I can't remember if I've mentioned I have a spinal disc injury. Most days I need to have a lie down in the middle of the day to rest my back and enable me to get through the remainder of the day. I read a book while I'm resting and generally try to relax. If only relaxing was that easy. My three cats Lancelot - my big black cat, his tabby sister Guinevere and Tristan (known to the other cats as That Orange Interloper) make resting very difficult. Guinevere and Lancelot (and Tristan, if he is not out consorting with rabbits) all love to come and share this rest time with me. Guinevere has come to love spending quality time with me on my bed so much that if I try to do without my rest one day or she's outside communing with nature while I am resting, she follows me around the house and nags me to go and lie down so she can have her rest. She tries to tell me that it just isn't the same lying on the bed without me and it's my duty as a loving cat owner to go and keep her company. The nagging would be easier to ignore if she just confined herself to nagging from the floor, but Guinevere is too smart for that. When floor level nagging doesn't work she jumps up on any available furniture, puts her paws on my shoulder and rubs her face against mine the better to nag. I've found the easiest thing to do is to give in and go and lie down for five minutes with her. She's happy after that and we can both get on with what we were doing before the nagging started.
Well, a couple of days ago I was resting as usual and all three cats were on board. I must add here that there is a prime piece of real estate on my body that might not be obvious to the untrained eye. All three cats prefer to snuggle on my right side right up as far as they can get almost into my armpit with my right arm moved out to make a little nest for them there. If I don't voluntarily move my arm, the invading cat will just paw at it and work away until a nest is made. It's a lot less painful to just move my arm as any of the cats approach with that look on their face that says they are ready to colonise my side once more. I don't suppose I need to add that there is no way three cats can all fit in this keenly sought after spot. Guinevere, a master campaigner, usually prevails by the simple tactic of washing the cat who beat her to the spot. Guinevere over the years has perfected this strategy and uses it whenever and wherever she finds a cat where she wants to be. She begins by moving in so close she's almost, but not quite shoving the cat out of the spot. If she shoved, a fight might ensue and I'd get involved. Guinevere doesn't want me to get involved because I tend to favour the cat that got there first. A silly human foible, but one she has learned to deal with. Once cuddled up to the target cat she begins washing their face. At first Tristan and Lancelot enjoy the attention and even point out bits Guinevere has missed, but as time goes on and the licking continues the boys find it all a bit annoying. Tristan, the brighter of the two has tried to turn away from her to present her with his rump, only to find that as soon as he strands up to shift position the spot has been entirely filled with Guinevere and there's no room for him. Guinevere has mastered the skill of taking up the entire space where two cats sat just seconds before. As Guinevere is a little cat and both boys would each make two of her, this is quite a talent for her to have perfected. Lancelot, our mentally deficient cat, has never been able to think the problem through to come up with a defensive strategy. Every time Guinevere muscles in and starts washing him, he's pleasantly surprised at the attention and laps it up until it all gets to be too much and he moves off, and Guinevere once again reigns supreme. Tristan, as I said, tries resisting the inevitable and often come up with new defensive manoeuvres all as unsuccessful as the rest.
Anyway, back to my rest this day. I was lying down with two pillows under my knees to ease the back pain and Lancelot chose to lie on my feet. Tristan made a bee line for the prime position and settled in. Guinevere fussed around on the bed for a while, pretending to try and find a comfortable spot and peace and serenity reigned (as long as the three of us ignored Guinevere's fussing – and we did). Then Guinevere began her invasion tactics. As soon as he saw Guinevere on the move, Tristan burrowed his head into my armpit in an effort to ward off any washing that might be in his future. Not to be deterred Guinevere, after circling around my arm and right hand side a few times (reconnoitering I believe it's called in military tactics), moved in close to Tristan and prepared for the head washing. She was a bit surprised to find no head where a head should be, but being a very adaptable cat she just started washing whatever bit of orange cat poked out. After a short while the spot on Tristan's back that was getting all the attention was actually soggy, and still Guinevere persisted in her washing, I think she thought if she washed him enough he might shrink and make room for her. Tristan kept his head burrowed down and endured the water torture heroically.
My ability to read while these invasion manoeuvres were waging over my right side was severely impeded but I did my best. Time passed and Tristan got soggier. The only sign that he was alive was that he tried burrowing closer and closer to my armpit, never raising his head while trying to conceal more of the rest of him. Guinevere feeling that she may have met her match at last, like the good general she is, changed tactics. She was wedged in under my right arm during the washing process and now moved around with maximum fussing, until she was sitting right on top of Tristan. This had the desired result and caused Tristan not only to raise his head in surprise but also caused his eyes to nearly pop out of his head. He gave me a “What in hell is going on here?” look and realised too late that his head was now exposed and being severely washed. Not only that, but he had a full grown cat (albeit a small, delicate one) sitting right on top of him. He was trapped. It was too late to try and burrow back down. Guinevere had cut off his retreat and he was toast, soggy toast, but toast none the less. He put up with the head washing as long as he could but he knew he was a beaten cat. Guinevere just kept washing away, occasionally stopping to check on her progress in annoying Tristan. As she noticed signs of impending surrender Guinevere increased the strength and speed of her washing until Tristan finally had had enough and began to retreat from the battlefield.
I felt sorry for the defeated puss and moved him over to my left side offering a consolation prize. Tristan graciously accepted the second prize and settled into the inferior territory, but Guinevere, now happily ensconced on my prime bit of real estate, was drunk with power (or a giant hairball) and draped herself over my body so she could continue her washing campaign. I pulled her back a couple of times but she was relentless in victory. Tristan finally removed himself from the region of my body altogether and settled on the end of the bed, a respectful distance from Lancelot who is not a Tristan fan. Guinevere, with a smug look on her face, settled down for a well earned sleep.
Tristan eventually snuck back to my left side and tried to settle down too, but to say he was twitchy barely describes his emotions. He tried to nap while keeping a wary eye on Guinevere and that just can't be done. You can either nap, or you can keep an eye on Guinevere, but you can't do both. Guinevere was dead to the world by this time and sleeping the sleep of the victorious. Lancelot, who had shown rare good sense and stayed out of it also slept, Tristan on the other hand jumped at soft noises and twitched from time to time if Guinevere so much as moved an ear.
And me? How was my rest going? I gave up any thought of having a real rest and tried to get back to my reading. Do you know how hard it is to read peacefully when you know your body has been used as a battlefield and my be used as one again any time soon?