Archive for the ‘Feline Rules’ Category

Truer Grit

We are sorry to be so abrupt, gentle reader, but Buddy has had quite enough of this Weather, and he wants something done about it right now. The incompetent caretaker has been unable to accomplish any of his demands to bring back the sunshine and the “warms” and to banish the rain and the cold wind. He could not help but notice the effect that simply mentioning the name of Lawyer J. Noble Daggett achieved in True Grit, so he is contemplating how to proceed with a lawsuit against the Weather. He originally wanted to sue the caretaker, but he was afraid such an action would stop the daily feedings and ear scratchings, not to mention the litter box cleaning and other menial services that she provides. She is moderately useful, so he will refrain from bringing suit against The Can Opener, as he has taken to calling her behind her back.

But the Weather is another matter entirely, and he has determined that it will and must pay for his pain and suffering. He was already considering legal action when the condition of the porch deteriorated so much that he became unable to pass his time ruling the world from his perch and saving the universe from the devious plots of Mr. Shorty and Tabby Lee. There is no question that justice must be pursued now that the Weather has violated his other sanctuary, the kitchen window, where the caretaker had placed a comfortable chair so that he would have a front-row seat for an off-off-off Broadway show, “The Nut-Gathering Frenzy,” starring Murrell the Squirrel and his trusty sidekicks Burrell, Cheryl, and Spice Girl Squirrel.

All was well until yesterday morning, when something went horribly wrong. As he approached his chair, he found that the lovely upholstered seat was soaked with water, and then he noticed a “drip-drip-drip” sound. While he was processing this horrific information, the caretaker walked up to investigate the noise. Even in her dullheadedness, she could tell that something was wrong. She rushed from the kitchen to gather some towels to mop up the rain, leaving the king undefended.

And then it happened. This impudent Weather monster, which had already invaded his life to an unacceptable degree, was now egregiously assaulting his person. A nasty, wet raindrop plopped on his royal head. That’s right, gentle readers, there was rain inside the Cottage, where rain does not belong. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was right about this situation, this travesty, this attack on the king’s majesty. It was in strict violation of Feline Rule #8: Cats abhor water. And therefore, something must and will be done, and it needed to consist of more than towels. Buddy spent most of the night trying to wake the caretaker to get her to find Lawyer Daggett, but she infuriated him by simply going back to sleep each time he woke her. Now he has dipped into a seriously depressed state that would break your heart.

Where is Lawyer Daggett when you need him?

Where is Lawyer Daggett when you need him?

So, gentle reader, if you have any idea how to contact Lawyer Daggett, please pass this information along to King Buddy, and he will award you a suitable boon, perhaps the honor of scratching under his chin. Meanwhile, the foolish caretaker is off on some harebrained notion of getting the roof repaired, as though that would appease the king’s wrath against the Weather. Buddy senses that The Can Opener means well, but he is not entirely sure that she IS well.


Read Full Post »

Buddy explores the other "water bowl"

Buddy explores the other "water bowl"

We begin today’s post with Feline Rule #7: Cats learn only what they want to learn. Like politicians, they are in many ways quite intelligent, but at times it seems they have no sense whatsoever. Buddy, for example, on the very next morning after falling into the bathtub, was spied circling the seat of an open toilet. Just as he was about to lower his paw to test the water, the caretaker shooed him away unceremoniously. (Speaking of someone who cannot learn: will that woman never understand how to treat royalty?)

Bear’s main cognitive deficit is in failing to foresee the consequences of napping on anything and everything the caretaker drops on the couch. If that item is a glove or jacket, no problems ensue. However, the cell phone, the TV remote, and the wireless headset have all been napped upon more than once. And more than once, Bear has been abruptly awakened by a ringtone emanating from her belly fur or by the dissonant buzz of a text message being delivered into her armpit. Similarly, a quiet evening of television viewing can include a faux haunting when the channels begin to surf themselves because Bear’s elbow is resting on the remote control. But the day Bear plopped down on the volume control should really have broken her of the habit of napping on electronics.

It is amazing how small a room can become as it fills with cacophony. Bear had no idea that she was responsible for the rising tide of annoying voices blaring from the television set, so when the noise reached critical mass, she sat bolt upright, and in the process managed to press the plus button even harder, exacerbating the problem tenfold. The look of terror in her eyes grew in direct proportion to the noise.

