Gracie, Willow, Puss and Boots are four cats who live together in an uneasy truce, part of a loving household run by their two humans, Mister and Missus. On this particular day, Gracie lay curled on the sofa, soaking up the late winter sun that poured in the floor-to- ceiling windows of the living room. Willow, the only male in this clowder, joined her at one end of the brown leather couch, taking a swipe at Gracie’s head before plopping himself down on Missus’ favorite pillow.
“You missed,” purred Gracie lazily. “And you’re not supposed to lie on that pillow.”
“I missed on purpose,” replied Willow. “And I can lie anywhere I wish. You deserved a swat. You ate part of my breakfast this morning.”
“Did not. That was Puss. Look at the size of her. She’s put on so much weight, it takes her five minutes just to get upstairs.”
“I still think you did it. What do you think, Boots?” Willow asked. Boots, who was Puss’ slender sister, meandered into the living room, flopped down on the rug in the sun and began licking her sleek grey fur.
“Oh it was my sister alright,” answered Boots. “Look at me, sleek as ever. I didn’t even like what they served for breakfast.”
“You’re all so picky,” complained Gracie, the matriarch of the family. “You should just be happy you have a home. They’re nice people and they love us.” She began a vigorous tongue-washing of her light gray calico fur, arching her neck and extending her tongue to reach her chest.
Just then Puss, the larger and darker gray version of Boots, waddled in to enjoy the sun, her middle swaying from side to side. “Are you talking about my weight again? I’m just large-boned, you know.” With that she flopped down next to Boots and started licking her paws.
“Large-boned, my whiskers,” taunted Boots. “It’s getting so this rug isn’t big enough for the two of us.” And she gave Puss a pointed stare and rolled over, stretching out on her back with all four limbs up in the air, letting the sun warm her belly. She extended her toes in sheer pleasure.
Puss looked at Boot’s belly as if contemplating a strike, but then looked at Gracie, still curled on the couch. “Who made you Queen Bee, Gracie?” she asked meanly. “You’re just sucking up to Mister and Missus because they rescued you from that wheel well. You’d be in a cemetery or landfill somewhere if Mister hadn’t taken the wheel apart and pulled you out. And then they tried to save your leg. Look how that turned out. You’d be better off pushing up daisies than hopping around on three legs.”
“What bit you this morning?” Gracie replied. “I can run faster on three legs than you can on four!” With that, Gracie gave her coat one last lick and jumped down off the coach, hopping nimbly over the prostrate mound that was Puss. “Say what you like, but we’re all lucky cats. Look where they found you and Boots. Living under a trailer and foraging for food. I heard what they said. A lady who worked in the trailer claimed you ruined the insulation and gave them fleas!” Gracie shuddered. “At least I was clean.” And with that, she three-pawed it toward the kitchen
While Boots continued to luxuriate in the sun, Puss lumbered ungracefully to her feet and ambled over to the cat tree. She leapt onto the bottom level, stretched up almost to the next perch, and began picking at the rugging on the tree.
“Keep doing that, Puss,” called Willow. “With enough exercise, you might be able to get to the top.” Puss didn’t answer but finished stretching and picking, then sat upright on the platform and stared at Willow longingly.
Boots continued making starfish paws while thinking, Willow’s meaner than Puss, but what can you expect from a male? Worse, in this case, he’s right. Puss hasn’t been able to leap to the top of the tree for several months. The last time she tried, she didn’t make it, hooked a paw on the edge and dangled until the tree fell over. Boy, she scared all of us. Boots rolled over back on her stomach and tucked her paws under her. He needs to be put in his place. But how? And what to do about Puss? She just moons after him all day.