It’s kind of like the lamb lying down with the lion, this odd relationship between Bebe and Monty. Maybe it’s because they both had traumatic babyhoods that they’ve bonded. Fortunately, the rest of their lives will be pretty comfy.
When Barbara and Bill were making their plans to head north for the summer, they had intended to take Oprah with them. But that would leave The Duke home alone, and they were concerned he might get bored and wander off into the sunset, as cowboys tend to do. So they put the word out into the community that they were looking for another cat to keep The Duke company. He had to be male, he had to be a kitten, and he had to be orange and white (you’ve likely noticed by the photos that they’re partial to orange and white). As luck would have it, a friend called to say a kitty had been dumped in their neighbourhood. And he was a he. And orange. Not all orange, but orange enough.
But he was also wild, so capturing him was going to be tricky. Long story short, the trap was set, Monty was snagged, and the slow, ultimately unsuccessful process of taming him began. He’s come a long way, but he still has the streak in him. “Eventually he just got used to us enough to allow us to semi-own him,” says Barbara. “You can imagine how happy he was when I had to recapture him to have him neutered . . .”
As for Bebe, he was stuffed in a sock and tied to the door of the SPCA when he was just a few weeks old. Now that it was clear Monty was not going to make a good pet, Bebe could be the answer. And he was male! And orange! Instant get-out-of-jail-free card. Since he was snatched from his mama so young, Barbara says he “has issues.” Apparently, he likes to lick your teeth and stick his tongue up your nose when you’re sleeping. We have not been on the receiving end of these issues. Yet.
Barbara says he also has poor grooming habits, since he was never taught. Maybe so, but he can certainly clean up after his sister. One day Bebe came out to watch Oprah catch apples. After all five were dutifully caught and stacked, Oprah took care of some business. And, as dogs are wont to do, she just walked away from it. Bebe, however, walked over, sniffed it, and began covering it up with dirt and leaves. While doing so, she kept glancing over at Oprah, as if with a mix of disgust and embarrassment for her messy sister.
But back to the buddies. Despite their early abandonment, they are still just kids, and kids like to play. And just because Monty is wild doesn’t mean he can’t indulge in a little horseplay now and then. And boy do they play; at its most furious, it becomes Friday Night Fights.
We hear them first by the jangle of bells from Bebe’s collar. If it goes on for several minutes, we know there’s a full-on, knock-down, drag-out slug fest going on in the main room. So we peek around the door and watch the action. Like every good match, there’s the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and you never know the outcome until the final punch has been thrown. But Bebe plays dirty. Perhaps it’s because he’s so small (you can scratch his entire head with one finger) that he has to use any advantage open to him. It usually starts with Monty sprawled on the floor, catching a few zee’s in the hot afternoon. A siesta, if you will. It’s quiet, peaceful. But the serenity will be quickly shattered. Bebe, you see, is not sleepy, and like all babies, if he’s not sleeping, no one else should be. We’re all here for his amusement, after all.
So he launches a sneak attack. He’ll stalk his victim by keeping low to the ground and close to the wall. He’ll take slow, careful steps until he’s within inches of his unsuspecting prey. Then, crouching, ears fully perked, nose twitching, tail jerking, he sails through the air like a frog on springs and lands with a thud on the sleeping Monty. The battle begins.
Although at a disadvantage, Monty quickly recovers, tucking and rolling until he can get on his feet. Shaking his head as though clearing away his lingering dreams, he assesses the situation, considers his options. He goes with a full frontal, standing on his hind legs and hurling himself at Bebe, knocking him to the ground. He’s gained the upper hand. He pins his opponent’s arms and goes for the throat. We gasp. But Bebe is wiry. He wiggles free and leaps to the side. For a few tense moments the fighters glare at each other, their tails whacking the tile floor, each sizing up the other’s strength and stamina. Then, without warning, Monty is on the attack. He slides in low, knocking Bebe off his feet. Bebe swings around and kicks Monty in the face. The two are a blur, a whirling dervish as they spin and tumble. Who will emerge the victor? Suddenly, Monty falls back, leaving himself open and vulnerable. Bebe lunges, fangs bared. A ghastly howl rings through the room. We step forward, unsure of whether we should break it up. Before we can do anything, the fighters fall to the floor, spent, licking their wounds (which is really their pride). Both appear to have conceded.
We exhale, retreat to the other room and chuckle. When we look back, Bebe and Monty are laid out on the floor, leaning against one another, eyes closed. They’re not dead, but they’re certainly dead to the world.
But even this doesn’t last. Bebe will sleep for a half hour — hour, max. If you look up “cat nap” in the dictionary, you’ll see his face. He has endless reserves of energy, and even the wild cat can’t keep up. In fact, the only thing that really drives him away these days is Bebe’s need for speed. In just over two weeks of our arrival, Monty has become so comfortable with us he actually comes into the kitchen to eat breakfast with Bebe and The Duke. And the hissing is down to a minimum. Just yesterday, I placed his dish in front of him so close I could reach out and touch him. But I knew he’d bolt; he’s not ready. Still, he’ll stick around most of the day now. He even will allow himself to go into lockdown at night with everyone else. And, get this, when I open the doors to the outside world in the morning, the domestics shoot out while the wild one lingers behind. Some feral cat he is. But when he wants to get away from the attack baby, he slinks off into the jungle, where the other wild things are, for a little peace and quiet.
When Bebe awakens, he’s refreshed and ready for more. But with his sparring partner gone, he’s like a kid at the end of summer vacation — there’s nothing to do. He skulks around, batting listlessly at a ball or fallen leaf. Boring. Oprah walks by and he swats her nose, trying to antagonize her into a fight. Oprah stops, looks down at the little kitten with the big cajones, sighs and walks away. Frustrated, Bebe searches for another worthy opponent. Rounding a corner, he spies a sleeping Duke. Duke is deaf. Advantage Bebe. Game on.