The Cat Whose Rear Legs Run Faster

By Bill Hall

The new kitten can run faster with his hind legs than with his front legs. That's a problem for a four-legged creature.

I turned on the coffee grinder and the beans clattered against the genuine plastic grinding compartment with a rattle that would rouse the dead.

Or the fuzzy.

It was the first time the 8-week-old kitten had ever heard such a horrible noise.

First, he jumped straight in the air, feet already churning just like cartoon cats. Then, as his little feet finally found the floor, he began running. But his back feet were apparently more frightened than his front feet. The back ones caught up with the front ones and he was beside himself literally; his hind end came up even with his front end and he was running sideways toward the door.

Worse, he was gaining on himself. His hind legs continued to run faster than his back legs, finally spinning him in a circle. He got ahead of himself. He lost his footing but skidded out the door, safe from that terrible sound.

But it isn't the coffee grinder that makes him nervous as a cat. It's cat nerves not coffee nerves. This little cat Lyle is new to our home so he is as jumpy as you would be if you were suddenly shipped off to a new pair of giants.

Lyle and his twin, Sydney, are our new half-Siamese kittens. They are replacements for the two cats we've lost in the last year. You have children, hoping they will outlive you because that is the natural order and much less painful. But you have cats, expecting, hoping begging that you outlive them. We all want to live longer than our cats.

And it is normal, after a decent interval, to replace them when they croak. So, the decent interval having passed, we are now keeping house, not merely for Sterling, the one cat who kindly didn't croak, but for these agreeable newcomers, Lyle and Sydney.

They are getting to know our house and its odd noises especially sudden, loud noises like the coffee grinder. And they are adjusting. It's not that Lyle and Sydney mind noise. They don't. They come to us from a home they shared with a human girl. Every time we visited before bringing them home, the television set in that house was on, playing MTV, the rock video channel.

In my previous alliances with new kittens and puppies, I have resorted to alarm clocks to keep the baby from crying. If you have some fuzzy baby that is crying because it misses its mother, you are supposed to give it an alarm clock to sleep with. The theory is that the ticking will remind the baby of its mother's heart.

It seems to work. It seems to soothe small critters. But that's remarkable because the same device an alarm clock will make a grown man cry.

We didn't use the alarm clock with Lyle and Sydney. We did better than that.

We used Lyle for Sydney and Sydney for Lyle. Each one's heart is familiar to the other. So they curl up together rather readily and drift off to sleep.

Especially if we treat them to the familiar sound of MTV. We leave MTV playing in the room where Lyle and Sydney sleep. And it works. They seem to find it especially difficult to remain awake during the rap songs. I have the same problem.

Soon the more common sounds in our home including the coffee grinder will become normal to them. Soon, they will be sleeping the usual 18 hours a day so popular with cats. Soon they will not even raise an eyebrow as the beans crash against the genuine plastic container. Coffee will no longer keep them awake.

Or frighten them. And I suppose their front legs will eventually become as fit as their hind legs and they will run in the normal fashion with the front legs leading the way and the hind legs literally bringing up the rear.

They will also find they have a lot in common with a newspaper columnist. We are also excitable. When the beans of fortune are crashing against the genuine plastic container of our existence, our mouths tend to run faster than our minds. We, too, tend to get ahead of ourselves.


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