Puffed, Poofed, and Hackled

Puffed, Poofed, and Hackled

We have three resident cats.


Each entirely different in personalities, preferred petting requirements, toy choices, irritation tolerance, vocalizations...

They tolerate one another, can be spotted snoozing in the general vicinity of each other — but no two ever get along all day long.

So when the three finally agree on something past the collective attitude that their tuna fish feast in gravy is always late, it gets my attention.

When I find them lined up shoulder to shoulder staring out the patio doors at *something*. I try to follow their gazes and track what they’re tracking. By the time I get to the window, the *something* is long gone.

Or like when they’ve strategically placed themselves along the utility room hallway, all facing the same direction in crouched hunting positions. I try not to think about the *something* that they maimed and sent running into the walls to die.

The creepy bit comes in when they all *see* *something* that clearly isn’t there. All six eyeballs glued to a perfectly white ceiling. No bug. No floating tuft of Stella Marie’s long tail feathers. No random flicker of light from a suncatcher or reflection of a puddle. Nothing.

There’s nothing there.

Yet all three *see* what I can’t.

It’s eerie. But we tease and declare the cats must’ve seen a ghost. Or they caught the changing of the guard as God swaps out one of our guarding angels—because the good Lord knows we’ve worn out quite a few celestial beings over the last two years.

We also blame Little Miss Muse when random crashes and startles send one or more felines down the hall in frantic tizzies.

But, a few nights ago, I swear I nearly made all three of our precious indoor adoptees permanent outside kitties.

All three were chilling out in bed with me—one of those rare moments, though all three were as far as they could get from one another, like same-pole magnets with that unseen buffering force.

All three *heard* something. They raised their heads from their synchronized slumbers in unison. I dropped my book to my lap to watch this.

The hackles rose in unison – well, Amara and Malachi raised clearly engaged theirs, but Stella Marie’s long hair doesn’t allow for a clear show of startle.

Until she was so spooked by *something* that her hair parted along her spine and she slowly raised, crouched.

I put aside my story, swung my feet off the bed, and if I had hackles, they’d have been raised.

Goosebumps is what I got. Right along the back of my neck and down my arms.

The cats disembarked the bed. Plop, plop, plop.

They stalked out of the bedroom, single file, into the hallway.

I followed them. (The hubs was of no use, sound asleep and sweetly oblivious to all things that don’t go bump in the night...)

Three tails poufed. Or puffed. Poofed. What’s the word?  Bushed out. Bushy freaked tails and prickling fur coats. Synchronized fear-gaits. All four stopped in the hall, listening with pricked ears because they still *hear* *something*.

I shine my phone’s flashlight down the hall.

Nothing. I don’t hear anything.

The cats take a few cautious steps forward, I follow them.

As if I’m brave.

As if I’m following a trio of guardian Rottweilers about to take out an intruder and not three little rescue kitties all poufed, puffed, and poofed. Hackeld even. (For you zoology/vocabulary geeks out there, the precise word is piloerection. As in: Their piloerections caused their hair follicles to stand on end because of an adrenaline-fueled flight or fight response. But some folks may take offense to that word, piloerection, so we shall say bushed.)

The cats and I secured the kitchen. Then we moved to the living room and utility room. Likewise, those spaces were free of all scary *somethings*. But the trio insisted, as evidenced by their gaits, liquid black pupils, and piloerective— I mean bushed responses, that *something* was still amiss. 

For the next fifteen minutes, I agreed with them, falling prey to the invisible, silent *somethings* that don’t make a noise in the dark. *Something* that remains unnamed and only sensed by the most intelligent of all life on earth — the ever-perceptive cat.

Until I’d checked all the locks and behind all the doors, I agreed with them. I even got brave enough to peek out a window or two for that *something* that may be circling the perimeter of the house.

I threw them out their favorite Backyard BBQ Temptation treats and watched them try to decide whether to pursue *it* or have a snack. The snack won out, and we went on with our night — me back to my book and the trio – still in agreement something was amiss – smoothing down their bristled fur with stress-relieving baths.

The *something* went about with his/her/its night as well, and all piloerecting – I mean poofing – subsided.

So… Happy creepy October, y’all. May your *somethings* be nothing and may your follicles remain un-piloere—

I mean un-bushed.

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