As seen by Leslie Fish

'Twas winter in Chicago, our household was having enough trouble keeping up with the heating-bills, and the last thing we needed was yet another litter of kittens to feed. We'd had enough trouble feeding and giving away the last batch, and with four adult cats in the house we felt no need for more.

Therefore when Marflegiggle, our youngest queen, started giving the characteristic caterwaul of kitty-in-heat, we were Not Amused. We decided to lock her up in the large bathroom -- complete with bed, food, water and cat-box, until the fever passed. We figured we could make do with hand-baths for a few days for the sake of the heating-bills and the public peace.

Alas, the door to the bathroom was not soundproof. Neither did it lock completely. The door was old, with various chunks knocked out around the edges, and far too many coats of paint. It wouldn't close far enough for the lock -- or even the latch -- to engage, but at least it could be wedged shut tight enough to keep a cat in. No way in hell could it keep the sound in, and Marflegiggle wailed romantically for hours on end. We managed to get used to it.

However, the top tomcat Mrrrp (that was his name for himself; we Humans called him Tom Jefferson, since he'd been born on the 4th of July) took this for a challenge. Always willing to help a girl in need, he took to lurking at all hours by the bathroom door.

At first he was content to sing duets with Marflegiggle, long motets from the feline versions of PYRAMUS AND THISBE, or possibly ROMEO AND JULIET, that went on for longer than the entire RING OF THE NIEBELUNG cycle. But eventually he grew frustrated with Art -- not to mention consistently ignored attempts to persuade the Humans -- and determined to work directly on the offending door.

First, Mrrrp tried to claw the door open at the side. No luck; it was wedged too tightly. Then he lay down on his back, hooked his claws into the space under the door, and tried to pry it open that way. Again, no luck. Then he put his nose up to the edge of the door and examined it minutely, looking for gaps between the edges, while Marflegiggle yowled encouragement. Mrrrp found one especially good gap in the wood, stuck his claws into it and tried to pry the door open from there. Marflegiggle, inspired, threw herself repeatedly at the door, trying to jar it open. Alas, even their combined efforts didn't work.

Mrrrp sat down and studied the edge of the door while Marfie wailed long tragic arias. From the twitching of his ears and whiskers, a keen observer might have guessed he was thinking hard. He poked his claws into the gap in the door-edge, thought for a moment more, then got up and padded away. Marfie did a long solo from DIE WALKUERE while the rest of us held our ears; thus, we didn't hear Mrrrp rummaging around in the wood-box.

Presently, Our Hero came trotting back. He was carrying in his mouth a piece of kindling almost as long as he was -- a big sharp splinter of pine, thick on one end and needle-pointed on the other. As I watched, Mrrrp carefully maneuvered the sharp end of the splinter into that narrow gap between the door-edge and the door-frame. He shoved it in as far as he could with his mouth, then went to the wide end of the wood-piece and shoved it forward with his chest until it was firmly wedged into the gap.

Then, if you please, he turned side-on to the butt of the splinter, facing the door-frame, and he butted at it with his broad furry head -- until he levered the door open.

I just sat there watching, drop-jawed, while Mrrrp ran in through the open door and pounced upon his amorous lady-love. What the hell, I figured, after performing a feat of calculation and invention like that, Mrrrp had earned it.

Besides, think of the brilliant kittens he'd make.

Sure enough, the kittens came along three months later. One of them was Smokey the Dog-Slayer, who's still the senior queen of my household. And yes, she's just as intelligent as her inventive sire -- and so are all her kittens and grand--kittens and great-grand-kittens...But that's a whole string of other stories.