The sound quickly filled up the caretaker’s ears and spilled over into all her other senses. It became visible and palpable, and it assaulted her taste buds like habenero sauce. It filled up her nose so that she couldn’t breathe. It even seemed to be poking her in the eye, mashing her temples, and slapping her on the back of the head. Although there are fancy formulas for calculating decibel levels, the caretaker does not have any exact figures from that terrible evening. Generally speaking, one is disinclined to whip out the calculator when one’s eardrums are bleeding and head pounding.  However, extensive research on the Internet has provided many charts showing the decibel level of common sounds to use as a reference point. These sounds range from normal breathing (10 dB), to speaking (60 dB), to a freight train (100 dB), to a jet engine (130 dB). When the television reached about 163 dB, there was room in the caretaker’s head for only one thought: TURN-IT-OFF!!!!!!!

Since the remote control was missing in action, the caretaker bounded across the room and did something that is completely uncharacteristic of a modern hooman. She pressed the OFF button on the television set. Had she not dusted the set just a few days before, she might never have found the button in time to save what was left of her hearing and sanity, or to rescue her poor little sound-hating cat from a complete psychotic break. (To understand the seriousness of Bear’s situation, it is necessary to remember how much she hates singing, talking, and noise of any kind, even when it is not at ear-splitting volumes.)

So with the immediate problem resolved, the caretaker turned to spend a few minutes calming Bear’s severely jangled nerves and gaining her own composure. That’s when she noticed the remote control and realized that if she ever wanted to watch television again, she would now have to execute the tricky maneuver of turning the set back on while quickly, QUICKLY, pressing the minus button to put everything back to rights again. That feat accomplished, she decided she should look for Buddy in case he also needed to be consoled. But Buddy—Mr. Mayhem himself—was completely unfazed by this harrowing event; he had slept right through it. Apparently there is an advantage in having a high tolerance for chaos. This trait will serve him well because Bear immediately returned to her old habit of napping on the remote control. The next adventure should be interesting indeed.

Read Full Post »

Well, the caretaker is at it again, and if the cats didn’t need Internet service in order to get their message out to the world, they would conveniently disable the modem. They have ways.

This time her crusade is for healthier food, and not just for herself. Of course, the cats don’t really care how many berries and seeds and tofu droppings she shoves into her own face. That is her business, and they are nothing if not tolerant. Who else, pray tell, would put up with this most eccentric of women? However, her pathological need to make them eat healthy food is where they must, must, must draw the line. So when she conducts some Internet research on the advantages of a good diet and then shows up with cans and bags imprinted with words like low-fat, all natural, weight management, and pro-health, she had jolly well be prepared to eat the contents herself, or at least to send the cans and bags to China where there are apparently many starving cats, based upon the guilt manipulation tactics used when they turn their nose up at a bowl of healthy but taste-free pellets.

Now, the cats could claim that they object to the latest food because of its theological implications. After all, the term “I AM” is reserved only for the Deity, so they would have a reasonably convincing case that a cat food sharing the same name is in violation of the commandment against false gods. It’s a stretch, but they know the caretaker enough to realize that “I dunt like it” is not an accepted excuse for turning up their noses at food while those pesky Chinese cats are hungry.

So at this point, it is simply a struggle of the wills. Fortunately, Bear has all the willpower of a grizzly waking up from a long hibernation. Buddy, however, as a classic junk-food junkie, is willing to hold out much longer. He is also willing to make everyone’s life miserable in the interim. This morning, Bear tried to ignore the nutritious breakfast, but the rumbly in her tumbly would not be silenced, so she hesitantly nibbled around the edges of the healthy fare that was offered. Buddy, however, approached the plate, sniffed, and stormed out of the room. Buddy has a much stronger sense of pride than Bear has, and any rumbly in his tumbly will be redirected in unbearable grumbly-ness before he gives in and partakes of a hippie-esque repast. As Bear walked away from the breakfast plate, he accosted her, demanding that she allow him to sniff her breath. Angry that she had yielded to temptation, he wrestled her to the ground, and a bona fide cat fight ensued. A few tense moments of hissing and growling ended with Bear running to the caretaker for protection. (Bear is the classic “Teacher’s Pet,” and she doesn’t mind who knows it.)

