'Toopid Cat Don' Move!

by Tina Blue
February 10, 2001

          One of the funniest things about hanging out with small children, as I did when I ran my home daycare for eighteen years, is listening to the way they reproduce, in all innocence, the words and tone of their parents' remarks. They are little tape-recorders with lisps.

          The apartment where I live is fronted by a relatively small parking lot, with room for perhaps twelve cars. Since the lot is fairly level, it makes a great place for riding bikes and drawing elaborate chalk cities. Whenever we weren't playing at the park we were outside playing in the parking lot.

          The neighbors in the four other apartments all knew we would be out there playing, and they were very good about watching out for us, and of course I was always extremely vigilant, so we never had any problems playing out there. If I saw a car approaching by way of the street and it looked like it might turn into our lot, I would call out, "Car! Car!" and all the children would run to one of the designated safe areas, while I hastened to remove bikes from the car's potential pathway.

          My four cats also liked to hang out with us when we played in the parking lot, and when I yelled, "Car! Car!" and the kids ran to safety, the cats would also run to join them in the safe area. (They probably thought it was a weird human game of some sort.)

          But my oldest cat, Luke, was very proprietary about the parking space closest to my apartment. He knew that was where the parents parked to drop off their kids, so if he happened to be outside when a parent pulled into the parking lot (slowly, as I trained all my parents to drive when coming in or out of our lot), he would stand in that parking space and meow at the parent as he or she attempted to ease the car into the space.

          The parent would honk the horn, and Luke would say something rude in feline. The parent would stick his or her head out the window and chew the cat out--and Luke would chew right back. The only way to get him to vacate the parking spot was to get out of the car and pay proper homage to him.

          Once he had been appropriately greeted, Luke would allow the parent to park.

          All the parents were warned about Luke's ritual when they first started bringing their kids to me, so they all knew to watch out for him in the parking space. He wasn't always out there, but if he was, you could not park your car without getting out and saying hello first.

          One day, 22-month old Denny wanted to sit in a chair that Luke had already claimed. Hands on hips, he stood there and glared at Luke. Luke gazed back, pointedly unperturbed.

          Then Denny heaved a melodramatic sigh and muttered, "Toopid cat don' move!"--in a tone so exactly like his father's that I knew he'd heard those words on more than one occasion when his dad had been trying to persuade Luke to let him park his truck.

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