Obi is now safely in Shanghai, having left last Friday. How safe Shanghai is with him in town is entirely another matter.
Obi is a 2-year-old Bengal cat. His keepers are our younger son, Preston, and his wife, Rebecca. They accompanied Obi to Shanghai and will be counting on him to keep their place safe while they’re enlightening and presumably also learning from students at the Shanghai American School.
Obi is a beautiful, regal creature, almost unbelievably quick and athletic. If a bit aloof, he’s good-natured and purrs loudly. When he thinks he’s been petted enough, he extends his arms and opens his claws playfully before doing so more seriously. I have small scars that illustrate what happens when you miss his hints.
Although we worried how well Obi would get along with our dog, a golden retriever named Ellie, who at 12 isn’t much interested in learning new tricks, our fears were groundless. After the requisite sniffing, they got along famously. They spent hours on our screened porch watching birds pick at our bird feeders and squirrels scurry about the yard. Ellie watched immobile; Obi didn’t wag his tail so much as he whipped it back and forth.
At chow time, Ellie devoured her food while Obi always left some of his for later. Ellie sought to dine on Obi’s leftovers until we moved his food and water to the kitchen counter. Obi didn’t care for Ellie’s food but enjoyed her water.
All in all, Obi was a good house guest; we miss him. So will Ellie, who whined whenever Preston and Becca zipped Obi into his travel carrier for daily spells in preparation for their trip. Still, we’re relieved that he’s again living with Preston and Becca. The most challenging time for Maggie and me came when Preston and Becca headed out to Maggie’s brother’s cabin a week before we did. That left Obi in Ellie’s capable paws and our … supervision.
Obi seemed to sense that we are more attuned to dogs than cats and that he could have his way with us. So for a time he did. Though Preston and Becca left him plenty of toys, he was intent on sampling the local options — the photos, souvenirs and doodads we collected on our travels and placed on shelves — tipping a few of them over.
Maggie beat him to it, mostly. She boxed up enough shelves worth of stuff that with the walls already stripped of pictures, a visitor might have thought we were moving. When Obi reached from atop our old nickel Coke machine and batted a framed picture off of its hook, we took almost all of the rest of them down. Yes, there was an element of surrender to this, but it seemed the wisest course.
Not that Obi lacked an endearing side. He demonstrated it whenever I worked crossword puzzles, an old habit of mine. He’d pick at the pencil I was holding and nibble at the eraser before sitting like the Sphinx astride the open puzzle, look at me and start purring. I had no choice but to stroke him repeatedly from head to tail. We both liked it and we became buds.
His departure meant we could again leave a drink on the counter or a table without fear that he would paw at it until he knocked it over. Soda cans or cups were mere playthings, and Obi knew how to play. Obi’s departure also meant we could take the bread out of the microwave. Its plastic wrapping was no match for his teeth or claws.
It was almost as amazing watching Obi prowl our countertops, weaving between and among mundane objects, as it was watching him leap from floor to countertop to the top of the fridge to the top of the tallest cabinets. At times he’d sit up there and watch us. It was a bit like having a miniature, almost tame, leopard in the house.
Barely had Preston, Becca and Obi left for China than we initiated Project Restoration, replacing the knickknacks and pictures. Step one, however, was drawing down all of the blinds. They had been all of the way up for a couple of weeks because Obi was obsessed with them — batting them, climbing into them and wrestling with the strings until we tucked those out of reach. Leaving our house open to whoever wanted to look in was hardly ideal, but fortunately, the town’s burglars were busy elsewhere.
We’re unapologetically dog people, yet having Obi for a few weeks was an adventure of the first order. Maggie and I both had cats as pets when we were children, but neither of us had met a cat like Obi Cat Kenobi. We look forward to seeing him again sometime in Shanghai.
Braun retired in 2017 as the Mercury’s editorial page editor.