Sunday, August 22, 2004

Excellence in sport 

Since joining our family (and probably before), our cat Sergei has been an athletic boy. As a kitten, he amazed us with acrobatics in pursuit of his favorite toy, a cluster of feathers on a string. Backflips, vaults over furniture; they were beautiful, elegant... and talk about sticking the dismount. Sergei landed on his feet every time. He had the makings of a fine gymnast, I thought.

Little did we know that Sergei's true calling was track and field, particularly the high jump. Sergei did not readily share this new interest with us; we had to discover it for ourselves. While sitting at my computer one evening, I heard a plaintive meow, followed by a scratching sound, then a thump. Roowwwwrrr... scrabble, scrabble... thump. I was puzzled. Roowwwwrrrrrr... scrabble, scrabble... THUMP. And curious. Walking into the hall, I spotted Sergei crouched by our bedroom door. He looked up at me, stretched nonchalantly, and strolled over to be scratched. Paul allowed as how he had heard the sounds, but did not know what Sergei was doing.

Some days later, again at my computer, I looked up to see Sergei crouched in the doorway to my office. Facing the door jamb, perhaps an inch away from it, he was looking toward the ceiling, making the same strange throaty meow as before. When he noticed me watching, he quieted and sat up. I turned back to the computer; he crouched again. In my peripheral vision, I watched him; muscles tense, almost vibrating, emitting that same strange meow (rrooowwwwwrrrr). Suddenly, he launched himself straight up into the air. His paws scrambled against the door jamb (scrabble, scrabble), adding a little height to his leap. Then he dropped to the floor (thump). And caught me watching him, looked startled, and ran away.

The first time I saw Sergei jump, he got about three feet off the floor. Now, fully grown, well muscled, and with finely developed technique, he can jump nearly five feet. He has lost some of his diffidence, and is more comfortable with being watched while he jumps. However, he's not one who performs for the roar of the crowd. Sergei jumps just for love of the sport.

And, sometimes, to catch a moth.