While at Menards—a local, less menacing version of the Home Despot, I picked up a few cat toys. Max—the middle child, our Jan Brady, the weird one—likes to carry things around in his mouth, and he also likes to dismantle small stuffed animals, which he then carries around in his mouth (he took apart a small, jointed cat stuffed animal once and carried the mangled head around for weeks), so I bought little rubbery Koosh™ ball type thingies and also little puffs. There are a few scattered about the house now, and Max tends to squirrel them away. They appear every once in awhile, most often in the middle of the night accompanied by claws-on-wood scrabblings and astoundingly loud little cat feet. The purple one has been out most often lately, and I call him Arnold because that is what Ginny named her pygmy puff.
Last night, we bought our first Christmas tree as a couple and brought it in. Anything new in the house is cause for celebration by our four-legged housemates, and when that new thing is large, smells of the outdoors, and is accompanied by much moving of furniture, it’s practically a party. Fritz, the elder of the tribe, got out Arnold and started racing about the room as we attempted to adjust the tree in its red and green stand. Just a couple of evenings before, he had brought Arnold into the living room in his mouth and was vocalizing in what we have always thought was his mournful howl. We were sitting right there on the couch, and it’s a sound he usually only makes at night when he is alone in another room and we are already in bed. It has always seemed to us that he is looking for us or crying. It’s a very sad sound. But there he was, howling, Arnold the purple pygmy puff dangling from his teeth. He kept howling; we tried to talk to him, but he can’t hear very well anymore, and certainly could not hear us over his own racket. It was the strangest thing. He kept it up even after he made eye contact with us. We thought that perhaps he had the puff caught on his teeth and was upset about it. Then he dropped it and started playing again. All seemed well.
It’s another example of humans casting their own emotional perceptions onto animals, I think. Because last night, as he raced around chasing Arnold, he stopped periodically and made the same sound. He came into bed with us, but left soon after, and the sound wafted into the bedroom. Pete got up to check on him, and there he was in the living room with the puff between his front feet, howling. I now believe that what I thought was mournful, simply because it conjured up mournful feelings in me, is actually a little song that he is singing to his little toy.