HONG KONG CALICO Copyright 2005, Michael LaRocca
"Dogs have masters; Cats have staff."
Picasso was born in February 2000. According to local astrology, Year of Dragon. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? I rescued her from SPCA in September 2000. Someone had stuck her in a donation box. I don't even want to know what that means.
I had very definite plans. A calm, quiet, lazy girl who would be content spending all day cooped up in an 18th floor Hong Kong shoebox apartment.
There she was. In a glass cage. Her roommate was playing with a cat toy that some people dangled before her, ringing bells and acting like a kitten. Meanwhile, she rested on a perch, mildly disgusted by all commotion.
Once I reached in, but not before, she rubbed her head on my hand and purred. Yes, I decided, I'll take quiet one. The paperwork said she was four months old, based on her size. The guy who handled adoption looked at her teeth and said, "No, she's probably seven months, just underfed."
When I got home, I told my wife, "She has a naughty face, but she's really very sweet."
I returned two days later, after desexing operation, and brought home my shy, quiet cat. I set down cat carrier, opened it, and there she was. Scared, skinny, gorgeous.
My wife, painter, stated that kitten looked like a Picasso. If Picasso had painted a cat, this is how it would have looked. Black, white and ginger all in unique swirls and patterns. Thus, we named our new kitten Picasso.
Picasso camped out in spare bedroom, between wall and nearby wardrobe, atop some luggage. A very confined, safe area. The room was full of other hiding places, naturally, since we used it for clothing storage. Space is a rare commodity in Hong Kong. I marvel at folks who live with two kids, grandma, and a Filipino maid.
"She may be too quiet," we worried for next two days. "Boring."
We need not have been concerned. That's how long it took her to recover from surgery, and to realize that her masterful con job was a resounding success. Don't you know that all cats, when seeking a home, pretend to be angelic? Then, when everything is safe and you've been lulled into that false sense of security... BAM!!
Picasso loves to play with pens, lighters and balls of paper. Knocking massive marble balls from windowsill always gives a satisfying bang. On polished wood floor, they sound like bowling balls when they roll. Never in a straight line, leading to hours of fascinating study. The hair on her tail sticks out like a bristle brush and her eyes look feral as she rushes madly through flat. What will she attack next? Possibly large silk butterfly on wall. No one ever knows, not even her.
She loves pouncing on wall hangings, and attacking funnel web spiders on television. She knows how to sit on remote control and turn on TV, but it's much more fun to lift lid on computer printer and watch cartridges move.
Her favorite room may be bathroom. Picasso can watch people in there, on toilet or in shower. She can smell things. She can stare at herself in mirror. She can attack box of tissues, although she knows not to do that. Not that knowing stops her. This is a cat, not a dog. She just lies atop basin full of shredded tissues and says "meeeeowrrrrr..." Roughly translated, that means, "I didn't do that. I just found them here. I don't know how they got this way." Even though we both know it's a lie.
She can leap from basin to wall that divides room almost in half, landing on 4 inch space between that wall and ceiling, slamming into roof on way. From there she can climb onto light above mirror, then leap all way down to floor when someone opens a tin of tuna.
Imagine you're a guy about to take a leak, only to have a cat jump on toilet and challenge your aim. Now imagine her batting stream, perhaps even taking a sniff. Then when toilet flushes, she must stick her head way down in there for a close-up wide-eyed look. She's stopped doing all that, fortunately.
The bathroom has a tub, which is great for rolling in or hiding in. Recently I saw Picasso licking a bar of soap, then licking her white chest. Maybe that's how she keeps it so clean.
Or perhaps her favorite room is kitchen. She and kitchen didn't get along at first. She leaped on stove at a bad time and burned her whiskers. Now she's learned that it's safe only when burners are off.
The kitchen offers many opportunities to observe coffee brewing, cooking and dishwashing. Best of all, it has a tap. The water falls down, then vanishes into hole. How does that happen? If she's feeling a bit energetic, I can simply leave it dripping and go on my merry way. She'll appear half an hour later, face and paws soaked from batting at water and trying to bite it.
When pipes stopped up, she was extremely fascinated with my repairs. Running water and an open cabinet. This combination was simply irresistible. Ditto when I repaired toilet. This is a cat who is definitely obsessed with understanding plumbing.
The bed is also good, because she can lie on Daddy's chest and purr. This after fifteen minutes of "kneading bread" on a stomach that bounces like a waterbed. Picasso almost never bites. She doesn't sleep at our feet, but she does visit often. Sometimes too often.
Did you know that a bite on leg or toe is a friendly morning greeting? Picasso taught me that. Two minutes later, it's also good to sniff my face, purr, and perhaps lick my eyelashes.
She gained some weight, incidentally, and looks her age now. She is not fat, but neither is she skinny. If I fed her every time she demanded it, she'd be more bloated than Garfield.