Since the sunshine on our sheet-less bed brought me to tears just now, I thought the time was finally appropriate to write my tribute.
Master Scrum Archie Tweedletrousers The Futon Torpedo.
Scrum was the smaller, the skinnier, and the sicker of the two kittens that we adopted from the Moscow Animal Shelter in July 1991. It is a statistical probability that kittens that end up in animal shelters will end up with upper respiratory infections and Scrum had it in spades.
At the time we were heating Chuck’s cage with a heat lamp that shone into the tank. There was a small ledge, just large enough, in fact, to support two sniffly kittens, between the edge of the table and the front of the tank. Scrum discovered that sitting on this ledge was the ideal way to make the most of the extra heat that the lamp was throwing off. Scrum and his brother spent a lot of time there, I distinctly remember cleaning kitten sneezes off of the front of the snake cage, and Chuck spent three days trying to figure out how to get out and munch the furry little yummies that were so conveniently presenting themselves. After one of them moved injudiciously while Chuck was in hunt mode and he struck at the glass (and we subsequently spent several hours trying to coax them out from underneath the bed……after we finished laughing) they decided that sleeping in front of the snake cage was probably a pretty bad idea. An idea that they didn’t revisit for another 3-4 years when they were finally aware of the fact that they were much larger than the snake and he wasn’t much of a threat.
But Scrum was always the more seriously endothermic of the two.
From sleeping directly in the path of the fan behind our wood stove in Pullman or, as we found one one harrowing occasion, directly under it
(I would like you to note that both cats are featured in this photo, it just doesn’t look much like it),
to being a dedicated lap snuggler
(something that few, if any, of you will have seen)
to being absolutely passionate about a fleece snuggle sack that Andrew gave me for Christmas one year, if Scrum was hot he was happy. Except that he was never much of an under the blanket cuddler. Where Scamper would happily worm his way under the covers and spend hours at a time breathing blissful hot kitty purrs into your armpit, Scrum only wanted to be hot if he could be unrestrained.
Which says a lot about his other personality quirks as well. Scrum was high strung, pig headed, and far more intelligent than his brother. Where Scamper was an easygoing laid back sort of cat, Scrum was insatiably curious. Passionately curious. Determinedly curious. And if he couldn’t get his curiosity satisfied he would sit back and THINK of a way to figure out how to satisfy the question of the day.
What’s behind the sliding doors of the closet? Let’s spend some time figuring out how to open the doors to get in there.
And so he figured out how to open closet doors and subsequently took the habit of sleeping in the closet, playing in the closet (one of the reasons we hung trousers folded in half for many years) and teaching his brother how to hide in the closet and mug people who were opening the doors.
Scrum progressed from closet opening to cabinet opening. When he figured out how to open the cat food cupboard, and thus encouraged his brother to get into said cupboard and open the 5 pound coffee can where we kept the dry cat food to the great detriment of our carpet, we put child proof locks on all the cabinet doors. We had to keep our kitchen cabinets child proofed until we moved into our current home in July of 2001 (well after Scrum’s 10th birthday). When his cabinet opening was frustrated Scrum moved on to opening drawers.
Of the 23 dresser drawers that are currently in our bedroom, NONE of them are minus a few claw marks. Scrum didn’t open drawers to pull things out of them and throw them around and he only rarely opened drawers to crawl in and sleep on the wonderful soft things inside…… Although he did once. After we got our current bed with the storage drawers underneath I started keeping extra blankets in one of the drawers. I came into the bedroom one afternoon to find the drawer with the blankets opened up. I sighed, pushed it closed with my foot, and didn’t miss the cat for hours. We all spent a harrowing half hour or so tearing the house apart and wandering around outside with flashlights calling the cat until I remembered that the blanket drawer had been open and went back to find Scrum comfortably asleep in a blanket nest.
No, making a mess was not Scrum’s primary reason for opening things. Scrum just wanted things open because he couldn’t stand not knowing what was inside.
Scrum was also by far one of the more height oriented cats I’ve ever known. Scrum wanted to catch the ceiling fan in the front room of our mobile home in Pullman. So he worked his way to the TOP of the front door where he stood for I don’t know how long on three legs taking swipes with one front foot at the blades of the fan as they swung past.
Scrum wanted to know what was on the top of the curtain rod in the living room of our house in Olympia. So he got up there (without, I will add, climbing the curtains) to see.
And the day that I caught him standing on the edge or our bed looking into the open closet trying to figure out how to get up on to the top shelf I did take pity on him and lift him up. I’m not sure if that was pity or practicality though. Knowing how his mind worked I could just see him spending a couple of days trying to get up there trashing the clothes in the closet and likely knocking the closet rod down in the same jump. Lifting him and letting him wander around on the shelf was a lot easier.
