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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oh, You’ll Notice Me Alright! (Part 1)

    Cats are like people in many ways. They have good moods and bad moods. Sometimes they want to play and other times they want to be left alone. Most of all though, just like us, they crave love and attention.

    I was in my early 20's fresh from moving back to California, living with my fiancĂ©e at the time and seven other people. Money was hard to come by and the traffic in and out of the house was just too much. Her parents offered for us to move in with them and we both agreed it was a great idea. There was only one issue, cats. Her mom did not like cats and we had two of them, Frankie and Oreo. After much discussion with her parents, rules were set and it was agreed the cats would come with us. The cats broke the rules starting on the second day.

    My soon to be mother-in-law loved to feed and watch the wild bunnies out in her yard every morning. Upon returning home from work on the second day of living there I was summoned to the kitchen like a five year old caught doing something wrong. With that 'you are in deep trouble' look in her eyes, she has me look out the kitchen window and asks me, "What do you see?" There were little pieces of lettuce, carrots and various other vegetable parts strung throughout the yard. It looked like somebody's salad exploded. I wasn't quite sure where this was going and I didn't really know what to say, so I said the only thing I could think of, "If you're trying to grow a garden, you're going about it all wrong".  My attempt at humor fell flat. "No", she says, "I was trying to feed the rabbits, the ones your two cats kept chasing away all day". For whatever reason that will for now and ever be unknown to me, Frankie and Oreo had decided sometime that morning that they loved my soon to be mother-in-law and would follow her around day and night, never to leave her sight. And they didn't.

    Things got worse the following week when a bunny (which I was assured was NOT sleeping) was found outside the front door and Frankie sitting right next to it. She picked up the cat, leaving the 'not sleeping' bunny for me, and preceded to explain to Frankie in a mom to child voice that, yes she loved bunnies and that it was bad what he did. This was the first time she had ever touched one of the cats let alone acknowledged them. Cats like people notice things like this and to Oreo, Frankie was getting attention. The following morning the front door was opened and there on the porch was Oreo with not one but THREE 'not sleeping' snails. He was much slower than Frankie.

    The war had started. It was on. Cats are like people in many ways. They want love and attention just like we do. And they'll do anything to get it.
(to be continued)

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Can Make It, I Can Make IT…I Can’t Make It

     Grace. Finesse. Agility. These words are synonymous with cats. They have beauty and style as they maneuver around with pinpoint accuracy to snatch a bug out of mid air, the swiftness to trip you up without ever getting kicked. Grace. Finesse. Agility. You can use these words to describe all cats. So why did mine just smash into the side of the table, face first?

     Rock sat on the arm of the chair, looking back and forth between me and the table, as if to say "I can make it". I stared back, "no, you can't". His hind legs squatted down and tensed up, "I can make it". I rolled my eyes, "no, you can't". His tail flicked, butt wiggled and snap, off he went. Two feet, that is all he had to do and yet he still landed face first into the side of the table. I shrugged my shoulders, "told you so".

     He has been like this all his life. Luckily, he never got truly hurt but it did cause some problems. On a trip to the Vets office I was called back to the consulting office. "Mr. Innocent, have you or anyone in your home ever hit your cats?" he asks me. I told him no, I do not believe any animal should be hit for any reason. I have two squirt bottles and a super soaker for when they're bad. Super soaker is for that long distance bad and I'm too lazy to get up. He proceeds to tell me my cat has a fat lip and it looks like someone hit him in the face. Trying not to laugh because this is serious stuff, I try to explain that Rock came running down the hall this morning at full speed and turned the corner…too soon. He went head on into the wall. Even to my own ears this sounded like the "I got a black eye from the door" story. The Doctor gave me the stink eye basically and told me that Rock would have to stay for about two days.

     Two days later, I stopped by the Vets to pick up my cat. I'm told by the receptionist that the Doctor would like to speak to me. She ushers me into the tiny consulting room to wait, horrible thoughts are running through my head. I'm thinking he really believes I abuse my cat and he's not going to give him back. After 10 minutes the door opens and in walks the Doc, "Mr. Innocent" he says to me, "I owe you an apology". It seems, Rock was sitting on the examining table and made an attempt to jump over to a counter top. He didn't make it.