Eventually, however, Buddy has no choice. If there is no junk food in the house, and if the caretaker refuses to buy it anymore, he will have to give in and stoop to the embarrassing level of consuming health food. But in this battle, as well as many others, Feline Rule #6 comes into play: Cats are immeasurably stubborn. Immovable, in fact, until they decide to move. Cats are like politicians and theologians in that even if they eventually accept an opposite viewpoint, they will proclaim with confidence that they had always believed thus but had been heretofore unable to articulate their position accurately. Stay tuned to see whether Buddy will starve before he eats anything that promotes good health. If he changes his mind and plays his cards right, he may have a chance at the 2012 election.


Late breaking update: On the morning of 31 May, the conflict was over, and Buddy has begun to eat again. If anyone had ever told him that the world held such a treasure as Lamb and Rice, he would have accepted health food long ago. That’s his story, and he’s sticking to it.

Read Full Post »

In case our gentle readers were wondering, the words shalt not are completely lost on cats, as are No, StopGet down, Bad Boy (or Girl), and That’s enough food for now. So you can imagine how little the cats care that stealing and coveting are considered unacceptable in some circles (excluding Congress, of course). Buddy will get up from a warm, comfortable bed to roust Bear out of a deep sleep just so he can take over her place on the lumpy couch. In turn, Bear will sidle up to the caretaker while Buddy dozes on the other side, and for a moment they are all one big happy family. Then, out of the blue, the Norman Rockwell moment ends when Bear reaches across the caretaker’s laptop to punch Buddy in the nose as if to say, “Go ‘way. Dat’s my spot.” As Buddy slinks away, shaking his head, Bear strides victoriously over to occupy the spot that Buddy had apparently been keeping warm for her. Similarly, any blanket that is placed in the window seat must be large enough to accommodate both cats or there will be an ugly reckoning that involves growling, hissing, bared teeth, puffy tails, and a great deal of running amok.

When Buddy first came to live at the Seafoam Cottage, the caretaker thought it was prudent to divide the canned food into two plates, so as to avoid fights. The theory was that if each cat had his/her own personal serving of dinner, there would be peace on earth. This hypothesis was quickly disproved, as the formulation of it had not taken into account feline greed, covetousness, and general distrust. Neither cat could enjoy the meal because they each spent the entire time running from Plate A to Plate B, convinced that the other was getting the better rations. These days they eat from the same plate, which has been carefully prepared to have equal amounts of food on either side. Even then, there are times when their heads clang together as they lunge for the same morsel in the middle. It may not be peace on earth, but for now the caretaker has learned to settle for an uneasy détente.

We have dealt with beds and dinner, but there are slightly different rules of engagement for snacks. Since Bear has already established her dominance over the snack bowl, Buddy will sometimes lurk behind the broom and watch until she has eaten her fill. Then as soon as she walks away, he will pounce on the remainder of the food as though it were the last antelope on the savannah. Recently, the caretaker looked up from her chores to watch a scene worthy of Animal Planet during prime time. Buddy was crouching behind the ceiling fan duster staring at Bear, as she slowly munched snacks and looked over her shoulder occasionally to taunt him. His face was so forlorn that the merciful caretaker prepared another bowl of snacks and placed it right in front of him. Despite her good intentions, he glanced at the bowl and then looked up at her as though she had tried to force-feed him tofu. In disgust, he turned back to observing Bear.

“Well, I guess you aren’t hungry after all,” the caretaker muttered as she returned to the sink. But less than two minutes later, she turned around to see Buddy triumphantly eating from the bowl that Bear had just surrendered. Mind you, gentle reader, the treats in both bowls had been lovingly poured from the very same bag. They were, as the lawyer in My Cousin Vinny proclaimed, “I-dentical!” The only difference is that one bowl contained treats that could be eaten without coveting. Apparently non-coveted snacks do not taste as good as other people’s food.

Although there is plenty of additional evidence that could be presented, we feel that these true and forthright accounts are enough to establish the following axiom without any shadow of doubt. Feline Rule #5: Cats enjoy coveting and stealing. Caretakers throughout the world can thus forget all the “Thou shalt nots.” To a cat, everything that follows those words is a mumble that is less intelligible than Charlie Brown’s teacher after a root canal. And even less welcome.

