Agriculture A to Z: Zeke
by Charles Oz Collins
I should have known something was amiss; folks don’t normally give away young Siamese cats in good working order. But this was our long-time vet and it was explained that Ezekiel was the daughter’s cat but she had moved so the young tomcat could be had for the asking. My son had developed an interest in Siameses, I believe because he admired the breed’s oft-mentioned perverse nature. I was dispatched to gather up out latest “pet.”
The second ill omen regarding this cat was my first view of the subject. After ringing the doorbell, I took a polite step backward and waited. Mrs. Vet opened the door and greeted me. Almost immediately two smallish dogs rushed out in welcome. Zeke bolted out of the door on their heels, mayhem in his eyes. He was a sight to behold.
Even at an early age, this was a strung out cat, in body and in legs. It would not be long before we discovered this applied as well to the cat’s personality. Zeke was having the first of many bad hair days. My first fleeting glance suggested that God had made Zeke on a day when he wasn’t wearing his glasses. The young cat’s body bore a strong resemblance to a weasel, long, slender and appearing almost round. But this weasel was built for rough terrain. Zeke’s legs seemed more like his second cousin’s, the bobcat, and, these, too, were quite slender. The tail was half again longer than appeared necessary and reminded me of an old ship’s tattered sail at the end of a bad storm. And then there was the head. The cream and chocolate of a true Siamese were certainly present, but without the neat demarcation common to the breed. Things appeared to have gotten a bit stirred together. Indeed, it looked like Zeke had done a dozen laps on high in the clothes dryer; there were clumps of hair sticking in directions that didn’t even have names. The entire arrangement was crowned by a pair of small eyes that burned with an inner gleam; not hateful, but in kind of a general warning to the world ” here comes me!
Thirty seconds into our relationship, I felt I understood the good doctor’s alternate name for Ezekiel ” HOWIE, i.e, HELL ON WHEELS.
Two things became readily observable about Zeke. First, he passed through one of the longest teething periods I have ever observed. He just needed to use his teeth on things and human flesh was apparently the right consistency, with other cats a close second.
This period of devoted nipping and gnawing resulted in terrific dentition, so obviously the instinct was correct and the effort well rewarded. Secondly, Zeke came to us with an abiding hatred of dogs. Strangers and canine family members were treated without discrimination. In the face of a dog he sets aside his normal vow of silence. A low, angry grumble and tail snapping usually signal a full charge. Several quick two-pawed snagging rips are delivered at the victim’s flank or hind quarters. Just as quickly, Zeke stalks away to the accompaniment of more grumbling and tail-snapping. He doesn’t display any particular elation over these attacks but treats them more as a solemn duty.
In the several years that Zeke has tolerated our companionship he has not fundamentally changed, except to get a lot bigger. Body, teeth, legs and tail have grown apace. However, the body is no longer round but decidedly shabby. Zeke is a sizeable cat.
Zeke is religiously committed to a duel role, that of house cat and outside cat. This seems fitting since we live in the country and there is much for a cat to do outside, especially a youngish tomcat. This does not mean that he neglects indoor duties in the least, notably eating, sleeping, visiting the litter box, polishing ankles and shedding hair. But truly, he seeks a balanced existence with appropriate adjustments to weather and time of day.
It is now clear that Zeke has appointed me his official doorman. I am on call 24 hours a day. But it is the manner of his calling that strains our relationship. In the unlikely event that he wishes to leave the house when I am actually near a door, Zeke sits quietly near the door and looks first at the door then at me. If necessary, he will repeat the procedure several times with feigned patience. But it is infinitely more likely that Zeke will wish to take his leave between 2 and 4 a.m. This he announces by jumping on the foot of our bed and calmly walking the length of my body to get to his favorite window. This window, just above the head of our bed, affords a view of the yard and a small corner of his domain.
With front feet planted firmly on the window ledge and back feet nervously seeking a grip on the headboard, Zeke slowly peers into the darkness as he checks the weather, number of birds sleeping on the feeder and distribution of all dogs. As he does this he initiates my wake-up call by vigorously dusting my face with his tail. Presently he peers down to see if I am in a suitable state of consciousness to accompany him to the back door. Should I still be recumbent at this point he will typically step on some portion of my face as he descends. Only twice has he actually felt it necessary to fall on my head to get the message across.
In the interest of good employer-employee relations, Zeke constantly modifies our working arrangement. Sensing that I have on occasion taken exception to his tail hairs up my nose or his hind foot in my left eye socket, he has devised a less direct, a less brusque summons. Positioning himself on my favorite chair he proceeds to unweave the fabric with his front claws. The sound of fraying filaments carries the length and breadth of the house. Should I be sleeping on my less deaf ear and fail to respond quickly, Zeke does not feel it an imposition to come to by bedside and repeat the process on either the bedspread or carpet.
Zeke is patient with me in other ways as well.
Understanding that I do not possess his acute night vision, he proceeds me down the darkened hallway. He does his best to lead me around such obstacles as the other cats, who sometimes sleep in the hall, a large catalogue carelessly left on the floor, or the occasional hair-clad sandbur which has somehow made its way into the house. While he is very good about avoiding obstacles on the floor and displays considerable compassion when I don’t, he shows little concern for the differences in our height. Zeke has yet to effectively warn me when the dishwasher door is down and lurking at shin-level.
In his adolescence Zeke invested a portion of his outdoors hours visiting a nearby dairy. His motives for doing so were unclear since that establishment was fraught with felines of the most common and ill born status; his visits could hardly have been social. But as a prophet is not without honor except in his own country, Zeke frequently returned a bit the worse for wear.
After one such episode I was elected to escort the philanthrope to the vet, the self-same person who had given young Zeke over into the hands of total strangers. It was not a pleasant visit. Despite the best intentions and heartfelt condolences of the good doctor, Zeke served notice on both of us. His stare was poisonous and his yowl murderous, reaching a banshee pitch when the ill-educated quack suggested all concerned might be better served if Zeke had his “transmission” changed.
Subsequent to the surgery to modify Zeke’s motivation, a return visit was prompted by a stubborn case of feline flu. Apparently sensing the purpose of our trip, Zeke spent the entire 15-minute ride loudly expounding on the doctor’s various professional shortcomings. This monologue continued unabated into the examination room. Verbal quickly became physical, however, when the ham-handed “healer” deigned to take Zeke’s temperature ” other than orally!
I was allegedly holding Zeke when he decided to collect a blood sample from the doctor. Embarrassed, and momentarily forgetting my station in life, I grabbed all four of the patient’s extremities. He ceased reasoning with us long enough to collect a sizeable blood sample from me. With dignity much dented, Zeke endured the remainder of his visit in a straitjacket. I bled quietly on the floor. He did not cease, though, to loudly remonstrate with all within earshot the patient unfairness of this medical maltreatment.
Late that evening as I lay feverishly on a gurney in the emergency room of the local hospital, I began to better appreciate Zeke’s behavior. The nurse had taken my temperature (in a quite civilized fashion), had inserted an IV into my arm and was mistakenly starting to apply a soft cast to my only unbitten and visibly unswollen arm. I fought back a welling urge to fix her with a Zeke-like stare and yowl “there is nothing wrong with my transmission!”
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