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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mud, puddles, ponds and the pleasures of water.


I like mud. I like puddles. I like ponds. I like getting my feet wet and I wade through puddles, as well as drinking from them. Mud is fun too. My black paws sink into mud in a very satisfying way. The first time I fell into the garden pond was when the ice broke under me. Then I fell in out of curiosity. Then I fell in again for the sheer fun of it. I liked the way Celia screamed and rushed towards the pond ready to lift me out for some resusitation. Quite unnecessary. I can swim. I discovered that the second time I fell in. The first time, when I was a kitten, Celia fished me out with the pond net. Now she knows that I don't need her help, thank you very much.
Puddles are another matter. I like the way the water sparkles on them and I wade slowly through them instead of skirting round the edge. I also sometimes lie down low in them so that the bottom of my tail gets wet too. Wet wet wet is fun. Of course I also enjoy splashing them with my paw, in the same way that I splash any water I find in a saucepan. The water coming out of a tap is interesting too - so I either drink from the tap or I splash it with my paw. William isn't interested, except when the lavatory flushes. He rushes over to watch the water going down the bend. Oddly enough I don't find this human litter tray very satisfying though I am getting more interested. My reluctance may be because, when I was a kitten, I fell in. Luckily Celia was there to pull me out. Kittens do sometimes drown because they can't get out.
The best thing about water is the human reaction. After a nice time wading through puddles and skittering about in the mud, I come in feeling affectionate. I leap on to Ronnie's lap and he shouts "Get that filthy cat off!" Celia would be pathetically grateful if I lept on her lap so I never do. Instead I leap onto her desk and put mud on the documents there. She doesn't shout. She picks me up and cuddles me. She knows that is wrong. She knows she should ignore me. But she doesn't. The whole science of training (which she has studied) is ignored in favour of cuddles. Poor woman.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Think of the starving strays this Christmas


This is Henry. Celia showed me his picture. I haven 't met him yet thogh I dare say he will stroll across the hill to visit one day. Henry is a bit of a roamer, a chap that gets about a bit. Eighteen months ago he was a cat in search of safety and food. He had been living about half a mile away in a small hamlet. He would break into human houses (why not?) and being a sensible cat nip upstairs to sleep on the beds. (What else were they for?) One householder rang Celia to say that she had just seen him strolling in the front door which was ajar and going straight upstairs as if he knew the way and had lived there all his life. Naturally Henry would eat any cat food he found left down. If the cats of the nouse hadn't finished it, his need was greater than theirs. Sharing resources etc.
His main source of food was the dried dog food put out for some rottweilers in the hamlet near us. He would - very swiftly - try to finish up any bits that were left, hoping the dogs wouldn't notice. If they did he had to beat a very quick retreat. They did not like cat burglars. One snap of their jaws, and his life would have been ended. Then one day he took a walk over the fields and arrived at Celia's house. His method of soliciting care from humans (exploiting their pity) was to roll on his back - the so called social roll. It worked well with human suckers. The picture shows him doing this endearing trick. Naturally, after that roll, Celia fed him and introduced him to a garden shed.
But Henry wasn't going to put up with a second class owner. In those days Celia spent some of the week in London and the shed wasn't up to his standards. She used to leave down plenty of food but she didn't offer him the human company he needed. And he hated being in a car so going to London with her and William and the late Fat Mog wasn't going to work out. Nor could he be let into the house because elderly Fat Mog, then in the last months of her life, was quite clear about that. So Henry hung about occasionally going back to rottweilerville. He was on the waiting list of Çats Protection for eventual homing. Celia's neighbours tried to give him a home but it involved living all weekdays in London and, for a cat that had been used to roaming, this didn't suit either. Resourceful as ever, Henry found his own home. He set off downhill to the next village and ended up in the care of Jon. Where he is now. Well fed. Happy. Loved.
Henry's story had a happy ending. He might have been killed by a rottweiler as he scavenged for food. Or shot by a gamekeeper. Or killed on the road. Or just starved, flea ridden, and dying of damp and cold.
So think of the strays this Christmas. Adopt one of us if you can - ring Cats Protection. Look at me and Henry. He's very endearing and I am... gorgeous. You won't regret giving one of us a home.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Human gardeners and cats.

