I did say I wouldn’t turn this into a cat blog, but…here’s an update, which has led me to learn a couple of new Portuguese phrases.
Rumple the Kitten came to us with an eye/respiratory illness, which we are currently treating with an antibiotic eye ointment that must be applied three times per day. This involves catching a very reluctant kitten and tormenting him, while he stares at you with huge, round eyes of betrayal. Needless to say, I’m not enjoying it either, and it has brought out my protective instincts. I’m…hovering. It’s possible that I’m being a totally paranoid worrywart. Not that I’m admitting anything, just saying it’s possible.
In English, the term for the behavior which I am not admitting is “mother hen.” Portuguese has an exact equivalent: mãe-galinha. But the Portuguese take it one step further, and acknowledge that men can also exhibit this behavior. They’re not chickens, though. They’re owls: pai-coruja, which means “father owl.” Why the female is a chicken and the male is an owl, my wife could not explain. What’s more, the coruja isn’t just any owl; it is specifically the group of owls that do not have little feather tufts atop their heads. (Tufted owls are called mocho. There are exceptions, but only birders need to worry about them.)
I’m wondering about this etymology…and also why English doesn’t have a male equivalent for pai-coruja. (The sad thing is that it took me over four decades to even realize that there’s no English term for male mother hens.) And of course, I’d love to know the words in other languages.
Since we’re talking about Rumplekitten, I might as well include a photo. This was taken a few hours ago, beneath my office chair:
You can see the goo beneath his eyes from the antibiotic ointment. That stuff does not come off. But it’s done the trick: Rumple is no longer tearing, nor sneezing, and his breath has dramatically improved. (Before, it might have been described as “an exhalation from the grave,” which is just wrong for a tiny kitten. Old cats, yes. Kittens, no.)
We are amazed at how fast he is growing. In our living room there stands an armoire with exactly 5.5 cm (a hair over 2 inches) of clearance between its front molding and the floor, and Rumple found it within an hour of arriving in our home. For the first week, he ran under that armoire without even slowing down. Then came a day when I distinctly heard a klonk as he ran under, and another klonk when he came back out again. Gave me a headache just hearing it.
Now he comes screeching to a halt just in front of the armoire, flattens himself down, and squeeeeeezes under. Then he squeeeeeezes back out again, reinflates, and dashes off. We sincerely hope that he’ll recognize when he’s too big to get under before he’s actually under it and can’t get out again.
In the meantime, we’ve been watching our very own National Geographic special as Rumple gradually wins over our 6.5-year-old Chartreux cat, Graymalkin. She did not take at all kindly to the intruder, and spent several days atop high objects while watching the tiny ball of fur sniffling around HER home. There was quite a lot of hissing on her part, and a few smart smacks about the head when he got too close. But Rumple is determined, and he really wants to be close to her. In fact, when we introduced them (through the bars of a cat carrier), he burst into a loud purr the moment he saw her.
Over the course of three weeks, Graymalkin has gone from pure outrage to grudging tolerance to a sudden realization that she now has a playmate. And play they do! It’s hilarious to watch her chase him when she’s five times heavier than he is. She shortens her stride and sort of trots, so as not to run him over. Of course, it’s even funnier when he chases her — kind of like a terrier chasing a German shepherd.
He really does worship her, and part of that is wanting to use her bowls instead of his. We gave up keeping a water bowl in his bathroom, because he never used it. Instead, he’d eat his food, then go across the hall and into the master bath in order to drink from Graymalkin’s water bowl.
After much persistence, he’s managed to ingratiate himself to the point where Graymalkin will allow him to use her water bowl even while she’s eating. This was the first photo I managed to take with both of them in the frame.
A couple of nights ago, Rumple played a very crafty, patient stalking game with Graymalkin on our bed. She was sleeping next to my pillow, where she often stays for a few hours at bedtime. He was sleeping in a little ball at my hip. When he woke and saw his idol so close by, he moved up a few centimeters and slept again. Then woke, and moved a few centimeters more. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until finally…contact!
(Crappy photo quality due to iPad pic in low light. But Rumple’s expression is perfect.)
I’m betting that within another month, possibly two, they’ll be sleeping together. It won’t be Graymalkin’s idea, or even her preference, but Rumple is not going to give up until he gets what he wants. It is amazing how much stubborn willpower can be contained in a little 1-kilo package.