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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ideas for things to do in the kitchen


Dear George,
I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. In the winter here in the UK it is the warmest place in the house. I'm really a little feline homebody. It is also - obviously - the best place to be when food is being prepared. Luckily my owner doesn't worry about stopping me going on the food preparation areas. My main enjoyments are a) vacuuming up any fragments of food, b) enjoying the warmth of the Aga, c) making sure I know what is going on in the house (most action takes place in the kitchen). What else could I be doing.
Baby the Birman

Dear Baby,
Me too. Love the kitchen. Warmth and food. But I think you are being a bit unimaginative. Here are some ideas on how to enjoy it even more.
1. Use the sink. Have you looked at www.catsinsinks.com It's an idiotic website but strangely alluring. I particularly enjoy the photos of two cats trying to cram into the one sink. I put my picture into it but I have never seen it come up as I trawl through. This website shows that sinks are a nice place to sleep. But they are also good for games with water. Study the drips. Intercept them with your paw. Or just refuse to drink except from a running tap.
2. Take an interest in food preparation. The cutting board is of particular interest. After your human has cut up fish or meat, take a look There's usually just enough left there to lick up a few tasty fragments. Try to intervene before she washes it. Hygeine interferes with our enjoyment.
3. The kitchen table. If your human entertains in her kitchen, as now many do, it's fun to embarass her by jumping up in the middle of a meal. "She's not allowed to do this," your human will say - often a blatant lie. I sit next to my human when she is eating, and see if I cannot deflect a fork full of food from her mouth to mine! Sometimes works. Especially if I make her laugh.
4. The kitchen windowsill. That's usually a good place to look out. Useful for indoor-only cats.
Got to dash. I can hear lunch being prepared... I hope other cats will come up with more ideas
George

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I keep shouting but they ignore me.


Dear George,
Please will you tell the previous writer, Sebastian, that humans definitely don't understand cat English. They don't understand my body language. They don't understand my scent language, however often I rub against them. And they don't understand my talking. Most cats don't do much talking but we Siamese sort of have this as a speciality. I literally shout for hours at my humans and they take no notice at all. They really are dumb animals. Could this be because they are old? Also my humans have no pedigree at all. Could this account for their inability?
Miss Ruby Fou

Dear Miss Fou,
Is it fair to blame your humans for not having a pedigree? Many of us cats don't either and it doesn't affect our superior intelligence at all. Obviously you have one. You are a recognised aristocratic shape and colour and, if I may say so, very shapely indeed. I have always preferred blondes. However, your humans can't help not having the right birth certificates.
What you say about their inability to learn language of any kind - body, scent or vocal - is sad but does not surprise me. I personally don't make a lot of noise (like humans do) but I am aware that Siamese perform most striking and beautiful vocal arias. Are you sure you aren't doing it too often? Are you humans getting habituated to it? Is it possible that they are literally just blocking out the sound, like we cats block out TV noises (usually).
Have you thought of stopping shouting and keeping the sound level down? Then they might have to listen more.
George.

PS. Is it possible that they are deaf? Perhaps you should take them for a check up with the human vet.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

How do you teach humans proper Cat English?

