Many of you kind folks have inquired lately regarding my long silence regarding Patches, my calico feline co-habitant.

While she has graced many, many of these columns in past years with her antics, hissy fits and various sundry behaviors, the truth of the matter is that Patches has slowed down with maturity. She’s about seven years old now, and is not quite the holy terror she once was, bringing at least some semblance of normalcy to my life. I realize that seven is not old for a cat, but it’s not a kitten anymore, either. Just like 41 is not old for a person, but I sure ain’t no dadgum spring chicken anymore, I can tell you.

She is at her most content these days curled up in my lap while I’m reading in my chair, and in the absence of that, she’ll curl up by herself on the sofa or up the stairwell. She still greets me when I come home by scratching on the inside of the door as I approach it, a habit I can’t seem to break her of, but what the heck. There’s more doors at the building supply store when she scratches clean through that one. I replaced the steel door that used to be there with a paneled wood door for aesthetics in an old house, and she definitely prefers the wood door.

She doesn’t maul anyone these days, though I won’t suggest that she’s become complacent enough for you to try anything risky. She still won’t let my girl pick her up after four years, and I remain the only person allowed to do so. Patches has adopted her lap as a secondary nesting place, however, so that’s a mark of distinction.

I bought her a few toys recently, the ones that are fuzzy and leggy and should drive a cat crazy, and hung one of them from a door frame. Patches completely ignored it. We watched in anticipation, hoping for a rip-roaring, biting and scratching good time, but Patches didn’t even acknowledge the toy-beast’s presence. A few days passed and we noticed that, when Patches thought we weren’t looking, she’d give the toy a casual swat when she passed by. That was it.

I picked up a pack of ping-pong balls, and this was much more to her liking, because it takes only a bit of swatting to get a ping-pong ball up and out like crazy. This lasted two or three days, when Patches gave it all up, completely. I’d pop it at her now and then, and she’d just watch it bounce by then look at me with an expression, "You don’t really think, I’m fooled into believing that’s alive and worth chasing, do you?" So much for that. All three ping-pong balls eventually vanished into some unknown void in the house, the sort of black hole that old houses have that seem to devour things like ping-pong balls, socks, slippers and ink pens.

She loves when I come home from fishing. I have a backpack that was especially designed for fishing, carries my tackle and tools and fly rod tubes. Having it in the boat all day, it must come home with wonderful smells for Patches sometimes rolls over it, sniffing at it carefully, then enthusiastically. Other times, she pays no attention to it whatsoever, and I can’t imagine the difference to her. Just not into fishing that day, I reckon.

A few months ago, my girl bought her a pet bed. You know the little padded things with about a three-inch side all around it, nice and soft and cuddly. I laughed uproariously. Surely, I said, no one would believe that Patches would have anything to do with such a thing? It was unthinkable, foolish, laughable, what a waste of money. Patches claimed the love seat years ago as her personal domain. No one else is allowed to sit on the love seat except one of us, no guests. What would Patches want with a dinky little pet bed when she’s got a whole love seat with throw pillows? Of course my girl, being a woman and thinking of things men never think of, put the pet bed on the love seat.

She liked it so much we ended up buying another to put in the back of the house when she’s back there. I just don’t know my own cat, I reckon. It was so dadgum cute to see her curl up in there, I got jealous, thinking she had abandoned me. But she returned to my lap soon enough, restoring my faith in her loyalty.

We’re both slowing down, I guess. In cat years, Patches is a bit older than me, and I know that I’m slowing down. Sometimes I come in from a long day, tired from work, fishing, boat building, and there’s Patches, tired from a long day of…whatever it is she does all day. I’ll kick off my shoes and lie down on the sofa. She’ll nuzzle up next to me and we’ll take a long nap, just like old folks do. My greatest fear is that she’ll outlive me, then who’ll nap with her? These are the preoccupations of my latter years. Can you imagine when I’m really old? I’ll drive myself batty.