Since the day we purchased it Scrum had a passion for finding out what was on top of the oak bookshelf that is in our living room. Because of its placement in our various homes, he never did get a chance to get up there. I picked up his ashes the other day and, pending his funeral later this spring, put them on top of that bookshelf. I hope he’s happy up there.
Scamp and Scrum both had about the widest vocabulary of vocalizations that I’ve run across in any cat. I heard Scrum meow an actual meow twice in almost seventeen years. Scrum chirruped, he chattered, he had a vocalization that I can’t define as anything other than the onomatopoeic “gickle”. But never (okay, almost never) “meow”. I’ve found that cats that belong to people who talk to them have a larger vocabulary than cats who belong to people who don’t interact with their cats much.
I can’t forget to mention the troll either.
In addition to catnip pillows and the pull tabs around the lids of plastic milk jugs, Scrum’s lifelong favorite toy was always a troll doll.
When we moved into our house in Pullman Naara, for some reason that I can’t currently recall, gave us a troll doll refrigerator magnet. We put the magnet on the refrigerator and paid it about as much attention as one does any other refrigerator magnet. Which is to say that it left our conscious ken until I found it on the floor of the kitchen. Thinking that the magnet had been too weak to hold it on, I picked it up and put it back on the refrigerator. And found it, soggy, on the floor some hours later.
Put it back on the refrigerator and turned back to my studying only to hear a thump and skitter. As anyone who has had young cats knows, thump and skitter are ominous noises. I went out into the kitchen and found Scrum with the troll hanging by the hair from his mouth.
Took the troll from the cat scolding him letting him know that it was, by God, my troll and it wasn’t for him to play with. Put it as high up on the refrigerator door as was possible thinking that would fox him. Nope.
Half an hour went by before he figured out where it was and how to get there.
Because he was eviscerating the troll by holding it down with one front foot and pulling its hair out, visions of multicolored hairballs prompted me to take the thing away from him completely and put it on top of the mirror in the master bathroom. Now because of various vagaries of living in a mobile home, the door to the master bathroom was kept closed all the time and it was also rather difficult to open. The doorknob was useless and you had to push against it fairly hard before the door would swing open. We usually kept our bedroom shut during the day when we were out so really the only time the cats had access to our bedroom and, more importantly, the bathroom, was for a short period in the evening when we were getting ready for bed. It took Scrum two weeks to figure out where the troll was. One Saturday morning we were lazing around in bed, heard a squeak and a double thump and looked up to find Scrum, troll in mouth, trundling across the bedroom.
Which is when the troll refrigerator magnet started living in a junk drawer in our bathroom.
Fast forward some months. We had been away for the summer during which time the troll had been languishing in the drawer in the bathroom. We got back, got unpacked and got the house cleaned up. I found the troll in its drawer and figuring that Scrum had forgotten it, put it back up on top of the mirror.
Nine days. It took him NINE DAYS to realize where it was. In the middle of the night there’s a squeak, there’s a double thump, and here comes Scrum across the bedroom floor with his prize.
It was at that point that I gave up, went into town, and bought the little demon a troll of his own. Since Scamper had taken a passion for Andrew’s stuffed gorilla I bought him a stuffed poodle with similar fur to the gorilla (couldn’t find a similar gorilla). I put the troll in front of Scrum, the poodle in front of Scamper and stood back to watch.
Scamp looked at his poodle, looked at the troll (at which Scrum was goggling in astonishment), then abandoned the poodle and stole the troll.
Take a break to restore the correct toy to the correct cat and stand back to watch again.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
I finally threw up my arms and went BACK into town to purchase a second troll doll so they could each have one of their own.
Scrum wasn’t much interested in toys as he got older, but be would always take a swipe or two at a troll. And for the record, ingesting large amounts of synthetic troll doll hair doesn’t seem to affect cats’ digestion much.
Scrum was, in every way, my cat. He was very routine oriented. In his later years he would start to gickle at us at around 9 p.m. letting us know that regardless of whatever else we were doing, it was bedtime for the cat. Because we lived in a mobile home in a wheat field five miles outside the middle of nowhere (er…. Pullman) when they were young, Scrum never really socialized to anyone but family. Where Scamp could be convinced to accept attention from other people, Scrum only started hitting Andrew up for attention after Scamper died and he NEVER sat on anyone’s lap but mine. Ever since he was a kitten whenever I sat down on the sofa I would put a pillow on my lap (still do). Not, as I was once asked, because I was having menstrual cramps, not because I was chilly, but because I expect a cat to come and wump down on my lap and ask to have his tummy tweedled.
Gickle, tweedletrousers, wumpling, Gnocci (the potato wumpling), Kitten, baby cat, Archie, KNOCKITOFF, Thing One.
Scrum was a challenge, a frustration, and a delight.
I will miss him the length of my days.