Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Opposites Attract

We have two cats: Sasha (Alexander=boy) and Dinah. We got Sasha about two and a half years ago and Dinah about seven months later. Sasha started out as an apartment cat, and when we moved into a bigger place, we decided it was time to get him a friend who he could pounce and chase and play with to his little cat-heart’s content. And, they’ve turned out to be pretty good friends. I had my doubts, in the beginning. I won’t go into it, but it’s quite a production to introduce two cats to each other and make them share living space. We had to keep poor Dinah cooped up in a bathroom for days. Finally they could be in the same room together without hissing. Now I find them snuggling together all the time. Well, together as in close to the same area. It’s still fairly rare to see them spooning, but it’s been known to happen.

We call them our cat babies, because that’s really how they act. They are just little babies who want attention and love. They are people cats, both of them. Love to be in everybody’s business. Sure, they still do that cat-hiding thing where they find small, dark spaces to squeeze into and curl up for a nap, but more often than not, they’d both rather do that in a lap or in the same room where I am. When I spend more than fifteen minutes in one room, I’ll often look over and find them sneaking in. Like now, for instance, I’ve been on the computer for about half an hour, and there they both are—lounging on the spare bed we keep in the office. They groom each other, chase the laser pointer together, and other kinds of kitty things. But that’s where the similarities end.

Sasha is very tiger-like: his dusty black coat is striped with gray. He’s got a mane of neck fur and big yellow eyes. He’s got long whiskers and a stare that can stop you in your tracks. Dinah is all black with two small white patches, one on her neck, the other on her belly. She’s still got a killer stare, but she’s got a much less menacing look, and bright green eyes. She’s got a tiny head. I think DH’s nicknames say it all: Dinah he calls Pinhead (endearingly, of course), and Sasha he calls Pants (because he’s got so much fur on his lower extremities that it looks like he’s wearing them).

Where Sasha is lithe and strong, Dinah is chubby and squishy. When you pick up Sasha, his whole body tenses, ready to spring into action. You can feel every muscle in his body, and each one is strong and toned. When you pick up Dinah, she flops in your arms like a wet blanket. She feels mushy and soft like a pillow. Yet, she’s still surprisingly light and fast.

Where Sasha is long and strong and big, Dinah is short and flabby and small. Sasha stretches like an accordion when he looks out the window or gets ready to jump up on a chair or a counter. His body looks comically long, actually. His toes are huge and he balances well on them. He really looks like a jungle cat and can do some damage if you happen to be sitting in his path when he gets spooked. He’s got an enormous head, covered in a surprisingly large amount of thick fur. Dinah however, looks like the cat equivalent of a couch potato. She’s got a big belly with extra skin that wobbles when she walks. She’s got short stubby legs that get her around. She’s got a little head that doesn’t seem to quite match her girth. Sasha’s head grew last when he was maturing, but we’re not sure Dinah’s ever will (hence the nickname).

Where Sasha is elegant, Dinah is sloppy. Sasha acts like he ought to have a butler. He looks like one of those cats from the Fancy Feast commercials—like he must eat his well-cooked meals off a silver platter. He just look regal somehow, and I swear he’s striking poses constantly. He often crosses his front paws when he’s getting comfortable. I love to watch that cat bask in the sun. It’s like he’s a debutante getting a tan at her private villa. He also keeps himself impeccably clean. He is always grooming, getting those hard to reach places: behind the ears, under his neck, the end of his tail. Then there’s Dinah, who would fit in well at a trailer park. She’s got that look like she’s a teenage boy who just rolled out of bed on Saturday at 1 p.m. She’s always got junk in her fur. Something she’s picked up from Baby Girl’s dinner on the kitchen floor or dust I’ve neglected from somewhere. Sasha constantly grooms her. When we first got her, I’d find her with her face and head completely soaked. I’m serious—actually wet. And then I witnessed it one day: Sasha actually licked her face till it was clean. Well, anyway, we’ve resorted to baths for Dinah to keep her looking presentable.

Where Sasha steps gingerly and carefully, Dinah runs headlong. This is the most obvious when the cats come to snuggle on the couch. Sasha stares us down for a minute, trying to decide if he really wants to sit with us, and if he does, then where. He paces. He finally jumps up and just stands on your lap, looking at you (I can’t see the TV!). Then he walks around on you a little. I can almost see the thoughts liked little bubbles above his head, “Where is the perfect spot . . . right there? No, that’s not it. Here? Oh, I don’t know about that.” Finally, he sits, and after awhile, he’ll get comfortable. Dinah? No way, she’s going through all that trouble. She jumps up, and plops down. Two steps. She doesn’t even look where she’s sitting and has fallen off my lap a few times because she sat right on the edge of my leg. If Sasha even feels your leg muscles tense in the least, he jumps down. Dinah will stay on your lap until she falls to the floor, usually with a thud.

Are there two cats that were ever this different from each other? I don’t know, but it’s hard to imagine. And somehow, they get along. They are like two college roommates, thrown together as strangers, who come out after a year of learning to live together as good friends. Ignoring certain things, accepting others, and then looking beyond all that to find the goodness deep inside. They annoy each other, and yet they love each other. I’m sure of it. If those two can get along, maybe there is hope for the rest of us?

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