Our Himalayan Cats - Ruffian

[Cats]

1995

Let me tell you about Ruffian. She's been through the usual blurring and diminution of name and nickname, with Ruffy and Buffy and Buffo, right down to "You bloody little bastard, why can't you let me get some bloody sleep?"

When she was a kitten, there were times when I wanted to kill her. She would wait till we went to bed and had fallen asleep before she would start to play. Her idea of play was to walk around any up-high surface in our bedroom, or the rooms around our bedroom, and push everything off onto the floor. She particularly loved it if she broke anything. If it fell to the floor and rolled, she would leap down and play with it, rolling it around and around, cannoning it off the walls and furniture, and making as much noise as possible. When bored with these pursuits, she would scratch anything she could. I should point out that her claws are needle sharp, and if I trim them with nail clippers so they are as blunt as can be, she has them needle sharp again within two days.

[Ruffian looking mischievous]

In the summer at the end of 1991, we got practically no sleep for several months. I would get out of bed and run screaming after her, and give her the most savage hidings. It's something that I'm not proud of, and I wouldn't do now, and I know how to fix the problem now, but back then, I was desperately tired, befuddled from lack of sleep, irritable, angry, and I lashed out and I hurt her several times. Most of the time I would keep my blows so that they made lots of noise, but didn't hurt much, just to let her know that we weren't happy with her behaviour. But sometimes when I gave her a whack, something happened inside me and rage filled me and I belted her and belted her and belted her until she was squeaking in protest.

Thankfully for both us, she grew out of most of these terribly anti-social habits after that summer. Next summer she got terribly naughty and frisky again, but nowhere near as bad as that first summer. Maybe it's the long fur and the itching from sweat and fleas that drove her partially insane? But Redrum is even furrier, and she never did anything like that. Ruffian settled down after that and became a great cat. She's wickedly smart, but tremendously loving. She wants her own way, and gets annoyed and protests when she isn't allowed to do something. She doesn't miaow like normal cats, and she doesn't have the vocal range of a Siamese. Her normal noise is a breathless squeak. When she protests about something, she produces a very aggrieved squeak. And when she thinks everyone has abandoned her, she walks about the house, uttering these mournful, hollow calls. Sometimes we hide and listen to see how bad these pitiful cries get. If you didn't know her well, you would assume she had recently seen our deaths and was mourning them with heart-rending passion.

She's smart. I've seen her sitting on the floor looking up at the table, and wanting to jump up and see what's up there. She'll sit and consider for a bit, and then she'll turn and look at Anne. You can see her weighing things up. I swear you can see these little cat thoughts running over forehead, she's so transparent. On the one hand, she wants to see what's on the table. On the other hand, she knows she'll get yelled at by Anne. Which isn't any sort of threat. So you can see her dismiss Anne, and turn and look at me. She knows she'll get a slap from me, or a stinging flick of a tea-towel if I have one handy. I've seen her consider the consequences, decide that the slap or flick is worth it, and just jump up on the table and have a look around. I rush up and slap or flick and she flops on her side, protests a little bit, and then quite happily jumps down. That's cunning. I'm quite proud of her. [Ruffian resting peacefully]

We keep them indoors at night-time, until about five or six am, when they demand to be let out for toilet duties. Ruffian has developed an amazingly irritating habit when she decides she wants to come in again. There's no wood or screen to scratch and let us know her desires. What there is, is an aluminium door frame. Ruffian will sit outside our bedroom, attach one claw to the aluminium door frame, and plink it. And plink it again. And she will keep plinking until one of us is woken up, driven insane by the bloody noise and come and let her in. I have no idea how she worked this out, but she did. One morning we lay in bed and did our best to ignore the noise. She continued to plink non-stop for three quarters of an hour before I staggered out of bed, ripped the door open, and screamed at her to shut up and come in. The neighbours were duly impressed.

She's a small neat-looking cat. Small is relative, I suppose, compared to Redrum. The fur bulks them out and makes them look pretty big. Technically, she's a lilac-point Himalayan. Which means she's got very light markings in the same place a Siamese cat does. The ears and muzzle, the paws and the tail are coloured a bit darker than the lustrous creamy fur on the rest of her. Just imagine a Persian cat, but with the supercilious stupidity on its face replaced by a look of great intelligence and interest. She's as lively and active as a monkey, and almost as dextrous.

Ruffian has some strange habits, but she's also got a strange body. When she's happy, she sticks her tongue out. A little bit happy, and you can just see a wee bit of pink. When she's feeling quite good, there's about a quarter inch of pink tongue sticking out. On one memorable occasion, when she was ecstatically blissed out, asleep on the rug in front of us, her tongue was sticking out a gross three quarters of an inch. Disgusting. It was large and pink and limp. Naturally, I couldn't allow this state of affairs to last, so I tiptoed over and fiddled with her tongue. She woke up, reeled the tongue in and protested about my treatment of her.

She's also got an amazing ability to flatten out. Her body isn't deformed or anything, except she has a very narrow chest. But if you pick her up and hold her against you, she flattens out. She goes ever so flat. People who aren't used to seeing these bizarre trick cats, often recoil when they see Ruffian hanging down flat and ask if she's alright or dead. If she's happy and she rolls on her back, she will often stretch out. And that means all four legs stretched as far as they can go, head back, tongue out, and flat. She loves to lie on the flokati rug. So there's the underbelly of this small, flat furry white beast looking like a small cat rug, lying on this great white furry flokati rug. People have stood on her, either not knowing she was there, or thinking she was a small rug. What a cat.

She has some very strange likes and dislikes. Her favourite outdoors activity is to be swept. If I pick up the straw broom to sweep some leaves, then she will get underfoot and make a nuisance of herself until I sweep her. This involves her flattening out, and me sweeping her back with the straw broom. She prefers a good brisk sweep from the top of her head (avoiding the face and eyes) all the way down to the tip of the tail. No doubt she believes this is part of the grooming that we are supposed to do. And after a vigorous sweep, she will stagger away and flop down and look terribly terribly satisfied.

That's Ruffian. Smart, but irritating. And ever so loving. We've probably only got them for another eight years, maximum, and I'm going to miss Ruffian when she's gone. I'll also get a lot more sleep.

Can Ruffian Learn A Lesson?

[Cats]

1996

I used to think that Ruffian was incapable of learning things. I suspect that she's a bit deaf, and a bit thick. But last week I discovered that she is definitely capable of learning a lesson. Two weeks ago, she was down the back, helping Anne clean up some of the rubble. Anne threw a brick onto the pile, Ruffian was in the way and the brick hit her head with a very satisfying clunk. Ruffian sat down and shook her head, then staggered away. Maybe she had concussion, maybe she had brain damage, but she definitely had a headache. It hurt. Anne was really upset, thinking she had killed her cat. But Ruffian survived with no ill effects.

A week later, Ruffian was helping me sweep some leaves, and I threw a rock on a pile near her. When it hit the pile, it made the same clunk sound and Ruffian reared up then took off. She ran and hid. It was really funny, but a positive indication that our little thickie can learn a lesson.

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