From somewhere upstairs it issues--- an insistent throbbing like bass glissandos or a behind repeatedly plunked on a whoopee cushion. I sigh and turn up the TV. Furgus, our Sphinx-size Maine Coon cat, is snoring. The anomaly of him continues.
Cats are supposed to be dignified, even regal (most of the time, anyway; a creature that licks its behind can’t be expected to vie with a Maasai chieftain). Especially forty-three-inch-long, eighteen-pound specimens, with luxuriant pelts and a ruff, that resemble miniature lions. When Anna was small, in fact, she called Furgus “Lion King.” But like Disney’s Simba, he seems reluctant to claim his legacy. Any cat that snores is going to have trouble commanding respect. Can you imagine the MGM lion snoring? If Furgus were an alley cat, he’d catch mice only because they’d be too helpless with laughter to run away.
Furgus dropped into our lives at the age of four months like a parachuted haystack, bottle-fed till then because his mother rejected him. This may account for his tendency to tail us. He’s like the goslings that imprinted onto Anna Paquin in the movie Fly Away Home. It may also have something to do with his prodigious size at that age.
“This is a kitten?” I said to Marsha. I was expecting something you could fit in a soup bowl. Furgus occupied the whole tureen. His pinnas were the size of tortilla chips. And he didn’t mew; he chirped, loudly and often--- further evidence of possible species confusion.
I admit to having ossified notions about animals. Maybe it’s a reaction to much of life seeming random and fluid. I expect creatures to run in the behavioral circles we’re used to. I neither expect, nor desire, dogs to write cantatas or hyenas to stump for Save The Children. Animals that exhibit unusual, especially human, traits remind me of that cartoon about the new, friendlier Internal Revenue Service: a couple being audited by Barney, who sit beneath a banner saying I”R”S, like Toys”R”Us.
Unfortunately for Furgus, two of the three other felines Marsha and I have entertained as a couple were unmistakably all cat. (The exception, Floyd, was so low-key he didn’t even meow, so you hardly knew he was there.) Dudley, a male stray, and Gus, our late calico, were charm school dropouts, cunning, arrogant, capricious, and easily spooked. They’d spar in the loft at every opportunity, Dudley’s gurgling oyoyoys counterpointing Gus’s reptilian hissing like a yenta visiting an alligator farm.
After such classic cat antics, Furgus’s idiosyncrasies seem downright fey. Indeed, there’s a definite transgender possibility: He appears to be wearing eye liner, and doesn’t so much walk as sashay. Then there was the time I caught him on Marsha’s makeup table, checking out the lipsticks. Say hello to drag queen kitty.
In Marsha’s eyes, of course, Furgus is the Messiah. “He’s a sweet, clean, loving animal,” she coos, nuzzling his steer-like noggin, “and he never goes after leftovers like Gus did.” I won’t argue this; only problem is, Furgus takes it to extremes.
Yes, he’s clean, practically to the point of OCD. He grooms by ripping out Vermont-size hunks of fur all over the house. True, he eats only cat food…so much that we need to apply for feline food stamps. And friendly? To where he sleeps on top of you. This I can definitely do without. I’m not being ornery, it’s self-preservation. There’s a precedent here.
One night when Floyd was alive I fell asleep with a pillow over my head to muffle Marsha’s fashion TV marathon. I then dreamed a mine had collapsed, trapping me inside; everywhere I turned there was debris blocking my way. When I awoke, the pillow had become so heavy I could hardly breathe--Floyd was lying on it.
If Furgus did this, I’d be dead. And he’d be snoring.