Confessions of a Florentine Pet Sitter

Catemporary Détente
Tai surveying the road from his driveway.

A people cat, Tai the Terrible loves the companionship and affection from his people, and he sits with me when I’m watching television. He climbs on my lap, testing the jello slowly, unsure if its Jello-like substance will hold him. He wobbles a bit on my tummy, then settles down in his sphinx pose, kneading his front claws deep into my skin. But if you touch him in his sensitive places or try to brush his fur in certain areas, he becomes this quarrelsome sphinxian creature with a split personality. I let him do what he wants to do. He is heavy and hot on my lap like a heating pad in cold weather.

Most of the time, he curls up all by himself on a fuzzy on the big chair next to mine for which he has taken temporary ownership while his mom is away.

Tai the Terrible

Tai is a seal-point doll-face fluffy Himalayan cat with pale blue crossed-eyes. Whenever he is wary of his sibling or an enemy of another kind he skirts around them in sticky sloth-like slow motion. He is so fluffy I can’t tell where the bones and muscles of his body stop to become just a fluff of cat hair dragging on the floor. His fluffy tail is wide and dark like a beaver tail. His legs are wide but shorter than most cats’ legs, and his paws are huge like puppy paws. Tai’s paws are dark seal-brown fur, shiny, soft and so smooth, I want to hold them in my hands but he will not allow me to touch his feet.

Tai and his sibling, Brillo the Black, kiss noses and sniff each others butt in moments of trust and calm, but their powerful sibling rivalry keeps them wary of each other. They may sleep on the same big bed, each in his own corner, and they may sit on one lap or on one chair together, but when they do so, they do it carefully, with one eye open the whole time.

When they are about to fight they move past each other in circles in the kitchen or by the door, their movements slinky. I admonish them to be good cats “Now, be good kitties, you guys, good cats, that’s right” and they come out of their sloth-like trance and avoid a fight. When I’m not in the same room with them, they get into screeching rolling rumbles with tufts of black and taupe fur flying hither and thither.

One evening while I was watching TV, Brillo lay curled up on the rust colored fuzzy in the second TV chair. When Tai came into the room, Brillo’s presence on his chair startled him. He jumped up on the table next to the chair and sat staring with consternation at the chair and Brillo…in his spot. What? How did you…?

It was clear he wanted His chair.

Slowly with one foot at a time he lowered himself on to the flat wooden arm of the easy-chair. He sat for a few minutes eyeing Brillo in his spot. He’s clearly wondering how much he’d be able to get away with. Could he? Should he tempt fate? How will Brillo react?

Tai finally opts for tempting fate. Slowly, he puts one foot down on the fuzzy; he waits, he hesitates; then brings the other front paw down. With his two front paws now on the seat cushion, his rump in the air, his hind feet come down next, slow and easy, one big slothie paw at a time. He stands on the seat of the chair very still,  becoming an inanimate clay cat sculpture while waiting for Brillo to show some reaction.

Brillo, curled up on the fuzzy, doesn’t move a muscle except to crack one eye open a sliver. He watches Tai, but pretends he is sleeping.

Tai now sits on the fuzzy near Brillo, once again debating whether he should continue. He looks at Brillo. In a bit of nervous tension he wiggles  and hunkers down in an iconic Sphinx pose with his head held up. I sense he cannot stand not being able to curl up on his special chair. In that position he lays peacefully still for a few minutes, then Tai stretches his neck, lowering his head in an attempt to relax. Hard to relax when any minute now Brillo could jump on his back in a flurry of non-détente.

Brillo the Black

Brillo, cracks one eye open again, watches Tai, doesn’t move a muscle, doesn’t blink an eye. He just watches, waits.

Tai slowly flops over on his side, his back to Brillo, and because his fur is so fluffy it looks like he is crowding the one-eyed Brillo into the corner of the big chair. But Brillo, partially covered by Tai’s fluff, isn’t moving. His one eye, still open and watching. Waiting.

Stretching out even more on his side, taking up even  more room on the seat of the chair, legs splayed out, head relaxed hanging over the front edge of the seat, Tai closes his eyes for some long overdue well-earned sleep. At long last, he is in his favorite chair that had been rudely usurped by Brillo. It’s as if Brillo isn’t even there.

The little adversarial dance between the two cats took longer to execute than the actual time they laid together on the chair. I had never seen them sleeping this close to each other, but their owner tells me they will both get up on her lap at the same time and lay there peacefully while she plies tangled knots from their fur.

About two weeks later, when I was sitting for them again, Brillo was on the chair when Tai came into the room. It was obvious Tai wanted his spot again. This time he took it. With no hesitation, he jumped up to the arm, then on to the fuzzy itself, stretched out quickly on his side, partially covering Brillo, and both cats slept like babies together for over two hours! It’s like an agreement to tolerate each other. An agreement to share chairs. I don’t know who’s more surprised, me, Tai or Brillo, at this cat-temporary détente to entente.


This last summer a coyote killed beautiful Tai the Terrible. There are packs of coyotes wandering through his neighborhood and other neighborhoods around Florence. Many cats have disappeared in the last year. We all miss Tai.

Now I am caring for his sibling brother, Brillo the Black, who owns the favored position in the household without contention, but wanders from door to door in a morass of sadness, meowing to go out, to eat, to find Tai.  Fierce hunter that Brillo is, he is not allowed outside any more. Too many coyotes. Too many bears. Too many cougars. Too many large raccoons.  Chased out of their forested habitats by our need for building more homes, all are hungry.  Hungrily preying upon domesticated cats and dogs.

Brillo is developing a dependency on his people for safety, sustenance and cherishing. He has developed a gorgeous shiny black coat, loves to sit on my lap, have his coat brushed, his hind-end rubbed which dissolves him into a frenetic orgasm of love-biting.

He will be fine.

Feb.9, 2012  Sadly, I learn now that Brillo the Black has passed on too.  A beautiful loving cat, a good hunter. We all miss him as we miss his cat-brother, Tai the Terrible.

© 2011 Copyright – Susan Canavarro. All Rights Reserved for Images & Text.

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