It was the first warm day in weeks. Zsa Zsa had been begging to go outside. After dinner, at 6pm, I strapped her in her harness and we sat on the porch.
Zsa Zsa was thrilled. She descended the steps into the back yard and ate some grass. I read my book and luxuriated in the sunlight. Everything was good.
Suddenly I became aware of the unnatural stillness. Zsa Zsa had bunched herself up and her ears were flat, and she was staring at a shape creeping around the corner.
Penny. The neighbourhood tough-cat. The little town terror. Come for a fight.
We froze into a silent tableau, the three of us, staring. The cats began to vocalize, coaxing strange moans out of their throats. These moans would start low and then cycle up into looping howls, gaining in volume, interspersed with hisses and alpaca spits.
Penny began to move, making slow ninja steps around the edge of Zsa Zsa's reach. The howls grew louder, their hackles rose, I was witness to a kitty showdown the likes of which I had never hoped to see.
I wondered: should I interfere? Penny was twice the size of Zsa Zsa and she's used to fighting in the wilderness, but I didn't want to wound Zsa Zsa's pride by pulling her inside; maybe she could do it. Maybe she could win. Maybe I should let her try.
A twig snapped.
STRIKE! Penny lunged and battered Zsa Zsa with her paws. Zsa Zsa got a few pitiful swipes in and then she turned and ran, back up the porch, the battle lost. Once again Penny was victorious.
I jumped up and chased Penny away. Zsa Zsa was not wounded but she had entered a mind-altered state, growling and hissing in consternation and shame. When she had calmed down a bit I inspected her for wounds, then picked her up and put her back on the battleground, thinking this might bring some of her confidence back. She hunkered down and growled, hissed, howled, hackled.
Ten minutes later she was back inside and meowing for treats. She may not remember the conflict but *I* have learned a lesson. Next time Penny approaches my cat, I'm going to punch her in the nose.