Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Cat Groomer

Faun (the master thief) had one endearing quality. She loved our cats and knew how to groom them.
Tigger appeared at our house at a few months after we had got Faun as a puppy. She was about 8 weeks old. All but about 4 inches of her tail had been chopped off, and there was a nasty lump of necrotic tissue at the place where she had been injured. We never knew what had happened to her, but it didn't seem to have affected her personality. She was outgoing and confident, and later proved herself to be a courageous and dutiful mother to her three litters of kittens.

When Tigger had her first litter, Faun was present at the delivery. She ate the afterbirth, probably over Tigger's protests. She played with the kittens almost from the moment they were born, and in fact, killed one of them by accident--an accident for which I have never quite forgiven myself because I had seen her pick the kitten up, thought "I hope she doesn't hurt that kitten," then didn't do anything about it. The kitten who died was a lovely little black female whom we had named Velvet, the pick of the litter. We held a solemn burial service for her in the flowerbed the next day.

Faun was also present at the birth of Tigger's second litter. I didn't realize that Tigger was in labor until I noticed that Faun was showing an inordinate interest in my underwear drawer. I investigated to find Tigger in the drawer, already with two kittens and more on the way.

Besides playing with our cats, Faun also figured out how to groom them. A cat would solicit grooming by flopping  down between her paws, and Faun would nibble gently up and down its spine. Then the cat would relax on its back, throat exposed, for Faun to nibble under its chin.

Grooming cats seemed to be therapy for Faun as well as for the cats. If she was upset by something, Faun would almost always search out a cat, settle down beside it, and begin grooming.

When we got Ben, rhe American Staffordshire terrier, he desperately wanted to participate in grooming,too. But he couldn't figure out how to do it. He'd go up to a cat and begin butting it with his great square head. The cats tolerated him, maybe because he was such a silly oaf, but he never did get the hang of grooming them.

I was greatly saddened when Faun stopped grooming cats. She had been having seizures, seizures that were getting more frequent and more violent. She seemed to develop dementia, and her personality began to change. She no longer took much joy in our walks or in visiting the places she had previously loved. When a cat approached her for grooming, and she just ignored him, I knew we would soon lose her.