Animals can talk. I don't care what anyone says. They can talk. Perhaps I've been around them for too long, or like a lot of other animal people I simply see our quadrupeds more like personality-rich peers than pets. And some days, it seems the cats' comments drown out everyone else's.
"Ta-da!" exclaimed our tuxedo kitten, Jack, as he flopped over on his side.
"Falling over isn't much of a trick," I commented.
"But aren't I cute when I do it?" he asked, looking a little hurt.
"Actually," began our 16-year-old Afghan mix, Kit, "you just look fat when you do it."
"Kit," I said. "That wasn't called for. Jack, yes, you're cute when you flop over like that."
"Ta-da!" he said, with another flop.
"I think I'm going to be sick," Kit added as she climbed into her bed for her third early-morning nap.
Jack is definitely the family comedian. As an indoor cat, he has plenty of free time to work on his tricks, jokes and routines. And though his diet is well-regulated, he is the feline incarnate of Bob's Big Boy. Jack looks like a miniature "Macy's Day" balloon with baling twine legs and comically tiny feet.
Next to flopping, his favorite activity is sitting on people. Jack will climb on your stomach, usually after you've eaten a large meal, and vigorously knead your belly with his tiny front feet while he purrs. It's hard to hate him, though Kit does a pretty good job.
"I need to go out," said Macy, our indoor-outdoor tortoise shell-tabby-calico.
"You just went out," I replied.
"Well, I need to go out again. I think I saw a mouse over there by the holly bush."
Macy is a small, though exceptionally athletic cat with a most unusually patterned coat. She looks like she could only be camouflaged among the bizarre bolts in an eccentric fabric store, but it doesn't slow her down: She's an amazing mouser.
I remember once watching her catch one of the wild rabbits eating the lettuce out of our garden. I think bunnies are cute, and I still love The Velveteen Rabbit, but witnessing this particular hunt was impressive. I mean, rabbits are fast, but Macy was faster.
Strangely, I don't think she had planned on actually succeeding. She seemed confused, if not bewildered by her good fortune. Fortunately, our Aussie mix dog, Hazel, was there to help. Hazel took the catch to an empty stall and dispatched the entire thing. I promise that we do actually feed our animals.
Macy typically limits her pursuits to mice and rats. And there are new ones daily.
"Well, that's another one for you," Macy said rather nonchalantly as I opened the back door for her. "I left it near the garage."
"Er... thanks," I managed.
"That's in addition to the one near the barn and the half-of-one in the driveway. Don't you appreciate the rodents I catch for you?"
"Yes," I said. "Absolutely."
"But you never eat them," Macy said.
"I'm... allergic," I lied. "I get bumps."
"Mom does, too," I added.
"Oh... I see," she responded thoughtfully. "That's too bad. They're actually quite good for you. You know, low fat, high protein. Maybe if you--"
"Bumps," I repeated with a shrug. "Thank you, though. You're really sweet. Besides, I think Hazel enjoys them far more than we ever could." I leaned over and scratched her chin.
"Okay," she purred.
"Ta-da!" Jack flopped. Macy rolled her eyes. Kit groaned.
Macy's long-haired sister, Sascha, peered in the window from the railing on the back deck. It had begun to rain, and she looked more troubled than usual. I opened the back door and called to her.
"Who said that? Dad?" Sascha answered, squinting. I should explain that Sascha has horrible eyesight. If they ever made glasses for cats, we'd be the first in line. The poor eyesight confuses things, but hasn't slowed her down. In fact, Sascha's strategy is to run from anything big that moves, but toward anything small that moves.
"It's me," I offered. "I'll bring you in." I went out, picked her up and carried her inside.
"Hey, Sascha!" Jack hollered as we walked by. "Check this out--ta-da!"
Sascha squinted and hissed.
"All right, that's enough," I said, carrying Sascha into our bedroom, closing the door behind me. I set her down on the bed, and she nearly disappeared in the center of our puffy comforter.
"Are you comfortable in there?" I asked.