Monday, July 25, 2011
Cleofatra and the baby gate revisited
When Morgan brought home the box of kittens, almost six years ago now, Cleo was the second smallest of the bunch. She fit comfortably in the palm of my hand, a tiny ball of fluff with big green eyes peering out of her classically beautiful feline face.
Her features are still rather delicate, her paws dainty, her tail not overly long. Above her little face, framed by luxuriant white whiskers that catch the sun just so, perch her ears, two small triangles. I think she would be quite a petite cat today if she had not settled so easily into the pampered life of a housecat, expanding ever outward, becoming rounder and rounder.
Sitting in the kitchen I hear a quiet creak and gentle rattle of wood on wood and glance over at the baby gate at the top of the stairs, put there to keep Murdoch from bolting up from the entryway every five minutes to wreak havoc on the rest of the house. It is attached to the wall with hinges so it can be opened and closed like a door.
Cleo’s head and shoulders are framed by the square hole in the gate that is there for the purpose of cat thoroughfare. One little white paw rests on the bottom edge of the hole, behind it, Cleo’s face is set in determination as she pulls on the gate, trying to open it enough to slip under and emerge into the kitchen.
She began avoiding the hole after that day she got stuck halfway through and the gate began to open as she scrabbled at the kitchen floor with her front paws. It swung out over the stairs and she was left hanging there for a moment, folded in half, before she finally slithered through and walked up the stairs as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened at all.
Cleo will still use the hole if she has to, squeezing herself through slowly, careful not to be too bargey and risk repeating that embarrassing predicament. But when she can, she prefers to use the gate like a door, swinging it open on its hinges dramatically as if to make a grand statement of, “I’m a cat and no gate will stop me!”
I sit at the kitchen table and watch as she tugs on the gate with a little more force. When it doesn’t open I swear I see a look of disappointment cross her face. “Oh man, it’s locked.” Followed by resolved determination. “Okay, I’m going through.” I imagine I hear a sigh of resignation and then I take pity on her. I move to get up and Cleo’s eyes focus on me, suddenly brighter with a hint of relief. And she waits.
I swing the gate open for her. It squeaks on its hinges and she has to duck underneath as it floats over the top of her head where she sits on the first step down. Then she snakes underneath, tiptoeing quietly into the kitchen.
After a stiff-legged tour of the room followed by a quick stretch in a patch of sun, Cleo returns to the stairs. She throws open the gate so it bangs against the wall and stomps back down to the entryway.