There’s a Tiger in the Grass

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Olive, the dumpster-diving kitten rescued by daughter Abbie last summer after we finished eating at the Olive Garden — hence the name — has finally been allowed to venture into the Great Outdoors. She has been strictly an indoor kitty until this week and spent hours staring longingly out the picture windows into the backyard. My Beautiful Mystery Companion — aka the Cat Whisperer — and I were both leery at letting such a small creature out there where hawks, owls, coyotes and other predators abound. Olive watched with envy as Tater and Tot, her new older brothers, prowled the backyard. They are experienced indoor-outdoor cats with enough heft that a red-tailed hawk isn’t going to be able to carry them off for dinner.

Olive has black tiger-like stripes, huge green eyes and a cautious manner. When you grow up living off table scraps and bugs behind a restaurant in the summer heat, it pays to be cautious. She was filled with parasites when we got her. It took weeks of medicine to get that cleaned up. Tater, a blubber-nugget neutered tomcat pushing the 20-pound mark, took an immediate shine to Olive. He grooms her, sleeps on the couch with one fat paw draped over her body, and gently wrestles with his new little sister.

Tot tolerates Olive but just barely. That is Tot’s general attitude toward the other critters in this house, which also includes Mollie the Maltese, a happy rambunctious soul who thinks everyone in the world is just dying to play fetch with her. One of Mollie’s early evening rituals is to race figure-8s around Tater and Tot in the backyard as they lie lazily in the grass. The cats occasionally reach out to take a half-hearted swat at her. She dodges their blows as if summoning the spirit of Muhammad Ali, floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee.

For about three weeks, my BMC took Olive out to the back porch and held her in her lap. She adores my BMC and was content to lie there, looking around wide-eyed at the natural world, visibly flinching when Pancho the Donkey starts braying down the hill in the pasture. That fellow sends out hee-haws audible a few hundred yards away. After the trial period, Olive was released into the backyard while my BMC kept close watch. Olive stays inside the fenced portion, exploring bugs crawling in the grass, trying to catch the flying insects with impressive leaps into the air, warily watching as Mollie divebombs the other cats.

The next trick was persuading her to come back inside. Olive only trusts my BMC. The only way she allows me to pick her up is if I sneak up from behind and scoop her into my arms. When I do, she reluctantly allows me to stroke her lovely soft fur. But, at least for now, there is no way I can reach down to pick her up if she is watching. She immediately flees. I have had that effect on a lot of females in my time.

The first few times we tried, Olive just stared at the open door, reluctant to come inside when there is so much to explore in the backyard. My BMC had to reach down and pick her up. But she is slowly learning that there is a time to be outside and a time to come in for a snack and nap. Her older brothers already understand that. Tater sleeps in a wicker basket on top of an armoire in the master bedroom. That fat cat leaping up there is a gravity-defying stunt worthy of a YouTube video. Tot generally curls up on the bed below.

Critters provide us with so much joy and entertainment, more than enough to put up with the fur, the scratched furniture, and the sorrow when they inevitably pass away. We hope to enjoy Olive’s company for many years to come.

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