Sunday 6 January 2013

K - Katniss

I read the Hunger Games before most people I know, which is something I like to point out when people announce that they have just bought the box set of the Hunger Games. I tell them of my plight in having to wait until the second and third books were released. When people tell me with wide eyes about the ending of Catching Fire, I raise an eyebrow and tell them just how many months I had to wait for Mockingjay to come out, while all they have to do is select the next volume in their box set.

So when, in 2009, a new kitten presented her beautiful self to me, it seemed only natural to call her Katniss after the protagonist of the Hunger Games. Katniss is still with us now, despite the fact that she is blind. When I told my mom over Facebook chat that there was a new kitten around, she was hesitant enough, but she’s a cat lover too. Then I told her that the gorgeous grey kitten whose pictures I’d sent her was blind.
Katniss. Pic by Brenda Drumm
We’d only recently brought home a very dysfunctional kitten, who subsequently urinated over pretty much everything until we gave it back, so neither my mom nor my dad were particularly enthusiastic about bringing home another one so soon, and one that could prove to be just as difficult to train. Still, I had a week, a camera, and a computer, plus Facebook. Over that week I took numerous photos, played with baby Katniss around the clock, and wore away at my parents’ will while tugging on their defenceless heartstrings, and so Katniss was drafted into the fold.

We still have Katniss, who despite being blind, can attack and savage your toes with apparent ease, who can bring down birds half her size and who provides an endless amount of affection. Before her, we’d never had a cat who would settle on your lap, never mind on the back of your head, as Katniss did with me. She would attempt to find comfort in my crossed legs as I sat fussing over her on the kitchen floor, and then she would climb onto the back of my neck and settle on the back of my bowed head, snoring as I read.
Katniss. Pic by Brenda Drumm

She’s well practiced at bullying food out of us. While our fourteen year old cat, Watchie, used to sit on the counter and meow until she was fed, Katniss has a more aggressive approach to her domesticated version of hunting, which involves almost as much violence. First, in a manner pretty standard for cats, she will push her way into your room and refuse to get up on the bed or come over for a pet at your desk chair. Instead, she will sit in the doorway, casting you in her sightless gaze. She will stare for a moment, and then meow. One perfectly enunciated yowl followed by a considering, sideways look, sometimes over your shoulder.

After that, her stance becomes more aggressive. Anyone living in my house knows what the doorway meow means, so Katniss considers what follows fair enough, considering that she did give a warning. She will walk over to you, meow once or twice along the way and then falling silent. She will locate your leg or bare foot, and take a quick but painful nip at your skin. She will then proceed to take little bites out of you until you stand.

At this point, you probably have a few bite-marks. No blood, but still very painful. Typically, you’ll be upstairs, so you will have to face going down the stairs with an annoyed Katniss. It’s unavoidable, really, because she will run ahead and then sits, waiting for you. When you near, she will crouch, her eyes dark and wide now, following the sound of your toes on the carpet like it’s a juicy chicken bone. Then, as you pass, either with a futile attempt at sneaking or at a run, she will pounce and latch onto your calf, nipping and meowing simultaneously, which comes out as a shrieking growl.

This will continue into the kitchen, where she will change tact and simply follow you, meowing loudly until you reach wearily under the counter for the open tin of cat food, and empty it into her bowl. Then, nursing the scratches on your calves, you will limp back to your room and sit down, returning to your former occupation. About ten minutes later she will arrive in and settle silently on your bed or under it depending on the noise levels in the house.

Katniss is a very habitual creature, always going outside at five in the morning to arrive in at half seven ready to make the rounds with my mom, waking everyone up. I’ve lost count of the amount of morning I’ve been woken to a loud and happy ‘purr’ as Katniss launches onto my bed and climbs all over me until I wake with my mom urging, ‘come on, let’s wake them up’. She will always follow the same procedure when she’s hungry, or when she wants to go outside.

We thought that she would be dependent, unable to go outside safely, but Katniss navigates our world with the ease of someone who doesn’t know that there’s anything out of place with being unable to see. Now, I can’t play with other people’s cats, because all my games require them to be blind, so that my finger scratching right in front of their nose could be a mouse or anything that a cat’s mind conjures up. Other cats will stare at your finger, and then at you as if to say, “Dude, it’s a finger, what am I supposed to do with it?”

Katniss is one of the best things that has ever happened to us. She’s so affectionate, so boisterous and full of life. In every way a member of our family.

©EmmaTobin 2013

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