Jumper ‘Jaws’ Thomas is my name and ruling the roost is my game. I’m a rescue cat with a bone to pick. Some weeks ago, when the new dog around these parts wrote in this space, readers heaped favorable comments on my black and white archrival. If your words had been bouquets, that dog would be riding on a float in the Rose Bowl Parade. So, where does that leave me? I’m older, wiser and I’ve lived with these humans longer. Okay, I get it. I didn’t volunteer to tell my story before Bow ‘Tip’ Thomas did, so I am forced to play catchup. Listen up.

My humble beginnings

My siblings and I were born under an old deserted house in La Grange in the early spring of 2016. We were only a couple of weeks old when Mother, bless her heart, went away and never came back. Did she meet with foul play? We wild-eyed kittens were hungry and dirty and had ear mites. It’s no wonder we succumbed when we were fed. Lulled into complacency by our full bellies, we were trapped and transported to the Gardenia Janssen Animal Shelter. Having all these people around was nerve-wracking. Some wanted to pick me up. Talk about needing my space! However, I was born cunning. It didn’t take me long to figure out there was only one way out of that big pen at the shelter. A kitten had to look sweet and catch the eye of a cat lover to get adopted They’d cuddle in their new human’s arms and purr for heaven’s sake! When they exited the cat room for their new home, they’d look back at those of us left behind and wink. I despised every one of them.

Opportunity presents itself

Then Elaine strolled in looking for an orange kitten. I was at my best, standing at the front of the pen to distinguish myself from my siblings who weren’t orange tabbies, anyway. I made good eye contact, although it made me slightly nauseous to do so. First, Elaine picked up an orange tabby kitten from another pen. We hadn’t had the same upbringing. Its fur wasn’t matted and its eyes weren’t running. When Elaine stroked that kitten, he looked up at her with hero worship in his eyes. That made me sick, too. Then Elaine turned to my pen and I steeled myself. The touch of her hand might have been gentle, but it made my skin crawl. I could tell that it would not be wise to draw blood the first time Elaine held me, even though I am a serial biter. (That’s how I earned my middle name of Jaws.) However, I bluffed my way through the ordeal, exhaling after she finally returned me to my pen. The next morning, Elaine was back to collect her orange kitten. My chances were slim, but I got lucky. The staff member picked me instead of the calm, sweet little guy who’d never gone without a meal. That fool was off romping with his siblings in the far corner of his pen. Riding in the palm of the woman’s hand, I made it to the front counter. My heart was beating wildly. I might not have been Elaine’s first choice, but she’s such a softy that she didn’t have the heart to send me back. I was adopted!

Let the fun begin

 
I was so dang cute when I was little!
I joined the Thomas family on May 24, 2016, as a housecat-in-training. Elaine showed me something called a litterbox, but the scented gravel in the plastic box meant nothing to me. I thought it would make a decent retreat when I was tired of being watched. (They watched me all the time, which was unnerving.) Thus, when Mother Nature called, I relieved myself on the carpet in the corner of the living room. I couldn’t figure out why Elaine picked me up and put me in the litterbox. Was it a reward? Since no food was involved, maybe not. Perhaps another corner of the big room would be even better, so I made a deposit on the carpet in front of the big window. Another trip to the litterbox followed. I thought I’d try squatting on the hard surface in the kitchen, although I preferred the carpet. I got picked up right away. Exasperated with so many trips to the litterbox, I gave into my base nature. I bit Elaine several times, hard enough to draw blood, and scratched her arm. That got her attention. Then I figured it out! The litterbox was a repository for Mother Nature’s calls. Well, I thought, let’s have a little fun. It was no time until I had Elaine on the run tending to three litterboxes in three corners of the living room. My litterbox-hopping caper went on for several days and nights until I overheard some ominous rumblings. ‘Should Jumper be returned to the shelter because he can’t be socialized or shall we banish him to the barn?’ Boy, did I clean up my act in a hurry!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHfEf_mU-Xo
I did what other kittens did and my humans fell for my act.

Life is good!

So time went by and all was well. When I didn’t get what I wanted when I wanted it, I would sink my teeth in and my humans bled. I also liked to launch myself off Emil’s lap while he watched TV. To get that little extra spring in my step, I would dig my claws in his legs. After I brutally clawed the nose of the old dog, Kally, she, too, gave me a wide berth. I bit my way into having life pretty much my way. I guess it was about that time that Elaine started to become more distant. She still treated me kindly but gave me fewer opportunities to bite or scratch her. (It’s just too bad that she’s so thin-skinned.) But I wasn’t completely uncooperative. When I went to be fixed, I took the injustice in stride after Elaine explained that both the animal shelter and the vet had La Grange addresses on Svoboda Lane.
 
I’m looking photogenic during my daily constitutional.

On the heels of a hurricane

Hurricane Harvey not only caused a great deal of damage and grief to La Grange in August 2017, my life irrevocably changed, too. Before the floodwaters in town had even begun to recede, Elaine made a surprising discovery. ‘There’s a little cat on the patio,’ she told Emil. He advised her not to feed it so it would go home. Now keep in mind that we live in the middle of nowhere. Where that cat came from, we’ll never know. Rags, who quickly became my nemesis, won’t tell.
 
A walk-up cat named Rags is something I didn’t need.
Thank heaven Rags is a feral whose only demands are to be fed regularly and left alone. She has no interest in living in my house. At the barn, she is in charge of rodent control, something that certainly doesn’t interest me. For a year, I tried my best to run Rags off, but it didn’t work. She would always race away with me in hot pursuit, but she never left. Then one day she had kittens. Oh, the horror of viewing all those pitiful little faces. What if they stayed and had more kittens? I’d totally lose control of my home and humans. Even worse, Rags seemed to develop a backbone. While I was observing the little tykes, she turned on me and savagely scratched my nose. I was only looking. Fortunately, a very nice lady in a Suburban arrived one morning to take all the kittens away to train as barn cats.
 
The wild bunch: Rag’s kids were feral too.
Life appeared to be looking even brighter when Rags was hauled away in a cage, but my euphoria was short-lived. She was back the next day after being spayed. We now practice live-and-let-live. I’m not sure why, but Elaine is rather fond of her.
 
Though Rags and I tolerate each other, we’re not pals.
Then the unthinkable happened. Kally, to whom I had warmed up over the years, died. It seemed that in no time, a rescue dog named Bow took her place. With a couple of well-placed claws sunk into his young, innocent nose, he stays out of my way.
 
What’s wrong with this picture?

Let me give this more thought

However, it galls me to see how Elaine dotes on Bow. From my vantage point on the back of the sofa, I see her sometimes visit Bow in the middle of the night. Sprawled on his big, luxurious bed that fills up the mudroom, that dog doesn’t seem to mind being affectionately stroked in the dark. The two of them go on long walks several times a day and he sleeps in Elaine’s office while she works. What galls me most though is the cover Elaine chose for her new book. (You’ll see it for yourself in this space later this month.)
 
Here’s the book cover I would have chosen.
I’m seriously contemplating mending my ways to become a dear, sweet old tomcat that Elaine can’t resist. I may even stop drawing blood and leaving long, deep welts on the arms of my humans. Then the balance of power might shift significantly my way, which would serve both Bow and Rags right. Didn’t I tell you I was born cunning?

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