Note to the reader: Tumbleweed lived 99 cat years, passing on 30 December 2008. We leave his writings here in his memory. Bruce wrote a biography of his friend, which you can find here. A biography of a cat? Yes, but no ordinary cat. This one leaped off a fifth-floor balcony twice— and the second time he flew back.
My slave name is Tumbleweed. I was born on Long Island in 1988, and, now that I think of it, have always lived on an island. The one I'm on now is preferable to Long Island because it's always hot. Hot is good. When humans are dragging themselves around with their tongues hanging out and whining about the heat and humidity, you'll find me baking in a sunny spot near a window. When people ask me how I stand it I say, hey, it's a wet heat.
I used to live here with another cat named Mister Mistoffolees. (Aside to the Mr. T.S. Eliot who writes Broadway musicals: note the correct spelling of Mistoffolees. THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING.)
When I call Mr. Mistoffolees the alpha male it evokes for some people a knuckle-walking, chest-pounding, teeth-baring bully —in short, Donald J. Trump. But this picture is wrong. Mr. Mistoffolees had arms too short for any chest-pounding. (Imagine a furry basketball.) Flees was alpha in our household mostly by the sheer weight of his personality. Combined with his sheer weight.
When we had visitors, Mr. M. went into his act, rolling over with his paws in the air inviting a rub of his belly. Women would gush at the sight; grown men would say "Aaaw." (With the exception of Bruce, to his great credit. "Cute doesn't work on me," he once growled at a noisy human toddler someone had made the mistake of presenting to him.) Although I left cute behind when gas was still under a dollar, I have retained plenty of the natural beauty of my race. But when Flees was on, I might as well have been invisible.
Same deal when the dinner bell rang. Thanks to his heft, Mr. Mistoffolees got much better traction than I did on the shiny tile floor. By the time I was off the mark, most of our dinner was inside Mistoffolees, with Mom right there cooing about how cute he was snarfing down most of a can of Fancy Feast Tender Beef Liver In Gravy in one snarf.
Of course I was obligated to challenge him now and again, just as you've seen other big cats do on the Discovery Channel. To this day he remains the only creature of any kind to best me. That he did it invariably by sitting on me is galling, but ultimately forgivable. There are no rules in the jungle.
Mister Mistoffolees et Moi
Anyway, once the fur settled, we were always friends again. He would sidle up to keep me warm at naptime (5:30 a.m.–2:30 a.m.); I would wash the spot behind his ear that he couldn't reach. He was a great hunting partner, capable of spotting the smallest bug, and knowledgeable about which ones tasted awful. He always had something interesting to say about current events.
I was alarmed when Mr. Mistoffolees disappeared, and looked for him for many days. As his scent became harder and harder to detect, I eventually had to accept that this was something more than a long trip to the vet. Probably something to do with the circle of life, if you catch my drift.
So I've Got a Problem. You Got a Problem with That?
Had you come to see me during a visit to a vet's office in my youth, you would have been forgiven for thinking my name was DANGEROUS CAT, since that's what the sign on my cage invariably said. In fact, I'm a lover, not a fighter. (Ask Teddy.) I sometimes act tough purely as a defensive measure. There are a couple of reasons.
For one thing, I've got no front claws. (If you think you want to remove the claws from a cat, first perform this simple test: remove all your fingernails with a pair of pliers.) However, I soon discovered that if I bat somebody's ankle with my clawless paw while simultaneously tearing the ankle open with a fang, my victim will not guess that I'm nearly defenseless. The trick is to move faster than the human eye can detect. (Yeah, like that's a problem.) I only have one fang, by the way. I don't know what happened to the other. Happily, not unlike the famous Bucky Katt, one fang is a good look for me.
The main thing that made me defensive as a youth was— I don't mind talking about it— brain damage. This affected my motor skills from birth. No, smartass, it did not affect my intellectual capacity. What we're talking about here is cerebellar hypoplasia, probably due to my birth mother being infected with the panleukopenia virus. How about it, smartass? Can you spell panleukopenia?
My depth perception, though, is not so hot. So I dip my nose in the water in my bowl to find out where the water is, maybe dig in the fang a little more deeply than I mean to. Sorry, Bruce! Depth perception issues!
I've heard my vet assert that my distinctive gait is also a result of cerebellar hypoplasia. You've got good hands, Dr. Edwards, but what a naif! You have any idea how hard it is to walk like a 600-pound Bengal tiger when you're an 8-pound domestic shorthair? Let me tell you, it took years of assiduous practice.
Copyright 2019 Bruce Kula