Cats and Books

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Hands Up – An Educational Experience

The saga of Thug (aka The Purring Death, aka Drang as his actual owners call him) continues, very much an evolving experience for all concerned. The routine surrounding his visits has become both simpler and more complex – where once my partner picked him up and popped him into the car, nose next to tempting kitty nibbles, now he races there and waits impatiently for me to catch up. He has learned that breakfast (or other meal, depending on time of day) happens in the car, on the way home. If I am slow, he races back, just to remind me that there are things to do, places to go, large and adoring cats to feed.
As any theme-park operator will tell you, yesterday’s thrill is today’s old news and the only way forward is innovation. For Thug, having taken the half-mile plus walk up the hill, there needs to be some entertainment, and he’s looking for that innovation. Of course, if said innovation also runs away making frantic squealing noises, all the better.

I can see you...
So, for instance, several minutes of fun can be had by lurking outside the front door, staring through the new cat-flap to the spot where Piper has taken to sleeping. Then all it takes is a plaintive mew and Piper is awake, acutely aware that the Ginger Nemesis is close and watching. Think of it as a waking nightmare – wake-up and there’s the nightmare, not yet red in tooth or claw, and just itching to get his wonderful whiskers dirty.
Of course, Piper has also learned a few things, in addition to run for your life. In particular, he’s established that the new cat-flap doesn’t open for Thug. It’s safe to glare back, perhaps growl a little. Then run, just in case.
Alternatively, Thug hangs around by the back door, after all there’s no telling when Piper might be outside, strolling by and needing another bite taken out of his backside. It’s amazing how these hyper-alert, super-hunter felines can wander around, thumb up tail, brain in neutral, and not notice six or more kilos of ginger monster sitting in plain sight, just waiting...

I can reach
However, kitty nibbles from a bag do actually trump prey-cat on the run. Once I open the back door, and Thug knows he has my attention, as well has his next meal, he then races round the house to be waiting for me out the front. There, the new cat-flap means he can peer in to watch me put my shoes on and be ready for our race to the car as soon as I step out. It also gives him a chance to see when I’m not coming, so that he can gallop back round the outside of the house to find out what I mistakenly thought was more important than an adorable ginger cat.
Thug has also learned that if I’m carrying an old yoghurt pot, that’s where his breakfast is. With a normal cat that might not be overly significant, but Thug is big with long legs and even whilst jogging along beside me, he can reach up and take a grip on that pot with both paws. Sometimes he just takes a hold of my hand. Six or more kilos of cat hanging by his claws in my skin is a learning experience – lower that pot quickly to avoid extensive bloodshed, or remember to keep my hands well above cat-reach height. As it turns out, the most frequent donor for Thug’s red-in-tooth-and-claw is me.
The important thing is that I have learned the lesson. I probably look like an idiot, walking to the car with my hands up, but I’m not a bleeding idiot. Pain is a great teacher.

Let me at it.

Not that Thug has this all his own way. Some time back, in an earlier instalment, I mentioned his sister, Storm, a very spooky and perfectly normally sized cat. I’ve seen her from time to time as I return Thug home, but she’s not really a people cat, and certainly not keen on strangers. However, the cat definition of stranger is variable, experience-based and subject to change on a whim, a purr or the discovery of food.
In the last month or two, Storm has learned a part of the routine herself – when my car arrives at the official Thug residence, there will be cat nibbles on the doorstep, because that provides enough of a distraction to keep Thug from racing me back to the car if there’s no-one home to let him in. I started to notice that, as I walked back to the car, Storm would emerge from hiding and demonstrate her expertise at getting her nose under Thug’s chin and separating him from breakfast.
Now that she has learned the routine, Storm has finally decided that the Great Cat Whisperer is OK, and taken the next step: why go to the effort of stealing her brother’s food when she can mug me and cut out the middle-cat? It’s easy enough to do, a quick sniff of my ankles, a strop round my legs, the look that says stroke me and I’ll let you hand me cat nibbles.
As ever, Thug management is an ongoing educational experience. I await developments – perhaps Thug will start to learn Storm management.

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This month's blog was partly prompted by #BlogBattle: Educate. Please go and take a look at the other entries,

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