Every once in awhile, one of the cats discovers a New Place. It’s not as if he or she suddenly has access to unexplored territory. More likely, Someone realizes she can go somewhere she hasn’t thought of previously, or he attempts to squeeze in, jump on, or go into someplace that just hadn’t occurred to him until that moment.
Calvin had been eyeing the top of the medicine cabinet in our main bathroom for a couple of weeks. He would jump up on the counter while I was putting on my makeup in the morning. He’d climb in and out of the sink and be ever so Helpful in that way that cats have of being completely in the way. Then he’d get bored, and I’d notice him looking up.
“Really Calvin?” I asked, when I realized what he was pondering. “Don’t even think about it. It is Not a Good Idea. I haven’t dusted up there in…hmm…well I don’t know that I’ve ever dusted there.” Yuck. Then I’d pull out my hair dryer and Stupendous Cat would get distracted by the cord, hop off the counter and suddenly remember he had some other kind of Trouble to get into.
Until last week. He began staring at the top of the cabinet the minute he hopped up on the counter. Then he hunched down and performed his ritual I’m Getting Ready to Jump butt wiggle. And up he went.
Ah, the look of accomplishment. Satisfaction. Superiority. Cats are so impressed with themselves when they reach a new higher-than-people spot. Okay, well, cats are impressed with themselves nearly all the time anyway, but the “I’m Impressive” meter goes to 11 on these occasions. Calvin was no exception. He paraded back and forth across the top, tail held high, reveling in his achievement.
The exultation lasted until Calvin realized I intended to leave the bathroom. That was the moment he figured out there was a down side to this feat. Literally. Our intrepid explorer had only considered how to go up; the reverse trip hadn’t been given similar attention. This posed a bit of a conundrum.
He began the I Need to Get Down But Don’t Know How To dance. If you’ve never seen it, it goes something like this: One step forward, one step back, one step forward, one step back. Repeat. Put your front half over the edge with paws on the vertical surface. Then scrunch back to your perch. Repeat three times. Sit down and clean yourself. Then start again, from the beginning.
After several rounds of the dance, the cat decides he or she really does need to get down, and–during one of the paws-on-vertical-surface moments–continues the movement into a hopefully-graceful-but-usually-not leap to the ground.
Once a cat has discovered a new place, of course, he must Return to it. He must Own it. He must show the world–and the other cats–that the most exalted of felines has reached new heights.
To do that, it is necessary to explore every inch of the fresh territory, ensuring no corner is left untouched, no dustball left undisturbed. Then you must lay down and roll around, striking adorable poses and ratcheting up the cute factor. This last bit delays the inevitable Get Down From There moment that humans always seem to reach way before cats do.
One of the bests parts of being First, though, is the amount of prestige one gains when one of the other cats sees you Up There. It didn’t take long before Elsa Clair came strolling into the bathroom when Calvin was reigning. She padded nonchalantly onto the tiles and caught a deliberate movement from him, as he was looking down at her. Elsa Clair stared at her brother: “How did you–?”
For a few moments, Calvin’s cat smugness reading was off the charts.
Elsa Clair’s eyes flashed to the counter. The mirror. The cabinet. She had the whole route planned out before she twitched another whisker.
She leapt to the counter.
Calculated the next jump.
And joined Calvin at the top.
The two cats stared at each other. Ears flicked. Eyes squinted. Volumes were spoken. Calvin poked Elsa Clair. Slowly, grudgingly, the interloper conceded the victory. Besides, the top of the medicine cabinet was boring.
Elsa Clair left.
Calvin wore his greatness like a crown the rest of the day.