BoldDear George,
I’m an 18 years old cat (almost 19) and I’ve always lived (quite happily) with my male human and his best friend, Zack – a German Sheppard. Last summer…not only that this woman moved in…but she brought along two little Boston Terriers – her dogs. I was quite surprised of this move, since I couldn’t see what her role would be in our household. I watched her for a while and came to the conclusion that definitely she couldn’t be our new housekeeper since she didn’t even cook, she couldn’t be a “bodyguard” since we had Zack….so, what was she doing in here?
One night I’ve heard my male human introducing her to his friends as HIS WIFE. What wife? Is he crazy? Since when does he need a wife and what for? George, tell me why on earth do men bring home their wives? We, cats, don’t! If we feel like getting a wife….we go out, have fun for a week or so and, then we kiss goodbye “our wife”, we don’t bring her home. We won’t lose our independence over a heart matter, right? Anyway, from that moment on…..my problems just started.
So, first thing she said? “I’m allergic to cats” – ya! buddy, lucky you! I made sure that I always slept on top of her head with my paws “lovingly” wrapped around her eyes.
I was ecstatic seeing her suffering (but, I have to give her credit that she did so in silence). Second thing she said? “There are rules in this house – why this cat doesn’t have to respect any of them?” What? Is she kidding me? Obviously, she doesn’t know that “cats rule the house”. But….my biggest problem is that she doesn’t understand Cat English! See, at the beginning I thought she’s giving me some cattitude!
I like to have my breakfast early in the morning and served at room temperature. So, first time (after she moved in) when I ordered my breakfast…..she didn’t even blink! I started being more and more vocal and loud – nothing! I’ve seen her panicking and asking herself: “what does this cat want”? At that time, my male human was already at work. See…I always make sure he’s not around when I do this. I was enjoying watching her running erratically throughout the house, not knowing what to do. But, then, it just struck me; not that she’s a bad person or having some sort of cattitude but….she doesn’t understand me when I’m talking to her! SHE DOESN’T SPEAK CAT ENGLISH!
So, here is my question to you, dear George; “how can I train her in proper Cat English”?
I mean, do you know of any books? I know these days these kids are all into computers, internet, Ipods, etc…..but I’m too old for all this. Is there any old, good method to teach? As you very well know…humans’ intelligence is quite limited (as is their vocabulary) They are not sophisticated beings as we, cats, are. My guess is that she is not very skilled at languages since the only language she speaks is …..dog English!
George, how did you train Celia? I can see that not only she understands all your orders…..but she’s good at typing your advice as well. Do you dictate to her or you give her written notes? May be I shall start carrying around little “written notes” like little flags (hopefully she’ll associate words with sounds).
With much hope,
Sebastian

Dear Sebastian,
Don't get me started on the human sex life. They are revolting. No proper times and seasons. Just up for it all the time. Can't decide whether they are monogamous or promiscuous. Confused... that is what their sexuality is. No idea that the proper decent thing to do is wait till the proper time, then go out and get it, as many times and as many matings as possible so as to have a nice little genetically varied bunch of kittens. Poor humans.
But can they speak cat English? There's a huge controversy in the cat world about whether humans understand language at all. They vocalise a lot. But they don't seem to understand the language of scent or feline body language. Dogs catch on to both fast, but though they are intellectually limited compared with cats, they are not as dumb as humans. Cats have tried to train humans using exaggerated body language or exaggerated scent messages (spraying in the house) and there are some signs that the former may work with some humans. But scent language seems beyond them. (The strange thing is that humans are trying to teach chimpanzees to use human vocalisation! Odd species, aren't they?).
As a start I suggest you get my book,
One Hundred Ways for a Cat to Train its Human (details on www.celiahaddon.com). It tells you how I trained Celia. Then start working with really simple instructions. My feeling is that you will get on better if you give up the idea that she can properly understand. Personally I think we attribute understanding to humans, when they are simply observing us carefully and interacting in a relatively unthinking way on the basis of simple learning - operant conditioning, as it is called. They do what works but they don't actually have mental concepts as we do - there's a bit about this, Fat Ada's canon, on the right hand side of this blog in red..
So just concentrate on simple human training - with reward and punishments. When you have established the right human behaviour, you can stop rewarding every time and put your rewards (purrs and rubs) on a variable schedule. This is known as intermittent reinforcement and works better in the long run that giving rewards every time. A bit like treat 'em mean (or a little mean) and keep 'em keen.
Best of luck, Sebastian. Remember, humans are happier when they are properly trained.
George

Saturday, April 04, 2009

How to make your human explode - such fun.


