Sunday, April 24, 2005

Mona and Penny

This photo makes Penny the cat look enormous and my mother-in-law tiny, but this is no exaggeration!

Penny only likes one person in this world, and that's Mona. Everyone else can beat it as far as Penny is concerned, and she makes no bones about it. I've been trying for MONTHS to take her photo, but to no avail. As soon as she sees me, she runs for the hills. She's known David since she was a kitten, about 10-11 years ago, and she still hisses and bites at his hand when he tries to be friendly. So, I don't take it personally.

Penny's Story, by David

My mother was visiting our rented house in Scranton, one day in the Spring of 1994, and we had just walked into the backyard where the cars were parked. We saw (and heard) a little orange tabby cat, standing on her hind legs with her paws against a tree; on closer examination, we found that she was covered in what appeared to be white latex housepaint. Not just on the surface, as if she had brushed up against wet paint; but soaked in paint, down to the skin. Paint must have been poured on her, deliberately or by accident. She was in distress, but didn't run away when I approached her.

We didn't want to bring her into our house, since she obviously had fleas and we had two housecats inside. So we took her into the basement and washed her off with warm water in the utility sink. The housepaint hadn't fully cured, and we were able to melt most of it off. Mom couldn't bear to leave her or put her back on the street, so we gave her one of our old cat-carriers and took the little cat to the vet. Where we found that, aside from the fleas, she was also pregnant, despite her small size; the vet guessed that she might have gotten that way during her first heat. Over the next few weeks the vet aborted the pregnancy, spayed her, and dipped her for fleas. My mother, who had always had dogs for most of her life, now had her first cat. I suggested the name "Penny", for her copper color and for the lucky circumstances of her discovery.

Since then, she has become a big, noisy and extremely-extremely spoiled housecat. My mom lets her have the run of the house, feeds her wherever and whenever she likes, and has gone so far as to have a bay window installed - as a sunporch, for this fortunate freeloader. Penny, for her part, chatters away - she is quite vocal - and eats copiously, sheds, and glares moodily at anyone else who comes into the house. A cat, in other words.

The photo shoot started off like this, with Penny putting a safe distance between us, with some glass for good measure.

From there, I took to crawling along the carpet with my camera to follow her movements under the furniture, trying to get an angle with some light. When she become tired of avoiding me, which is really just a momentary concession in the game called "(My) Persistence vs. (Her) Intolerance", I managed to get some handheld shots in the dim light behind the magazines.

Penny is so different from Hugh, who's a social cat to the point of being a relentless shadow and constantly underfoot. I never have to chase after him with my camera, he likes to stick his nose in the lens and swat at the camera strap.

Penny, on the other hand, glares at you... like you were at the bottom of the food chain and she wouldn't deign to eat you. But she loves Mona, and the feeling is mutual. They spoil each other, though Mona does most of the spoiling.

Lately, however, Penny has demonstrated her utmost displeasure at Mona's recent addiction to online Scrabble. I suggested a couple of weeks back that the three of us play at The Pixie Pit, where I've been playing with my friend Kim in Oregon, who introduced the site to me. Penny can't figure out why Mona keeps going downstairs to the TV to focus intently on a screen that doesn't move. Especially when the screen is usually flashing like a strobe. (Cats probably think humans are the most bizarre species on earth, anyway, so this is yet another example.) Penny doesn't like having to share Mona's attention, so if she could bite the TV, she likely would.