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Cats behaving badly. June 30, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in pets, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Nothing looks more angelic—seraphic, even—than a sleeping cat. But once those big, luminous eyes open, watch out!

Now, I’m not talking about the usual cat-related disasters, like coughed-up hairballs. (All cat owners know that distinctive pre-hairball noise, which inevitably occurs in the vicinity of one’s oriental carpet or antique furniture or bedspread as opposed to, say, the kitchen or bathroom floor. At which point, the cat owner breaks into a peculiar lurching run-and-tackle worthy of a pro football player in an attempt to move the offending cat to a hard, impermeable surface before irreparable damage occurs.)

Other typical bad-cat horrors involve stepping in a pile of last night’s thrown-up dinner (or worse) or, God save us, on a fresh mouse liver while staggering towards the bathroom at, say, 3 a.m. (AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!), or worse still, stepping on a squeaky toy while on the same errand (GAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!). Or break-dancing to avoid breaking your neck because a cat has insinuated itself behind you while you were busy at the kitchen sink and you started to step back before realizing that the cat was there. (And yes, this would make a screamingly funny video, assuming the intrepid cameraman survived the filming—something that definitely would not happen at my house. RIP, you know who.)

No, I’m talking about the ingenious, original ways cats have of just being plain old baaaaad. I’ll share some of our cats’ worst moments with you—well, more accurately, our worst moments, doubtless the cats’ finest hours—and hope you’ll share some of your own bad-cat stories with us. Deal? Let’s go!

Two of the all-time worst episodes involved my Maine coon cat, Jessie, whom I’d bought to console myself after losing my first-ever cat during an (otherwise fairly amicable) divorce. Despite the horrific conditions of her life to that point—Maine coons are big cats, and when I encountered her, she’d been stuffed into a small cage in a pet store with an even bigger Maine coon for nine months—Jessie was a loving cat, and was fiercely devoted to me. But she certainly had her moments.

The worst came when I was living in the post-divorce apartment and Jessie had somehow managed to break her front leg, which was encased in a plaster cast at the time of the Incident. Now, as you know if you know cats, for some reason they have a thing about accompanying you to the bathroom. (Maybe they were hall monitors in a previous life.) So there I was in the bathroom when someone knocked, loudly, on the bathroom door. I was living alone at the time, and no one was visiting at that moment. Mind you, when one is in the bathroom, one is, perhaps, a bit distracted, but when I heard the knocking, I was convinced that someone had broken into my apartment and was trying to kill me. Why I would have assumed that, after breaking into the apartment, the murderer would have politely knocked on the bathroom door is beyond even me, but as I say, I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time. Talk about a test of my cardiac fitness! There went three of my nine lives, at least. And yes, you astute readers who weren’t living through the incident at the time have doubtless drawn the correct conclusion, that it was in fact Jessie hammering on the door with her plaster cast.

Jessie struck again many years later here at Hawk’s Haven, which is surrounded by farm fields and thus has its share of mice, both grey field mice and the adorable brown-and-white deer mice. At the time, we didn’t have an outdoor cat population to keep the mice from fleeing into the warm house in winter. Jessie was a good mouser, and she, our friend Ben, and I had developed a routine: She would catch a mouse, almost always at night, make the “look-at-me-the-mighty-huntress” cry, and our friend Ben or I would stagger out of bed, throw on the light, don one of the fireplace gloves, and go to the front door. Jessie caught the mice but didn’t hurt them, and putting on the glove and going to the door, while lavishly praising her, was the signal. She would trot to the door and drop the mouse, at which point we’d scoop it into the glove and toss it to freedom in the dark yard.

Unfortunately (well, maybe fortunately for him), Ben was MIA on the night this particular Incident occurred. I was deeply asleep, and failed to hear Jessie’s triumphant “look-at-me” cry. Distressed by my lack of recognition for her mighty deed, Jessie decided to bring the mouse up onto the bed so I could see it. But we have a very high antique four-poster. The effort of leaping up onto the bed and holding onto the mouse proved too much for the aging Jessie, so she dropped the mouse, which promptly ran over my bare arm in its bid for freedom. YAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!! I can say with absolutely no doubt that I have never, ever, experienced such a rude awakening. Another bunch of lives down the drain. I think I’ve gone over to the negative side of the ledger at this point.

Then there was Seamus. Diamondridge Seamus Beaumaine was the biggest, fluffiest, most lovable Maine coon you ever saw. But he was not the brightest. Like few cats of other breeds but like many Maine coons, Seamus was fond of water. He enjoyed padding around in the tub after I’d had my morning shower, getting his paws damp and having a good old time. Unfortunately, the tub in that post-divorce apartment, where Seamus had joined me, Jessie, Plutarch the Parrot, and ultimately Marcus Hookbill, as well as some fish and a parakeet, did not always drain well. This was the case when, one day, post-shower, I was sitting peacefully on the sofa when I heard a horrific ripping noise, followed by the sight of a sodden Seamus Beaumaine bolting past at 160 miles per hour. Heading back to investigate, I saw a completely shredded shower curtain that looked like a set piece from the shower scene in “Psycho.” Poor Seamus had obviously hopped into the tub as usual, not realizing that the water was still in it, then burst out with the force of a cannonball, leaving a trail of aqueous destruction in his wake.

