Monday, December 21, 2009

Cat of the Month: Man-O-War

To round out a full year of cats, one of my all-time favorites, Man-O-War.
Previously known as Bing, Man-O-War was the first cat I had after moving out of my parents’ house. My roommates and I wanted a cat, we wanted to call it Man-O-War, and after a month or two of looking, we found one at the shelter that fit the ticket. Not every cat, after all, can be named Man-O-War. (And that’s after the jellyfish, not the racehorse.)
Man was black, with some white splashes on his chest and paws. Most of him was a short-hair, except for the tail, which was huge and bushy. The tail was as big as the rest of the cat. And he was long. Standing on tiptoe he could grip the edge of the dining table with his front toes, but not quite look at what was up there.

Man-O-War was one of the smartest cats I’ve ever had. He did tricks. He figured how to get through the hole in the screen to go out on the porch without enlarging the hole enough to make us notice it and repair it again. Once in a while he would get an infected toepad from the sharp ends of the wire screen, and need to go to the vet.

He was allowed a reasonable flow of Bonkers Cat Treats, for which he would stand up to his full height and even take a few steps, like a dog. If you tossed one he’d either catch it or bat it in the air. He knew he wouldn’t get more than one or two for that from me or the roommates, but after an infected paw episode he discovered that our friends would invariably fall for the ‘oh poor me, my paw hurts’ look. Even long after his paw was better.

Man liked riding in the car. If Tim was going to pick me up at work in the winter, or pick up a friend, he’d take Man with him, just for fun. Later when Man's allergies got bad and we had to visit the vet frequently, he would hate to leave the house in the car, but on the way home he’d be up in the windows again, looking at everything go by.

He knew about doorknobs, and was tall enough to reach them without jumping. He could even open them inward, keeping a hold on the knob and stepping backwards. He also knew that I would mind if he sat on the plants. I had never even seen him on my plants, so he had never experienced the consequences. But he rightly assumed there would be some, so he would sit on my asparagus fern with impunity in front of Tim, and skedaddle whenever I walked into the room. This often left Tim with the giggles. I could never figure why this particular plant, which had been doing so well, was now looking so squashed in the middle. It was still doing fine around the edges. Then once, I caught Man O War on my fern, and he saw me looking horrified, and Tim rolled on the ground laughing. It was the very last time the cat sat on the plant, because from then on it did quite well, until I had to move across the country and gave it to my Mom.

When we moved to LA and got Sasha, Man-O-War showed what a gentleman he was. He graciously allowed another male cat into his territory, but more than that, he never stole Sasha’s Bonkers. Man was slim and quick, but Sasha was a ponderous 20-pounder. So in Bonker Races, where we would toss them for Man because he liked the chase, we would eventually give in and toss one for Sasha, who really really wanted one but could barely get his bulk in gear before Man was back to the starting block. We would say ‘this one’s for Sasha’, and toss it (S did have to work for it, after all!), and Man-O-War would just let Sasha go get it. He never ever stole Sasha’s Bonker.
So that was the fine Man-O-War. Don't worry, there's a whole 'nother year of cats in store!


shabby girl said...

Such a beautiful kitty! The "never stealing Sasha's Bonkers" cracked me up. I look forward to more cat stories.

steven said...

nanu - i love this tale of your cat. more tales please!!!!! steven

NanU said...

sasha will get his turn in february, steven, and there are lots of tales - that cat was afraid to go outside (and would wail at the door if ManOWar went out, showing that cats do indeed have a 'theory of mind'), afraid to get on the furniture, and had fangs that stuck out of his mouth.

Millennium Housewife said...

A whole year? Excellent. I shall return the favour with dog posts. You may adopt the dog at anytime should you wish.

NanU said...

Thanks Millenium, looking forward to the posts. As for the offer, I don't think my cats are dog people. Natalie's barely a cat person as it is.

Titus said...

Now I'm not a cat person, but even I enjoyed that!

Millennium Housewife said...

You're following my blog! You're a Very Good Blogger with excellent taste. Excellent.

Argent said...

What a great cat! We had one once that was afraid of heights - even a jump off the coffee table was too scary. Merry Christmas.