Dear George

Like me you must find it incredibly annoying that your mum believes herself to be an authority on cat behaviour? I can't do anything naughty without her coming up with several reasonable explanations why I am behaving badly and never reacts how I want her to. Dad's easy all I have to do is scratch the back of the chair and he goes ballistic but what can I do to get mum to explode? What do you do?
I have tried the following:
1. Early morning weaving between legs on stairs and in the bathroom: Reaction: Zilch
2. Yowling at 4.15am early morning with added weird effect from having dead mouse in jaws Zilch
3: Looking really snottily at food when it's the second half of the tin (cold from fridge) She just leaves it.
4: Muddy daisy prints on newly washed duvet Laughs.
5: Increased the anti and left a bit of pooh hanging whilst walking on NEW duvet leaving muddy daisy prints Undignified use of tissue (arghhhhh)
6: Leaving stomach and/or spleen of rabbit for her to tread in Over use of tissues again
7: Removing ham from between two pieces of bread left out for the kids The kids prefer chocolate spread.
So what is left and please explain that this sort of environmental entrenchment is very important for the well being of cat kind.
Lots of nose dabs and upright tails
Riff Raff.

Dear Riff Raff,

I am impressed by your human's phlegm. I always found that a mouse - living, of course - had an electric effect on my humans if presented on the bed at 4 am. So much so that after the first presentation, accompanied by screams from Celia leaping out of bed, she became even more careful to shut the cat flap at night. The odd thing is that Celia loves and used to keep mice. It's something about them on the bed, I think. Very satisfying.
If your human doesn't respond to a mouse, try a rat or a even a snake. Clari, who lives in France, is a snake killer who puts real fear into her humans - see http://george-online.blogspot.com/2008/04/cat-kills-viper-beat-that-all-you-cats.html.
Early morning weaving is very effective chez moi. Ronnie has peripheral vascular disease and is unsteady on his feet. I haven't yet succeeded in bringing him crashing to the ground but there's a good chance I will be able to. Weaving really gets their attention and I think it's so innocently sweet the way they think it proves we love them.
Bits of mice and rabbit. The garden is strewn with tiny and sometimes quite large corpses now that the rabbit breeding season is here. Once again, perhaps this time due to love of mice, Celia hates them and is nearly sick while wielding the tissue. She's been known to say: "Why did I have cats?" though she accepts that carnivore pets must be allowed to hunt.
I spend my time either hunting, sleeping or snacking. If I was feral cat, I would have to hunt to live but nature has designed me so I live to hunt. Hours are happily spent waiting at mouseholes or trying to creep up on rabbits. It's the sheer joy, deep in the reward centres of the brain, that makes me play with dead mice - throwing them into the air and leaping after them.
George
PS. Here's Celia's list of some cheap food-dispensing toys for indoor cats. Nothing as good as hunting, but at least it is a little like catching your own food.

Inner toilet rolls with the ends closed with brown parcel sticky tape. Make large holes in it, in order to train your cat to find food by rolling it. Then do a new one with smaller holes.

Smartie tubes. These don’t roll as easily as toilet tubes but can be used without sticky tape.
Cereal packets – just leave a biscuit at the bottom end so the cat has to hook it out.
Cereal packets, close the top and make a large circular hole on one of the bigger flat sides. Be careful that this hole is either bigger or smaller than the cat’s head so the head doesn’t get stuck. (If it can, it will).
Printer cartridge boxes. Just close them in the way they close. The cat will have to pull them open.
Newspaper. Hide food between pages. You can tape newspaper pages into hidey holes or tunnels.
Paper (never plastic) bags – put food inside. This could be tied at top (use natural not nylon string) and hung from a doorknob to make it more difficult.
Cardboard (not plastic) egg boxes. Just place food at the bottom of each well without closing the top. Cats with large paws will find it difficult to hook this out.
You could make your own feeding tree (as seen in big cat zoo enclosures). Take a rough large pole, drill in some holes, then put it upright on a stand. Cat has to climb to hook out the food. There’s a picture of a not very good one on www.celiahaddon.com
Note - if you have a cardboard-eating cat apart from the last suggestion these are a bad idea.


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