     Grace. Finesse. Agility. You can use these words to describe all cats. It just depends on how you look at it. When Rock crashes, he does so with great finesse. He has the agility to always land on his feet as he crashes to the floor. And he has all the grace of a drunk as he swaggers off down the hallway in search of a new place to sleep.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Spent a Fortune on Toys and THAT’S What You Play With!?

     Let's face it, as cat owners, we spend a fortune on our feline friends. Our cats have more toys and gadgets than Batman. We get them scratching posts, beds, treats and more toys than a rich kid at Christmas.

    I purchased little plastic balls with bells in them. They last two days. The cat bats it around for a few minutes the first day and then is bored with it. By the second day I have stepped on it and broke it. So, I tried again. I went out and got them little stuffed fishes with catnip. I come home from work one evening and find my house looks like a murder scene, little bits of fishes from one end to the other. Cat nip is now banned. I tried feathers on a stick. My arm got tired from waving it around. I found this cool little fishing pole with a fish dangling from it. Casted it out and the cats went crazy chasing it. They loved it. Only problem was, their favorite part of this was the string, which they chewed through thus destroying the toy within the hour. On top of that, another fish murder happened right after. Fish are now banned. I hung one of those cat scratchers from the door knob. Someone pee'd on it. Wasn't me.

    One day the cat comes sauntering in, passes the large, stuffed to the brim toy box of his, and starts going crazy batting and flipping this little thing around. I spent a fortune on toys and my cat plays with the little pull tab off of a gallon of milk.

    Through out the years I have discovered that cats will play with three things forever. None of them cost a dime. Old shoe strings, wadded up paper and the pull tab off of a gallon of milk. So once a month, I throw an old shoe lace on the floor, wad up some flyer I got in the mail and drop a pull tab for them to play with and then I go dust the cobwebs off their old toys.

Friday, August 14, 2009

“That’s Not My Cat, Sir!”

To many non cat people, cats all look alike. I once owned two black cats. I knew who was who but many of my friends couldn't tell them apart. They would try to hide the fact they didn't know which one was crossing the room. They had a 50/50 chance of calling the right name. They were wrong 100%. "What does your instinct tell you?" I would ask them. They would reply and I would tell them to never trust their instinct. For me it's easy. One weighs about 2 pounds more than the other. One has fuzzier hair. One will stare at an open flame on a candle and burn all his whiskers off. How hard can it be?

On the other hand, I don't believe my landlord (not the ones I have now) could tell the difference between a cat and an elephant. This isn't about the two black cats, which would be understandable. This is about a unique cat I had about twenty years ago. Occasionally this cat, Felix, would escape from the house to enjoy a little freedom.

My landlord was a nice guy over all but insane. I was re-arranging the adjustable shelves on the wall we shared with his unit one day when there was a knock on the door. He wanted me to put them back the way they were. Apparently, I was not allowed to make any changes to the place without his permission. Good thing he didn't notice we painted the place.

All was quiet on the western front when one day I got a phone call. Felix, he says, is getting out and using his garden as a rather large cat box. I was a little confused since the cat had not escaped in weeks but I apologized anyway. For weeks this went on. Every other day I was getting a phone call or a knock on the door. It couldn't be my cat but he swears he saw Felix with his own eyes. He's seen my cat plenty of times with all the visits he made to "make sure everything was ok". I just couldn't figure out how my cat was escaping, let alone getting back IN to the house.

Finally the answer came one day. I heard my landlord hollering for me to come outside and get my cat. I ran to the door, swung it open and there was my landlord holding a cute white cat with black spots weighing about 10 pounds. He politely started chewing me out and telling me I had to either keep the cat indoors or find a new place to live. He just kept on going and wouldn't stop. I couldn't get a word in no matter how hard I tried. Finally, I put my hand up, looked him straight in the face and said, "That's not my cat, sir!". I told him to wait right where he was. I went and got my cat, all 38 pound of his fat tabby butt. "THIS is my cat" I said. He just put the stray cat he was holding down and walked away. He never complained about my cat again.

