Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cat Stairs

My bungalow, like most bungalows, has a partial second floor. The stairs to get up there (and back down) are well built and carpeted; the banister, sturdy and bolted to the wall. They are just fine for a relatively mobile adult, of any age. And not bad for kids who can bounce down them safely.

What I didn’t realize when I bought the house, was that they are actually cat stairs. More particularly, Guinness cat stairs. [Herbie has historically used them simply as the logical path to get from one level to another.]

If, for example, I toss one of Guinness’s favorite little balls up to him, he will bat it back; on occasion even jumping up to reach it. He will volley with me five or six times before he allows the ball to reach the upstairs landing. Then, of course, he awaits, alert, for me to throw it back down. He’ll shoot down after it, sometimes bringing it back up, more often tucking it into a favorite hiding place ready for future games.

That’s his agenda when I go up the stairs. When I go down – even if I have armloads in transition – he will race two steps ahead; throw himself across a stair and wait. My mandate is unmistakable. I must (carefully) step around him and, one or two steps below, turn and rub his magnificent tummy. If I fail a to pay my toll of affection, he will scoot past and try it on a lower level. I usually ‘pay.’

All of this now firmly established routine has, over the past nearly eight years, been carefully observed by my other cat, Herbie.

In recent days, he has begun to pause – going up or going down – and ease himself across a step. More gracefully, more gently than Guinness but the expectation is patently the same.

I may never escape.

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