Senior Life

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Two stray cats and an old man

By Mike Fak

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[June 10, 2011]  We currently have two cats in our family. Smirky is fifteen years old and Jackson is almost six. The family doesn't have anything against dogs but with our families being up north we take frequent weekend trips away from the house and that wouldn't be fair to either a dog's bladder or our rugs.

Both Smirky and Jackson were strays I brought home and both of them were in tough straits when I did so. Smirky had been all chewed up by something bigger including having most of her tail bitten off and Jackson was out in the winter wild where Illinois coyotes roam looking for little cats to snack on and she was skin and bones when we first met.

Of course both of these waifs were used to eating bugs and drinking from muddy puddles when they came my way. Both of them now are more finicky than the old Morris the Cat in those pet food commercials.

When they both entered our lives, they at first still had the eating habits they had formed in the wild. "If it doesn't move, eat it. If it does move, kill it and then eat it." This habit of wanting to eat everything the Fak family had, however, didn't last very long with either of them.

Once they realized their bowl would stay full as well as their water, they began their metamorphosis into finicky, fussy cats. If it was something they really liked then they would beg. If it wasn't they would just go back to their bowl of Friskies.

The culinary exceptions of Smirky and Jackson are fairly common with cats. They both love tuna and Smirky likes shrimp with just a tad of shrimp sauce on it. Jackson for some strange reason likes ham and bean soup but for the most part they have given up their days of begging. They also have learned how to dictate to me.

Once when the store was out of Friskies, I bought an alternative brand. When I filled the bowl, they both went over and sniffed and both looked at me with a "This isn't Friskies" look on their face. The two refused to eat this imitation and so the next morning, after giving them a can of tuna to split, I went to another store to find the blasted proper brand.

They also are extremely fussy about their water. Like a cup of coffee in the morning. Both of them come into the bathroom to get a fresh mini-bowl of water while I am in there getting ready for work. Now the water must be fresh, and in fact they need to see me fill it from the tap. And if one of them slobbers too much in the drink, the other sits there with that look saying, "I want my own, this one has been slobbered in."

The height of pompous royalty came the other day when Jackson sat by the bowl waiting for a fresh pour. After I did so, I laid it down behind her and she didn't move. She just gave me a, "I'm facing this way" look and I decided to test our wills against each other. After several minutes of Jackson just sitting there staring at me, I gave in. I put the bowl in front of her and she began drinking.

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Now Smirky is my son's good buddy but Jackson is mine. With all her finicky ways, Jackson is the most loyal animal I have ever know. Whatever room I'm in, Jackson is there. If it's warm, then Jackson sits at the feet of my office chair on a rug. If it's colder, she climbs on my lap, crawls under my flannel shirt and with her head popped out between a few buttons she goes to sleep like a baby kangaroo in a pouch.

She loves to play fetch with a little silver ball and when I try to sneak into the bedroom at night, she always beats me to the upper left corner where she waits for me to cover her for the night.

The only thing Jackson doesn't do is get up with me when I climb out of bed around 5:00am.

At that time, she sticks her head out of the blanket and gives me that look that says, "Look I'm your best buddy but I'm not getting up at this God-forsaken hour for anyone."

The other day, I walked back into the bedroom to tell Jackson I was going to work early. I could swear she stuck one of her paw out from under the covers and waved goodbye. So much for loyalty at 5:30 am.  Smirky, on a pile of clothes heading for the laundry didn't even stop snoring.


Some days I wonder if I have two cats or maybe the two cats have me.


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