Their hissing takes me from deep, comforting sleep to sudden, unwanted consciousness. It isn't an unusual sound for this time of night in my home. Cat Wars have commenced in the bathroom adjacent to our bedroom. On some nights, I sleep right through these battle cries. On other nights, they wake me. The sounds never affect my husband’s sleep pattern. He hears nothing, or at least he pretends with enough skill to fool me.
The battlefield isn't always in the bathroom. Often it is in our family room on top of the couch. On occasion, it's in one of our children's bedrooms. Sometimes it's in the kitchen. It all depends on where the cats decided to stop, drop, and snuggle in for the night. There are nights when they snuggle under the blanket. There are nights when they end their day between our pillows. If UPS or Fedex has made a delivery, bedtime often begins within the emptied carton.
Like human siblings, brother and sister cat have devoted their lives to antagonizing each other over the littlest details of their feline existence. Mostly it's about which cat has the better place to sleep. I've sat and observed two content sleeping kitties become Cat Commandos From the Third Dimension in the matter of nanoseconds over who has the better set of legs to snuggle against.
Tonight they are fighting over a sink. We have two sinks in our bathroom; my husband has claimed the one next to the medicine cabinet as his, and I have the other. The sinks are identical, although I am sure mine is considerably cleaner. Each cat has settled into a sink. Each cat has curled up in a ball and has snuggled in for the night. At least that is how I left them when I got into bed, closed the light, and left the world behind me a few hours ago. Tonight, Mr. Cat is in my sink and Mrs. Cat is in my husband's sink. When I left them so I could snuggle into the space where I end my day, all was fine in their feline world. They were purring in semi-consciousness, dreaming of bugs, mice, catnip, canned dinner, and a full water bowl.
But a few hours have passed, and I am brought to consciousness by the sound of hissing. I get out of bed to make sure they are not doing something questionable, destructive, or potentially dangerous. It's a Mom thing. My mom-gene never shuts down, not even for the cats.
I go into the bathroom and observe Mr. Cat standing over Mrs. Cat. He is swatting her on the head with his clawless paw. There is no fear in each of his swats as Mrs. Cat hisses at her clawless, clueless brother, showing her teeth, and making it very clear that tonight she is sleeping in Daddy's sink and she is definitely not in the mood to play this game. She has no intention of moving. She is bigger than her brother. I believe it is referred to as being large-boned, or maybe it is her need to satisfy her Inner Cat Woman by filling her stomach again and again and again with gourmet treats and table scraps. In the world of feeling good about oneself, we refer to her as extra-medium rather than large or pleasantly plump. We do not want to injure her over-inflated self-esteem.
I decide the cats are safe, and I leave them to settle their own Cat Disputes. I have learned the hard way, with scars to prove it, that playing referee is a lesson in futility. As I am about to shut the light in the bathroom, I notice Mr. Cat swat Mrs. Cat one more time. Mrs. Cat rises to her feet, arches her back, lets out a loud hiss, and chases Mr. Cat through my legs, out of the bathroom, and down the hallway to the children's bedrooms.
As I cuddle under the blankets, the cats re-enter our bedroom, leaping over the bed, one still in mad pursuit of the other. I cannot see who is the chaser and who is the chasee, but I do hear my husband mumble something about cats belonging outdoors where God intended them and how good they would look stuffed. I have also heard my husband, on occasion, threaten the cats that he was going to give them back to those nice people who placed the "Free to a Good Home" advertisement. I have heard him mutter, "This isn't a good home. I'll just ask for my money back." These cats were "Free to a Good Home" almost a decade ago. I would hate to burst my husband's bubble by telling him that even if there had been a warranty, it has more than expired. Besides, I remember very clearly that he picked them out and that he had wanted a third, but ours were the only two left. I also have seen him whispering sweet nothings into both cats’ ears telling them that Mommy doesn’t love them half as much as he does.
Tonight, I just ignore him as the cats leap over the bed a second time. I pound my pillow to get the shape right and try to fall back to sleep on my side of the bed. I pull more than my share of the blanket to my side of the bed. It might be my imagination, but I think I hear my husband hiss.