remembered about Oscar.

Returning outside I said, "Madonna, Peri’s fine. She’s sleeping upstairs. Lori must have let in the stray tomcat that hangs around the neighborhood. He looks just like Peri and we’ve even named him Oscar."

Russ added, "Ogden and Oscar have been snarling at each other through the screen door for months. And Oscar’s always trying to get inside. No wonder Ogden tried to kill him."

"So do you think this Oscar cat is OK?" she asked.

"Probably. He’s pretty tough." We scanned the back yard and we spied Oscar calmly licking his fur at the edge of our property. We called him over and he capered toward us. Russ lifted him up and checked for any wounds. All Oscar did was purr and knead Russ’s shirt.

"I told you he was tough." Russ said. "He’s fine."

It was then we realized that an ominous growl was emanating from the other side of the kitchen door. "I know Ogden’s fine," Madonna said. "But perhaps I should put him back down in the basement. Alone."

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