I’m lying on my back in the dark, in bed, arms at my sides, covers up to my chin. Brutus, our two-year-old orange tabby, climbs onto my chest, scooting up so that his face is close to mine. Through the thick comforter, I can feel his warmth from my belly to my neck. He is purring. I’m effectively pinned by his weight and my sense of his affection, his catness.
Soon after, there’s a movement near my left arm, and it’s Twombly,* our 5-month-old kitten; never very far behind Brutus, his perpetual sidekick.
Twombly settles in on my upper arm, purring more loudly than Brutus, leaning toward him, resting his kitten head on the bigger cat’s flank. Then the ritual begins. Brutus stretches out a front leg—reaching with his paw, claws retracted—and softly pats me on the chin. Twombly squirms up my arm to get a little closer, then reaches out his paw, claws in, and pats me on the chin, as well, his rhythmic purrs so loud I think he’ll wake Tim.
I thrill to this. Not because it’s a unique occurrence (happens almost nightly) but because not so long ago both of these cats were feral kittens who showed up at our back door, tiny and trembling and in search of food—lured, we figured, by the smell of our other cats. Each was terrified of us, would start at the slightest movement and dart away, through the cat door and back into the seeming safety of the outdoor world.
It’s hard to remember now, but shortly after Brutus first showed up, I awoke in the early hours and saw that he was sleeping with our cats on the daybed where they congregate (a.k.a. “the kitty divan”). As I crept over to get a better look, Brutus awoke, saw me, and leapt to the floor, heading for the door. I bent down and (not really thinking) scooped him up, wanting to reassure him, I guess. Well, 14 puncture wounds and a couple of days later, I was at the urgent care clinic with swollen purple fingers, getting shots. (Afterwards, I found online a site where an expert likened handling a feral kitten to wrestling with an animated cactus. Believe it.)
That was two years ago; Brutus is now a beloved part of our household, the most affectionate of all the cats we’ve had. And now Twombly appears to be following suit, still a little skittish when we humans are vertical, but coming along nicely, thanks to Brutus.
*Named for Cy.
Photos were shot on my cell phone early this morning, once I managed to extricate an arm.