Yes, to many non cat people, all cats look alike. To the cat owner, we notice every little thing. From the way they walk to the way they look at you. Nothing gets by us…most of the time anyway.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How To Get Your Cat To Come Running When You Call Its Name

Name it “Treats”. Really. Out of all the cats I have ever owned, that is the one word they will come running to every time. You don’t even have to shake a can. Just whisper the word “treats” and anything with four legs will be at your feet in seconds.

I had two kittens, about six months old, who loved to get on the counters in the kitchen. Every time I turned around, there they were, on the counter. One night I had some friends over for dinner and had to get some extra plates out of a cabinet that was up high. Being 5'6" I grabbed my cheap flimsy step stool and tried to retrieve them. As I'm standing on my tip toes at the top of this step stool, a friend of mine, a foot taller than me, tells me to hop down and he will get them. "No no" I say, “I can reach them". Just as my fingers brush the edge of the plates, the cheap flimsy step stool starts to give. He bellows at me, "Get down! gawd dammit", and like magic, there are two kittens sitting right in front of him. Yes, they had heard those words for the last two months more than there given names. I had two cats who thought their names were Get Down and Gawd Dammit. Eventually they grew into nice healthy cats with attitude that only came when it suited them.

Finally, after 43 years, I have a cat that will come when you call his name. Fuego. Actually, he comes to you every time you call any name. It doesn’t even have to be a name, really. Make up a word and say it and he’s there, at your feet, ready to be petted.

Let’s face it, when cats want attention they will come. If they don’t, you’re out of luck. Next time you get a new cat or kitten name it what you like. Any name will do. But, if you want it to come running every time you call it, name it “Treats”. It works every time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Yes Virginia, The Cat CAN Lock You Out of the House

The rule of thumb is, I feed you, pet you, play with you and buy you new toys, you do not lock me out of the house. It is an easy concept to grasp for most people. So why is it so difficult for cats to understand? They're not stupid by any means. Just think of all the times you had guests over. The cat comes strutting into the middle of the room, looks around, makes eye contact with everyone then plops down and starts licking himself inappropriately. Maximum embarrassment with little effort. Brilliant! No, they're not stupid. They know exactly what they are doing.

A couple of days ago I awoke from a good night of sleep. Nice and rested. I do my normal routine. I put food in the bowl, get fresh water and clean the almond Rocha out of the box. I make sure each one of the three cats who own me are petted and played with then head down the stairs to make some coffee.

With coffee in hand, I slide open the patio door and head out to the patio in the backyard. I shut the sliding screen door and begin enjoying a beautiful California summer morning. As I finish my coffee, I hear a familiar sound. Claws on a screen. I turn around and there is Fuego about six feet up plastered to the screen. I holler for him to get down but all I got back was the "what, me?" face. If you own a cat, you know what I'm talking about. Unfortunately for me he's not only on the screen door but he's right next to the edge of the sliding glass door so I cannot slide the screen open. After a few minutes of me alternating between pleading nicely and demanding sternly that he get down and let me in, he finely starts to break. I see him start looking for a spot to jump down to. He spots one. Just as he is ready to submit and let me in, his brother, Two Ton Toby, comes sauntering up and plops down in the only place he has to jump down. Nice. It's been about 10 minutes already and I have to get ready for work. My cell phone is in my pocket and I contemplate calling work and telling them I am going to be late because my cat locked me out of the house. I decide against. I am pretty sure that is equivalent to "my dog ate my homework".

Eventually, Toby decided to go explore some other part of the house and Fuego was able to jump down and let me in.

After a long day at work I come to find everyone one waiting for me at the front door. I ignore them all. I finish up my day sitting on the couch watching some TV, Still a little miffed. Fuego comes sneaking up from the side and plops down right on my lap. He looks up at me, smiles and starts purring. I'm done for. No, cats are not stupid and yes Virginia, the cat CAN lock you out of the house.