Through Irish Eyes: Living with cat full of surprises

By: Helen Bale
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Cats — a television promo tells me they are relaxing to play with, especially for those of us in our golden years. Unfortunately, Oh No!, my resident feline, does not agree, nor is she impressed. Dangle a catnip mouse in front of her nose and she turns away in disdain, with total contempt in her green eyes. Live mice are a different matter, as are gophers and other small critters. However, she delights in bringing the mangled bodies in as presents, usually tucked beneath a pillow or between the blankets on my bed. Now it is my turn not to be amused. She is also fond of stalking — and often catching — small birds at the feeder on the patio. How do you teach a cat that gophers are fine but small wrens are not? Oh No! is not shy about making her wishes known. She yowls loud and long until she gets her way and the sliding door is opened for her. Then she sashays down my wheelchair ramp and curls up under the feeder, apparently under the delusion that the birds cannot see her. When we lived in rural Newcastle, I knew little about cats. We were dog people, especially fond of Great Danes. We did keep a few cats in the barn, but they were for mice control, and rarely came up to the house. Thus when Oh No! wandered into my life after I had moved to town, I was totally unprepared for this small ball of gray and white fur. She was independent, apparently determined to get her own way, and she exhibited traits we had never known in dogs. So I turned to the printed word, bringing home a slim volume titled “Why Cats Do That” by Karen Anderson. The sub-title, “A Collection of Curious Kitty Quirks” was not especially reassuring, but I was desperate. The first chapter dealt with why cats rub everything in sight, and since Oh No! wound herself around my ankles, I felt on safe ground. Of course she was demonstrating her affection, her gratitude for food and shelter, a safe place from the storm. Hah! I was quickly disillusioned. This was no demonstration of affection (after all, she rubbed against the corner of the sofa, too.) She was, rather. Marking her territory, saying in effect, this is more mine than yours and don’t you forget it! So on to Chapter 2 — “Why do cats scratch the furniture?’” Granted my home furnishings are made up of early Good Will and late Salvation Army, with a few contributions from friends thrown in (I never have learned to say no), still they are mine and I don’t want them shredded by a four-footed walk-in who just wants to sharpen her claws. Actually, I learned, she isn’t sharpening her claws at all. She’s merely removing the old dull claw sheaths so that she can do a really great job when she jumps on my tummy when I lie down. Besides that, she’s practicing extending and retracting, which is essential to catching prey, fighting and climbing. There are more chapters, things I undoubtedly need to learn, and I plan to. Some things the book does not deal with, such as why Oh No! anticipates when I plan to sit in a particular chair and beats me to it. As I have admitted, I’ve never been a cat person. I’m not sure how well I’ll succeed, but Oh No! may help. As for now, Oh No! curls up at the foot of my hospital bed with a clear view of the patio bird feeder, her “yak yak” tells me that. As for that television promo, well the least said the better. So there! Helen Bale’s columns occasionally appear in the Journal.