I tried to catch a goldfinch on the bird table this morning, and got tangled up in the wire netting Celia had placed there to thwart my natural urges. Several resentful thoughts came to me. Celia's friend, Jane Owen, has just published "One Hundred Ways to a Beautiful Garden," a book that humans will enjoy. However, there is nothing much in it for cats - except perhaps for the idea of tree houses. Now if there had been a tree house near the bird table, I could have leapt down at the finches rather than merely leaping up. Life in the garden is really rather confusing. On the one hand Celia loves and tries serve cats (what right minded human doesn't). She also likes pretty birds like goldfinches. I agree with her there. They are charming - and delicious. Nice little crunchy bones when you grab them. I also enjoy just watching them from the warmth of the kitchen. But she never eats them. Just watches. I think she has a disorder of the predatory sequence. I go in for the whole natural thing - eye, stalk, pounce, grab and eat. She just gets stuck in the first bit of it, watching. Dysfunctional, of course. But worse still, she thinks she is normal and I am aberrant. So she stuffs scrumpled wire netting under the shrubs just in the place I would sit and start my stalk. She makes the bird table about 7 feet high - because I can only jump 5 feet. She creates a wildflower garden (Jane Owen is good on this) then objects when I do my wild thing and try to slaughter the wildlife. Lord, humans are so cranky, contradictory and downright mad.
So for Christmas, buy your human "One Hundred Ways to a Beautiful Garden" and buy your cat, "One Hundred Ways for a Cat to Train its Human." My favourite book, of course. It works too.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Do cats forgive humans?

Re-reading my last blog, I wondered if I had forgiven Celia for her negligence about the garden shed? Do we cats have a forgiving nature, like dogs. Dogs forgive easily. Indeed they fawn on their abusers, creeping back with tails wagging sometimes urinating a little out of fear and appeasement. It's the pack instinct. Dogs are social animals and they have an enormous need to stay within their human family, so much so that they will put up with too much. Celia's remembers a poor labrador which was taunted and teased by a teenager. Its adult owner, female, used to hit it every time it urinated out of fear. Every morning she would come down to the kitchen to let it out into the garden, and when it crept towards her urinating out of frightened appeasement, she would hit it. "It knows it has done wrong. That's why I punish it," she told Celia. Nothing Celia could do, would persuade her that its urination was out of fear of punishment and it had no idea that this was making her punish all the more. We cats would never behave like that - not that creeping towards punishment each morning. We don't do appeasement gestures. We do, in extremis, urinate out of terror. As the SAS say, "Ådrenalin is brown". That's why sensible humans, put a layer of plastic between the car seat and any cat carrier which doesn't retain urination. We don't apologise for it. We would never ever go towards a human who is going to hit us. One hit and we are off. And we never forget a really terrifying traumatic experience.
So do we forgive? Yes, we do when the bad experience isn't that bad. But we don't forgive physical abuse like dogs do. We leave home. That morning I got shut in the shed, I considered taking one of Celia's red spotted hankerchiefs, wrapping up several envelopes of Felix, putting it over my shoulder and walking off to the nearby village to see if I could find a better home. But then I thought about how warm it is here, and how the Felix in unwrapped for me, and I stayed. If forgiveness is letting go and moving on, I have forgiven her. But she'd better watch out. I might feel differently if she does it again.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The negligence of my personal staff

We cats expect a certain level of service from our humans. In return for our beauty and company, we expect doors open, regular meals , warm beds (which we are generous enough to share with them), and thoughtful personal service with proper attention health and safety. I am sorry to report that Celia has failed badly. She has been astonishingly negligent in her duties. She has failed to carry out a proper risk assessment of the garden shed. And she utterly forgot its obvious dangers to a healthy active cat (me). It happend early in the morning when she went out in her dressing gown to get the floating device for the garden pond - it stops the pond icing over and allows animals in the water to breathe because gases don't build up below the ice. If she had done a proper risk assessment she would have identified the high risk of my getting shut inside the shed. Obviously when she goes into the shed, I follow her - to check territory, to see if mice are living in the shed, and to make an assessment of whether there is anything else interesting there - spiders, frogs, wood lice and so forth. As is my wont, as could be expected by a better member of staff, I went in there and was nosing around. She shut the door on me without a thought. Worse still she walked off. I was there for three hours until Ronnie saw my angry face at the window and set me free. Worse still, I had not had time to perform my morning toilet in the nearby seed beds. So there was an ugly rush to the vegetable patch, a great deal of frantic digging, and I finally squatted down with enormous relief.
It was very emotionally upsetting. Tramatising even. I expected better of her. She is an unreliable woman and she is lucky that I didn't just leave home. I have not forgiven her.

Help for cats whose humans show behaviour problems.

This blog is devoted to the study of human behaviour. We cats, who live with this sometimes unpredictable and always feeble minded species, can benefit from seeing their behaviour in its proper scientific context. The study of feline dilemmas, training problems, and difficulties with humans, can only benefit all of us. All of us train our humans - to buy the right food, for instance, but many of us do not have knowledge of how to improve our training methods. The human species is obviously not as intelligent as the cat, but nevertheless can learn quite a lot - if properly managed. Topics of interest include the use of claw and order, purring as a human reward, rubbing your human up the right way, when to bite, spraying as a method of making our wishes known, ignoring the human, human harassment, human inattention and sheer human stupidity. I welcome your questions. Photos can be sent via my secretary's website, www.celiahaddon.com This blog has been chosen as one of the top 50 feline blogs by Online VetTechprogramms.org