Monday, November 24, 2008

Rhiannon, my sweet pea

Rhiannon is the second of my cats. I adopted her in August, 2006, two weeks after I adopted Grendel. I didn't really start out with the intention of getting another cat. I just thought that Grendel needed a companion to hang with when I was away at work every day. I've always wanted a Manx cat and while Rhiannon isn't a Manx (at least I'm pretty sure she's not), but she does have a stubby bobtail. At the shelter, she was listed as a domestic shorthair (that's cat-speak for mutt). Two things stood out about her: the wee, stubby tail and her sweet nature. Her manner was a bit shy, but she purred up a storm when I was with her in the shelter and figured I had to have her. 

The first surprise came when the shelter staff brought her up from the kennel area. I brought my own carrier and they put her in it while I was at the front desk paying the adoption fees and filling out paperwork. When the shelter worker emerged with my cat, the look on his face was just short of horror and the carrier in his hand shook like it held a wildcat. After he set it on the counter, I had to hold the carrier to keep it from vibrating off the edge. Inside, Rhiannon (still named Coco then) was turning and turning in circles backwards and emitting angry growls. The staff looked so embarassed and someone asked me, before they ran my credit card, if I was really sure I wanted her. I figured that despite this performance, she was still the cat I met in the visitor room. I paid my fee and took her home. Still, all the way home, she turned and turned in the carrier and if I could translate cat, the things she must have said might make even me blush. She only calmed down once I parked the car in from of the house and took her in.

Once home, I thought she'd calm down a bit. Grendel was very curious about the new family member and I thought I'd try to introduce them by a coup de main rather than the slow, gradual introduction method of isolation and limited contact. I set the carrier on the living room floor. Grendel sniffied at the cage door and, from inside, Rhiannon sniffed back. I opened the door to the carrier and out she popped. For barely a second, the two cats stood nose to nose in amity: a touching, tender scene.

Then fireworks.

Rhiannon, I discovered, doesn't like cats. She hissed, growled, swatted, and ran upstairs with Grendel in hot pursuit. So much for the coup de main method of cat introduction. She ran to the bedroom and under my bed, so I got Grendel out, shut Rhiannon in, and let her chill for a while.

When I came back about a half hour later, she was still under the bed. I figured that trying to coax her out would have the opposite effect, so I just got up on the bed and sat there for a while. In time, I heard a rustling below and from one side of the bed, Rhiannon floated up like a fairy and landed on the bed. She came up to me purring and head-butted and rubbed her face against my hands. She was back the the sweet kitty I knew from the shelter. I left her again for a while. When I came back, she was sleeping and only awoke when I took her picture.

It took about two weeks of isolation with chaperoned visits to get her to stop going crazy every time Grendel came near. Even then, there were moments when Rhiannon would react badly to Grendel's intentions. It didn't stop them from adventuring together.

On day about a month after I brought her home, I was working in my den and noticed an absence of cats. They're always hanging around me wherever I go in the house, so it was odd that they weren't there. I looked out in the hall and on the windowsill above the stairs: no one. Curious, I went downstairs and looked around without sighting them. Now I was really perplexed. I looked behind and under the furniture and in the cupboards. I looked down in the entryway. I went back upstairs and looked in the rooms. By now, I was starting to worry that they had gotten out of the house somehow. They're inside-only cats and I fear that if they were outside they might get scared, confused, lost--or eaten by coyotes. However, I couldn't see any way they would have got out, so I continued to scour the house calling out to them the whole time.

I have three large bookshelves on the main floor of the townhouse. They're six feet tall and I have a lot of pictures and bric-a-brac on top. Finally, en route back down from searching again upstairs, I glanced at the top of the shelves to see two green eyes peering out at me from between some pictures. About a foot away, I discerned a large black and white lump crouched behind some other pictures.

The little furballs had been hiding from me and probably laughing at my antics, if cats can laugh. Despite my annoyance at being made a fool of by critters with brains no bigger than a walnut, I was happy to see them conspire together. It was a good indication that Rhiannon was getting over her cat hatred--at least her hatred of Grendel. By Christmas of 2006, they seemed thick as thieves.

(The introduction of Maebh to the house was a return to trauma and drama, but that's another story.)

She remains the sweetest of my cats--sweet to me, that is. She's always the one who likes to snuggle with me when I'm reading or watching TV. She likes to head butt me when she wants to be petted. There are times when I'm working on my computer, a position not conducive to cat snuggling, when Rhiannon will paw at me to abandon my work and sit somewhere where she can snuggle. At these times she also employs an insistent meowwwwrl that's somewhere between imploring and commanding. She especially uses this vocal skill when it's breakfast time and I have the temerity to want to sleep past 3:00 AM, hence her nickname "Mrs. Grumble."

1 comment:

  1. It always amazes me what distinct personalities cats have. I grew up with just one cat, and I never realized what social animals they are. My wife and I can spend hours just watching our cats interact with each other.