Early Adventures of Not-a-Cat-Whisperer
Dogs are dogs, and cats are cats. No eerie similarities detected between the two.
So when RC cat appeared and chose us, suddenly there was a dilemma. Nobody wants a fat cat. But, speaking as a dog person, what do you do with them?
Dogs are easy. Everything is entertaining to them: See the bug. Bark at the mirror. Eat the couch. Exercise? Their whole waking hours are free-choice, self-selected, unstructured exercise. Throw the ball. Throw the ball. Throw the slobbery disgusting ball, already. Dig the hole. Dig the hole. Help plant the flowers. Rip out the flowers and run around the yard with shredded remnants. Chase the doggie. Chase the doggie. Doggie’s got the shoe. Doggie’s got the Jimmy Choo shoe. (Chew, chew, chew). And there’s the favorite: take the human for a walk. Run. Run faster. Commandeer the leash. Gleefully ignore the silly prone human and the cries of “Come back. Sit. Come back”. Yes, dogs are the self-directed princes of entertainment and exercise.
Cats? Well, as adults, they sleep a lot. Even when they are awake, it’s sort of a sloth-like imitation of a deflating throw pillow. More Yoga Master than Iron Man. Everyone comments on the “calm, wise, all-knowing stare of cats”… but does anyone really know if there’s ANYTHING going on in there? But kittens, everyone said, are different. You’ll love them. They are so entertaining. Yes, it appears young cats are tornadoes of energy – a whirlwind of fur and claws across the couches, drapes, human arms and legs – able to shred in a single bound. So, determined to be the best kitty wrangler ever, I immediately began a program designed to challenge, delight, and exercise the little guy (and with great hopes of redirecting destructive behaviors). All for his own good, health-wise and otherwise.
A wide selection of recommended cat toys were positioned around the house: rolling balls with jingles, catnip creations, along with wind-up critters to chase and pounce. I got serious with the highly recommended feathers tied onto ribbons tied onto stick. Morning was penciled in for high impact cat aerobics: the object? Like children, you tire them out so they take a nap? I’d flutter madly (the specific definition of that word here, I will leave up to you) around the living room with the stick streamers whipping through the air and wiggling across the ground: around the couch, between the chairs, underneath the coffee table. It seemed to be working. Small fuzzy creature chased and pounced wildly….for about a week. After that it was apparently more entertaining to sit on the couch back and just watch the crazy human flap around the room. I was getting plenty of exercise, but that wasn’t the target objective at this point. So what was I doing wrong? RC loved this activity last week. Cats don’t age that quickly do they?
I noticed my husband snickering from the kitchen. “You look like one of those overly enthusiastic gymnasts who are trying to convince people that dancing around with streamers is a sport – only less coordinated. (You notice he didn’t say demented…always the kind and compassionate partner). Deflated, I stopped. This was an experienced cat person speaking. “The cat looks terrified.” (Oh, I thought they always had really really big eyes stretched wide). “It’s too frenzied. Cats like to sneak up on things, pounce and attack. Pseudo kills.” And he demonstrated how real cat owners know to slowly slither the ribbon along the floor with an occasional quiet wiggle to draw attention. Darn if that cat didn’t leap down and wrap itself in that ribbon with great glee – kicking and struggling to strangle that ribbon prey.
So I was coached in the ancient mystery of enticing cat to play. With great concentration and determination, I slid the ribbon on a stick around: slowly Zen-like, imitating nature. RC appeared thrilled. Thrilled to just to watch upside down on the couch…still a spectator sport.
Eventually, I settled into the traditional cat educational toys: the basic brown paper bag, a pipe cleaner formed into a circle, and a window. Better to give a cat the opportunity for developing higher level thinking skills. And better to let sleeping cats lie.
Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.