Okay, maybe in retrospect that was kind of funny. But there was nothing funny about his other favorite stunt, which was breaking priceless, irreplaceable objects. Not that he meant to break them. But Maine coons grow slowly—it takes them two years to reach their mature size—and Seamus was the biggest Maine coon I’ve ever seen. He just kept growing and growing, which meant that for several years, he was unable to judge how much effort it took to leap anywhere, since it seemingly changed from week to week. As a result, he was constantly misjudging distances, then grabbing at any passing object to attempt to reverse course, almost always with disastrous consequences for the object involved. To this day, my beautiful antique furniture bears the marks of Seamus’s passage to adulthood. And many an art object has vanished, with tears and pain, into the trash heap of history.

Even now, I can’t bring myself to tell you about the worst of Seamus’s inadvertent depradations. Suffice it to say that Ben and I now house our collection of Pueblo pottery in a special Cat-Free Room as a result. But back in the day, we wanted to display our exquisite Pueblo pots in the living room where we and our guests could enjoy them. And here’s a little morality tale for you: I had bought one particular Casas Grandes pot to commemorate a series of novels I was writing about a potter who would have, I felt, made just such a pot. As it turned out, a good friend of ours was outraged that I bought this particular pot, since (he said), he had intended to buy it for himself. (He might have mentioned this before I bought it, IMHO, but what’s done is done.) A fight of sorts ensued, and we all felt very bad.

Then Seamus decided to take matters in hand, er, paw. In a once-in-a-lifetime maneuver, he leapt up onto the high bookshelf where I’d enshrined the iconic pot and sent it crashing to the floor. It shattered into a thousand shards, so there was no hope of restoring it. It was just… gone. Nor have I ever seen another pot like it from that day to this. I can still see that pot, its uniqueness, its beauty, the incredible talent of its creator, in my mind. I still grieve for it, and for everything that Seamus destroyed before he finally stopped growing and could gauge distances correctly. But at least our friend managed to overcome his anger with us, and we’re still good friends to this day. Not all was lost! But dammit, Seamus, did you have to choose that pot?!!

Our current cats are not perfect by any means. Our smartest cat, Layla, apparently has a foot fetish, attacking my toes with undisguised enthusiasm if I stick them over the side of the bed in an attempt to cool down, sinking her claws in while screaming ecstatically. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! Gack! Yet another rude awakening. And our dumbest cat, the huge, beautiful, lovable Linus, has an absolute penchant for investigating wineglasses and plates, often with disastrous results. But their misbehavior seems comparatively mild when I think back to the days of Jessie and Seamus. Such beautiful, wonderful, BAD cats!!!

                ‘Til next time,

                             Silence                             

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Comments»

1. Cinj - June 30, 2008

Ah, the stories I could tell! I’ll have to show you what Speedy has been bringing up lately. She’s moved from stuffed animals and slippers to rubber chickens and dragons. Weird beast. At least she’s not breaking anything.

Your Jessie sounds like Speedy. I wonder if Speedy thinks she’s caught a mouse and is looking for some praise???

Ha! I’ll take stuffed animals, slippers, rubber chickens and dragons over anything live any day! Speedy sounds like she’s doing just fine. And yes, my Athena “kills” toys with the exact sound that Jessie and Seamus made when they caught mice, bringing the toy forward for admiring comments exactly the way Jessie would bring mice.

2. ceecee - July 1, 2008

My Lucky has never done anything really naughty. His gift giving got out of hand when my youngest son let him in the house with a rabbit. Luckily for everyone involved, the rabbit was already dead—that is not usually the case. It had begun to rain, was dark and he didn’t want to eat his catch outside. He scratched on the door, and like always, we just let him in. No one ever thinks to check for snacks. The dogs were suddenly very interested in him which is unusual. All heck broke loose when we discovered the reason for their interest. Much hollering, dogs and cat scrambling, cat growling, etc. I finally was able to get Lucky in one arm and open the door with the other hand. I was terrified that all the drama had made him want to bite someone—me. He didn’t. He took his catch to the normal sacrificial alter on the porch.
I love your cat stories, btw.

Eeeewwww, a dead rabbit! Thank God we’ve never had anything bigger (inside, anyway) than a dead mouse. God knows, that’s bad enough! I’m glad you enjoyed the stories.

3. carmela - January 23, 2009

my trained cat who knows were her litter tray is in the laundry! has been pooing in the house on our rugs! whats the reason for this?

Hi Carmela! Here are three possibilities: First, cats hate perfumed litter. People may think it smells great, but cats will often boycott the litter box if scented litter’s inside. Second, a litter box that reeks of stale urine will be boycotted by cats. Not only is it important to clean the box every day, but it also helps to use a clumping litter that contains and neutralizes the smell (we use Everclean). We also add powdered Nature’s Miracle enzymes and a little Ammo-Cat to make sure the box smells fresh, but really, Everclean is probably good enough (we have three large indoor cats, so we’re willing to take the extra step). Finally, you want the litter to be about 2 inches deep—deep enough, but not too deep. I hope one of these tips works for you and your cat! If not, it may be time to take her to the vet. Urinary tract infections often cause cats to “go” in nonstandard places. Good luck!


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