Rudy... Ya Gotta Love Him
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Rudy is a fat flame-point Himalayan whose only job is to lie around our house and maintain a decorum of disdain, boredom, and aloofness -- and pretty much remain center of attention.

The kids love him to death. And I like him a lot, even though he ran over my face the other night, slicing into the soft skin over my right eye -- yes, actually, I was sleeping -- and leaving another long scratch on my left cheek. At the same time, my husband learned firsthand the affect a cat's hind paw has on the human face when said cat propels itself off the bed at high speed. Talk about your wake-up call.

But what ya gonna do? Get out of bed, chase him down, and punish him for scratching you? He obviously didn't do it on purpose. Something either scared him, which happens quite often, or he saw something. No, we don't have mice, nor was anyone else awake at 5 a.m., but it had to be something like that. Rudy wouldn't hurt a fly. Rudy wouldn't do anything untoward without first being pushed to that point, says our vet, who might have been Rudy's best friend in another life.

And that innocent look on his face two hours later when my husband stumbled from the bedroom simply could not be a put-on. He's not that clever.

Rudy isn't the only cat we have. We also have another Himalayan named Fancy. Fancy was our first cat. Even though they've been in the same house for three years, Fancy still can't stand Rudy. She dislikes Rudy so much that she won't eat in the same room with him. That would be the solution to the problem, except Rudy likes Fancy -- a lot. But Rudy, by his very nature, usurped her position in the family, and she has never forgiven him. She reins supreme upstairs, and he lies around downstairs. It seems to be working pretty well.

You can trust Fancy to be good, but Rudy is not to be trusted. One night last week I had an early meeting, so I hurriedly fed the family and the cats and left for the office. My husband and kids had gone to bed by the time I got home, and I was surprised to see they'd all rinsed their dishes. The next morning, I complimented them and received the same blank look Rudy has mastered, which prompted me to look further. That's when I realized the stick butter had some funny-looking indents along the side... just the size of... a cat's tongue? Hmmm. Fancy would go down with the ship if a flood whipped through -- she's way too respectable to climb up on counter tops. And, though I've heard the thump that would indicate a cat just jumped down from somewhere, I've never actually caught Rudy on the table or counter, either. The only thing that points to him as the culprit is that he's the only cat in the room every time.

He's also playful. Every morning he wakes me up long before the alarm rings. Of course, I don't want to get up, and he knows this, so to encourage me to see things his way, he grabs hold of my big toe and hangs on until I acknowledge his existence and need. Anyone who said 'shake him off' can try that trick at their home and see why I don't. And, well, the thing is, he only wants a few minutes of my time. Anything will do, really. Wiggle your foot around -- make sure it's covered -- or scratch the sheet enticingly, and he's a happy camper. No matter what you do, his motor is sure to be roaring, and every now and again his bright blue eyes will peer up over the blankets to make sure you're still awake and not just toying with him.

After about five minutes, I usually quit. Without fail, he trots up over me and stands with two huge paws on my neck and the other two making equally uncomfortable pinpoints of pain on my chest while he licks my face. I think that's a Rudy thank you or good morning. Im not sure though, because sometimes he bites at the same time.

He's temperamental, comical and annoying. But he's sweet to a fault, and it's just so darn cute the way he comes running when I'm doing laundry. He likes to perch on top of the folded clothes and continually snag socks and underwear out of my hands.

He's helpful, too. Over the holidays he showed me in no uncertain terms that he was capable of wrapping Christmas presents. I, being the skeptic, didn't think he could manage this feat. Every time he came around and tried to pull the ribbon or yank the paper out of my hands, I pushed him away. A resounding "No" accompanied my lack of understanding. It didn't help that he kept trying to take a bite out of the sandwich I had on a plate at my knee, either. But he got my attention in a big hurry. Moving about six feet behind me, he squatted down and peed on the carpet!

I was aghast! And livid. And madder than I have ever been at a cat. I mean, it's one thing to do it when no one is looking, but what boldness was this? Rudy stuck his nose in the air, sidestepped my attempts to catch him, and grabbed the ribbon on his way out the door. Needless to say, the next time I wrapped presents, I let him help.

We try hard to see things Rudy's way. When we don't, our life is a roller coaster ride. We really do try, but out of the blue it appears something has Rudy upset again. Only this time, whatever it was, my husband did it. I know that because the little "gifts" Rudy is leaving are behind his recliner in the newly-arranged TV room.

I think it's the new surround sound. Don't think Rudy likes it very much. Too loud? Smells different in there? I wish he could talk. I'd rather hear a few negative words from Rudy on a daily nay, even hourly -- basis than have to deal with the unmistakable aroma of unhappy cat.

Obviously, Rudy rules the roost. I admit it. He's spoiled, capricious, destructive and borderline schizophrenic, but he's our cat, and that makes him family.

Still, I had a long talk with our vet regarding Rudy's recent behavior. The vet assured me, as he lovingly scratched Rudy behind his big orange ears, that Rudy was fine -- just high-strung. He says if we bring something new into the house, Rudy naturally will be upset and offended and act out accordingly.

Oh, really? I took a deep breath and very calmly explained that there were some things in our house that offended me, too, but I didn't pee on the carpet or behind my husband's chair, and did the cat need a shrink, or what? He smiled condescendingly and picked up Rudy for one more fuzzy hug. Then they both looked me in the eye as the vet repeated his last sentence as if I were the stupid cat and didn't understand.

So, I said, "The way I see it, we can master this. Rudy will be happy if: we don't get new carpet, furniture or appliances, and we make sure we don't ignore him, we feed him on time, clean his litter box every day, play with him when he requires attention, and generally make sure he's the center of attention at all times." The vet nodded, pleased that I had finally figured it out.

"It's all about making sure your pet's happy," he said.

And I had to pay for that visit.

Well, he might have something. So far, I have to admit it hasn't been that difficult to keep Rudy happy. He already knows how to be the center of attention. He's got that down pat. And having everyone love him to death doesn't seem to have upset him. Yet. But as a firm believer that habits are hard to break, I suspect it's just a matter of time before Rudy shows his true colors again, so I'm keeping my cleaning supplies close at hand.

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