Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Queen Maebh the Merciless

Cat three is named after the mythical queen of Connaught from the Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge. She is a contradiction in many ways. She's the menace of the other two cats, an absolute imp of mischief with me, but she cowers under my bed upstairs when visitors come.

I've always had a fondness for Manx cats. Rhiannon—even though she's my sweet pea—is more of a bobtail than a true Manx. I could be slighting her, but she doesn't show much Manx traits other than a short tail. Maebh is definitely a Manx. 

I saw her when she came in at PAWS in Lynnwood where I volunteered. She was part of a group of cats that came in from Mississippi to alleviate shelter crowding in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. She was huddled in the back of her cage looking at me with her big green eyes in a way that was apprehensive but not scared. 

Her torbie coat and "rumpy riser" tail made her irresistable to me. I weighed the options of adopting a third cat for a day or so and when I came back to the shelter she was gone. I  asked what happened and the staff told me she had been adopted. I felt a bit relieved that fate had intervened to make my decision for me.

A few weeks later, I was browsing the PAWS website when I spotted her in the list of cats available for adoption. I left work early that day to get to the shelter and sure enough, those familiar green eyes were staring at me again from the back of the cage. It turns out that she hadn't been adopted, just sent for foster care after a bout of URI. Now I thought fate had handed the decision back to me and I didn't hesitate. Since it was too late to adopt that night, I had the shelter reserve her for me for next day. I visited with her in a small room where she hid under a chair and remained cautious and passive while I tried to pet her. Not sure how she would be at home or if she would get along with the other cats, I adopted her and hoped for the best.

She mewled a bit on the way home, but wasn't at all like Rhiannon when I brought her home. With two cats already, I decided I would first see how she did with the others before adopting the isolation and slow introduction method. To my surprise, she popped out of the carrier as if she were a different cat. Toward Grendel and Rhiannon she was bold and cheeky--even toward me she showed a new disposition of acceptance. She and Grendel became instant friends.

Rhiannon was another story. Fussbudget and ailurophobe to the last, Rhiannon hissed, growled, and grumbled at Maebh every time she got near. Maebh, for her part, wanted to "play" with her new big sister. Rhiannon was less than pleased and I spent a lot of time separating them and soothing Rhiannon. Even now, after two years, Rhiannon is still fussy when Maebh gets to close. Still there are times when the fireworks are on hold.

Maebh is a playful 5-year old with a penchant for getting into things. She loves playing with dice and I have a lot of dice, though fewer now than before I got her. I find dice in the corners and under furniture—along with other things. Maebh showed a tendency from the start for what I call "poo hockey." This sport consists of pulling dessicated bits of cat poo out of the litter box and batting them around the house. She is also a terror to the cat toys.

She's very vocal and often goes off into another place in the house to loudly meow to me until I come to get her or, more often, I meow back and she comes running. She has a distinctive walk, which is all the more unique because of her nubbin tail and nether fluffery. One of her nicknames is Miss Mavis Fluffybottom.

She loves to pick play fights with Grendel who weighs almost three times as much as she does and they often scamper through the house together. (Often in the night, to my chagrin.) Where Grendel lays, Maebh lays too.

This doesn't stop her from biting his ears as they snuggle until, usually, he runs away from her just to get some peace. At times, however, he stands his ground and plants a big paw on her head until she emits a mournful "waaaaaaaaah" sound that expresses less a fear of his firm hand than a frustration at being foiled in her mischief. She also follows me aroung and is fascinated by what I do.

She often jumps up on top of the cupboards to watch me work in the kitchen.

She's turned out to be a great addition to the house and is the instant love of visitors, despite keeping her distance from all (except one). When I have guests, she and Rhiannon start the evening hiding together—one of their only bonding experiences. As the evening wears on, Rhiannon may venture down to see the strangers, but Maebh strays no farther than the stairs where she rolls on her back and makes odd sounds to attract my attention. If any stranger approaches, she scoots back under the bed.

Now she's family. On any morning that I can sleep in, I get up and feed the cats at 5:00 (or 4:00 during daylight savings) and go back to bed. By the time I get up again at 8:00 or later, I've got all three up there with me.

There are even other times when you can find them all in a bundle.