Sunday, August 31, 2008

How to make a human give you food.

Dear George,
I have had to find a new home, because my last owners just went on holiday last spring leaving me to fend for myself. But my new humans don't believe in feeding cats titbits. My last humans didn't exactly hand out titbits but they were so disorganised that a lot fell to the floor or was left out in the kitchen where I could find it easily. They did very little cleaning up. Now I am having to start a new training regime. What do you suggest?

Dear KitKat,
We all know the principles of human training - reward good behaviour and ignore bad. But the major difficulty is how to get across to a human exactly what we want. They are not very bright. Indeed, I would go further. Frankly, they are dumb animals.
Some humans understand a little body language. Do they follow your gaze? these are the rare humans (rather like dogs) that are aware of where a cat is looking. For these it is easy to signal what you want. You just stare at it. Then stare at the human. Then take your eyes back to what you want. This is particularly easily done if you are sitting on the table next to your human's plate. If you are very lucky, you will have that kind of alert human.
But it is more likely you don't. Stare all you like, they will ignore it. The next method is to signal by approaching what you want. If the cat food is hidden in a cupboard walk to the cupboard and paw at the door. If the food you want is on the table, jump up and sit close to it. Use your paw to signal which bit you want. Try to point hesitatingly while looking cute.
If cuteness fails, you need to be decisive. Training is all very well but a cat sometimes has to take what he needs without involving human compliance. Some humans are just too stupid for training at all. They can't seem to focus on it. Too busy vocalising, watching TV and generally lounging about.
If your new humans are like this, just get there and help yourself. Some cats take the food off the fork, while the human is transferring it to his mouth. Others just hook it off the plate. There are even cats that try to eat it out of their human's mouths - Spink, a Cypriot cat, used to lick toothpaste off his owner's teeth. But you need to be very bold.
If you are a frightened cat, think devious. Just wait till the humans are out of the room and sneak quietly in and steal it. Well it's not really stealing, is it? What's theirs is yours anyway - all of it, beds, food, chairs, windowsills, house and garden.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How should a cat help in the kitchen?

Dear George,
I have decided that I want to be a chef so I am learning the trade by taking more part in kitchen activity. It's one of the warmest places in the house and, apart from the bare surfaces and floors, it's one of the most enjoyable spaces. There are things to eat that are dropped on the floor, things to eat that are placed on the table and things to eat on the kitchen preparation areas. Some are put there specially for me. Some I find. Any tips on how to improve my kitchen awareness?
Dear Speedy,
I am glad you are taking part in food preparation. Most cats find this very rewarding. Here are some of the items you can help clean - frying pan (not too fast one this one - it may burn your tongue), human plates when they have "finished" their meal (usually plenty of gravy), board used for cutting meat or fish, supermarket plastic containers empties of prawns (nice liquid), supermarket containers full of prawns placed on kitchen surface before humans empty them.
Humans throw away a lot of food. Keep an eye out for old chicken bones in the trash can (pull it down and scatter contents on the floor), pieces of fish or meat left over before cooking, fat cut off pieces of meat, stuff dropped on the floor below the kitchen table (young humans and old humans scatter these generously), stuff dropped on its way to the oven.
Really talented cat chefs learn how to open cupboards. Somewhere in these is the dry cat food. Better still teach yourself how to pen the fridge. Full of goodies of all description. Also learn how to chew open plastic bags. These are set down after shopping and before putting away and there is sometimes a ten minute window for stealing the food. Chew egg cartons to get at eggs. Pull these down off the kitchen surface to the floor and lick them up.
Before dinner parties, patrol the dining area. Humans often prepare food in advance. You may find the following (if you are lucky) - butter on open dish, cold seafood ready for first course, interesting sauces, cheese put on the sideboard ready for the last course (or second to last if you are a French cat), cream in a jug, gravy in a more open jug.
Get active around the cooker. Help your humans as they stir or check the pans. Peer in intelligently. Leave hair in all empty dishes and pans to convey the message "Speedy Was Here Helping." 
Oh yes, remember that your human may not appreciate your help. Odd, isn't it? Would other cats like to comment or suggest kitchen activities.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Surely we cats need cat addicts!

Dear George
I am only a kitten but it seems to me that you have missed the point. We cats should encourage cat addiction. Cat addicts love cats. They run their lives round cats. They buy expensive food for cats. They share their houses, their beds, the very food on the table sometimes, with cats. Isn't that a good thing?
Tic, aged nine weeks.

Dear Tic,
Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings comes truth. Yes, of course, cat addiction is a good thing for most cats most of the time. Without cat addicts where would we be? I mean Celia is one. But, I guess, what I am saying is that there is a point when cat addiction, ie like animal hoarders, starts harming the cats themselves. Most humans enjoy a little, or even a lot of cat addiction. It's just when it gets out of hand.
So I thought I would do a little quiz for your humans to answer. 

