Archived Story

The news-making, card-playing cat

Published 8:05pm Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The lead news story for 2013: the cat that plays cards. Who’d have thunk it.

But it was Abbey Gray’s (that’s my cat) own idea. When she came asking to be included in my game of solitaire (one of the more complicated versions, of course), I wasn’t so sure. First of all, solitaire is a game for one person, so Abbey and I played 52 pick up instead.

I tossed a playing card to Abbey, who sat up on her haunches, caught the card in her front paws, took a bite at it, then dropped it to the floor I continued to hurl cards at her; with each one she caught it, bit it and dropped it to the floor. (Good thing this is an old deck of cards with corners torn off the ace of spades and the four of diamonds). We ended up with 52 cards on the floor. Now, if you know anything about this game, it’s the one who agrees to play who has to pick up all 52 cards.

I thought that was Abbey Gray; she disagreed and, arching her question-mark tail, she pussyfooted out of the room. Guess who picked up the cards?

A few days later, Abbey again interrupted my game of solitaire. This time, she stretched out on the floor as I sailed cards to her, catching them in her front paws, biting them and dropping them to the floor. Of course, she was no better at picking them up than the first time. You’d think I’d learn. But it was fun playing cards with Abbey Gray, and she obviously was enjoying herself. She was smiling.

Every cat who has ever deigned to live with us (you never “own” a cat, you know) has been outstandingly smart and talented, and a bit eccentric. Is this because we attract superior cats or do they become outstandingly smart and talented — and a bit eccentric — because they live with us?

Abbey Gray has become a beauty in the almost four years she’s been at our house: beautiful, thick coat, plush tail, robust body, pretty face and spayed. Mostly gray with faint stripes, she has white socks on all four feet, but the sock on her left front foot looks like she forgot to pull it up.

This cat is a great communicator. When she wants to go outside, she jumps on the arm of my chair, scoots across my lap and leaps off the other side. If I don’t respond immediately, she executes this maneuver again.

I will admit Abbey Gray is one spoiled feline. She’s the only cat I know who gets fed on demand, which can be as often as once an hour. She’ll stare at me and keep repeating “food” over and over in her little cat brain.  If that doesn’t move me, she arches her back and puts her front paws on my knees and gives me an “I’m starving” smirk. Who can refuse such a plea?

This cat is fascinated by my wine-colored (or maybe it’s maroon) plastic clothesbasket. When it stands empty, Abbey leaps into it, gives the bottom a couple scratches, and then settles down for a nap. This is surprising when she usually prefers to snuggle on something soft and cozy.

I do allow Abbey to sleep in our bedroom since I’ve convinced her that lying on my chest is not an option. A 13-pound cat on one’s chest is not conducive to getting many ZZZs. But at 6 a.m., (obviously she has a little wristwatch that keeps good time) she climbs on me, puts her nose to my nose, her whiskers tickling my cheeks and tells me it’s time to get up. Sometimes, she puts her front paws on my face; that’s gotta mean she loves her grandma.

Now, this was OK in the summer when that early hour was good for working in the yard, but no more.

Abbey Gray can still be playful, but she’s lost interest in her mice on a string and colorful plastic balls. One day, I was working with some twine when the end dangled to the floor. That cat was on it as though it were live prey. Twine is now her favorite toy; I spend considerable time dragging it around the house so she can stalk and pounce.

If you come to visit my cat, you may be disappointed. She is friendly with my husband and me, but is extremely shy when strangers come around; it is then she disappears into thin air. Of course, there is always an exception. Abbey Gray readily accepted Joyce and Elaine, neither a cat fancier. Who knows why. Must be a cat thing.

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