1. Do you spend more on your cats than yourself?
2. Did you choose your flat/house because it would be good for your cats?
3. Have you ever said no to an invitation because you didn't want to leave your cats?
4. Have you ever turned down the possibility of a relationship because he/she didn't like your cats or didn't like cats in general.
5. Do you think of your cats more than ten times a day?
6. In the last week have you bought any of the following - a)cat treats. b) cat bed. c) cat toy. d) specially expensive cat food as a treat
7. Do you fix your cats arrangments for holidays/vacations before you fix your own. For instance do you book the cattery or the cat sitter and only after that fix the travel arrangements?
8. Do your cats sleep on or in the bed?
9. Do your cats sit on the table while you are eating?
10. Have you ever turned off the TV because you thought your cat wouldn't like the programme or turned to a programme because you thought your cat would enjoy it.
11. Do you have cat pictures/photos/ornaments in the house?
12. Are most of the cards you receive cat themed?

Fewer than three yes answers - you are not cat addicted.
Between 3-6 yes answers - you are beginning to be cat addicted.
Between 6-9 yes answers - you are definitely a cat addict.
Between 9-12 yes answers - oh dear, you are as bad as Celia !

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Are some humans cat addicted?

Dear George,
I always know when They are up to something...  And now I know what it is: they want me to have a companion. They talk about it in huddles. Should they get an older chap like me (I'm 13)? A younger quieter nervous chap, as I know I was? Or should they  leave well alone? The thing is, George, do I or don't I want a companion? I don't know. Especially having lived with the imperious matriarch who ruled the roost here when I arrived - though I must say she looked out for me whenever I appeared under threat from neighbouring ASBO feline bullies. But I do get bored. I'm spoilt, admittedly. There's always treats all for me and sleep. I'd welcome your thoughts, George.
Kind Regards, Bodmin.

Dear  Bodmin,
Why let Them have all the fun and leave all the hassle for you? It looks to me as if they are being selfish.  If it's a kitten, it will spend its time trying to play games with you. When it's an adolescent it will play rougher games and may even bully you. At the age of 13 surely you are allowed a bit of piece and quiet. The idea of another cat is Theirs, not Yours. Are your humans suffering from problem cat owning?
Humans seem to get addicted to cats. First they get a cat, then they add another one, then somebody goes away and leaves one in the neighbourhood which moves in, and then they see a pathetic cat in a rescue shelter. Before you know where you are, your peaceful home has become a hostel for homeless felines. I exaggerate, of course, but it's a possibility.
But think of this. Will there be room for two cats on the bed? I mean, I find there is barely room for the humans on my bed. I aim to edge one of them out and send them to the spare room, then I can settle down with enough space and just one human. If there are two of you cats, you may have to banish both the humans from the bed altogether. I know there's plenty of room for them on the sofa downstairs. I know that they have no right at all to expect there to be space in the bedroom. But just think it through.
Better still talk to them about cat addiction. I have spoken sternly to Celia about this. I tell her that just as heavy drinking can lead to alcohol addiction, so a heavy cat intake can lead to cat addiction. Perhaps your humans are not real cat hoarders yet but addiction to animals really does exist. Get them to look at this bit  of film - There's even a special website about it at the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, 
Those of you out there who are owned by addicts, watch out. Once a cat addict, always a cat addict. They need a Power Greater Than Themselves to recover. If you can make them see sense you might be that Higher Power. Many cats have this position in the house - they rule.
If not, it will have to be that Great Ginger Tom above the stars, that Being which humans so oddly think is sort of human. The One that made everything from the glory of our whiskers to the shining of moonlight.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Humans quarrel among themselves as much as we cats do

Dear George
I think you have been taken in by human hypocrisy. They quarrel among themselves just as much as we cats do. If not more. Ask yourself how many humans want to live with their mother. I mean old age homes are overflowing with humans (not cats) because humans dump their parents there, or because the parents go there rather than be bullied in their childrens' homes. I was passing by in France when your Celia was there with her family. The tension.... you could feel the family dysfunction.
Dorothee of Castres

Dear Dorothee,
I stand corrected. I don't know why I supposed that humans are truly social or pack animals. In some ways they may be, but they certainly often don't get on very well in families. They talk about loving each other, but in actual fact most of them are very selfish. Talk... yes. Real family feeling...maybe.  Translated into family action and kindness ... often not.
And very few of them live with their parents after the age of 30 - and very few old parents are taken in by their children particularly when they get old, confused and perhaps rather difficult to live with. Why is there sheltered housing and old age homes for humans? Because they need them. They don't want to live with each other!
Humans are always so hypocritical. They expect us to live in the house together, without thinking of whether we want to. They keep a female cat, let her have kittens, and then expect her to live with one of the kittens. What if she doesn't want to? What is the kitten wants the freedom to live apart from the parent? That's what humans have. Why can't cats have that freedom too! Why do they assume they know what is best for us!
They choose our friends for us. They  go out and come home with another cat without so much as consulting us. Then they expect use to like each other. Why should we? I mean if I went out and brought back a human that appealed to me, why should Celia want to live with him or her? I know a cat called Vincent who was in love with the postwoman. But he never asked her to live with his friend, Pam. He didn't expect Pam to like her too. Humans do this to us all the time. Just add a cat. Without thinking. Without asking.
It is only because we tactfully avoid each other, and try pass by without fights that this completely random habit of humans doesn't lead to real bloodshed. Sometime I despair of the species. Clever monkeys? Not at all. Give me a sensible ape any day rather than a ridiculous human.

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, This blog has been chosen as one of the top 50 feline blogs by Online