Read Full Post »

Although springtime in the South is generally accompanied by several thunderstorms, a few tornadoes, and a handful of hailstones thrown in for good measure, this particular spring has seen one major weather event after another. Countless days of non-stop storms have left houses halved by trees, power lines downed by lightning strikes, and cars washed away by flooding. The caretaker does not mean to minimize these serious and sad events in any way, but she does fervently wish Buddy would learn that not every thunderclap is deadly and not every weather siren a harbinger of the Apocalypse.  But unless the sun is shining, the birds singing, and the squirrels cavorting on the deck rail, Buddy slips into doomsday mode and roams the house yowling the feline equivalent of Denethor’s petulant surrender: “Rohan has deserted us. Theoden’s betrayed me. Abandon your posts! Flee, flee for your lives!” It is therefore a great mercy that Bear is not generally frightened by storms. About the only situation that has ever rocked her world was the large thump of a tree limb falling on the house, and then it only resulted in her sitting up straight with eyes wide open, angry that her nap was interrupted.

Regardless of the make-up of the storm—rain and/or thunder and/or lightning and/or high winds—Buddy has one main rule, which shall now be introduced to the gentle reader as Feline Rule #4: Cats cannot allow caretakers to sleep through storms. No matter what time of day or night, if raindrops begin to pelt the windows or if sirens start to wail, Buddy always ends his histionics by presenting himself to the caretaker so that she can, well, take care of him. Of course, he makes it seem as though he is only concerned for her safety. If she has somehow managed to sleep through his pronouncements of doom, she will not be able to sleep through the pain of being pounced upon by four paws traveling at 45 miles per hour. There is probably an appropriate physics formula that would yield an answer in foot-pounds or joules or Newtons or such, but the caretaker only knows that on the pain scale, a Buddy-bouncing registers about an eight or nine, with ten being reserved for total dismemberment.

There, there, Buddy

There, there, Buddy

To Buddy’s mind, if the caretaker is awake, she will not allow bad things to happen to him. It is a simple faith that must be admired, so once she is over the initial shock of being used as a trampoline, she allows Buddy to snuggle in as close as possible to her, draping his head and forepaws across her forearm, and occasionally lifting his head to rub his nose on hers. As he regains his composure, he allows her to stroke his head or to speak soft words and call him pet names, but awake she must remain until he is convinced that all danger has passed. Never mind that if the tall oak in the front yard should fall into the house there is little she could do to protect him or herself, Buddy remains convinced that his safety rests in her feeble, arthritic hands.

It is, then, a great mercy that stronger Hands protect them both, along with Bear and The Boy and everyone else they hold dear. So be of good courage, Denethor, and put your faith in Greater Hands that have already conquered Death and all his friends. And then be so kind as to let the caretaker get back to sleep.

Read Full Post »

Jeet Chet?

A few months ago, the caretaker provided some rudimentary insight into the cat psyche by elaborating upon Feline Rule #1 and Feline Rule #2. It is now time to continue educating our gentle readers, so today’s post will be a discussion of Feline Rule #3: Cats take food very seriously. Of course, our gentle readers may hold this truth to be self-evident, but the caretaker still believes it will be beneficial to catalog the food-obsessed behaviors that have been observed with Buddy and Bear. One can only hypothesize that such shenanigans would be increased exponentially with each additional cat, though the caretaker is not interested in pursuing this line of scientific inquiry. Of course, the reader is invited to proceed with the experiment, though caution is advised. But back to the matter at hand.

The importance of food to a cat can be seen in the fact that any time of day or night is an acceptable feeding time. Mealtime can either precede or follow a nap, and it can even interrupt a particularly interesting episode of Cat TV. However, there are two times of day when food is expected—no, demanded.

  1. The first time of day when food is non-negotiable is that moment each morning when the caretaker is finally able to defy gravity enough to get out of bed. Therefore, this feeding is delivered at a fixed hour only five days a week. On the weekends (a period of hours known collectively as Caturday), it is a moveable feast, yet in no case is it to be delivered later than 7:51 a.m., just as Easter can never be later than April 25. There are limits, even to moveable feasts.
  2. The second daily feeding is required as soon as the caretaker returns home after being away for any length of time. Therefore, this feast is even more moveable than the morning feast, as the caretaker sometimes has less important places to go after work, and some of her Caturday errands do not keep her from the house for long periods of time. Nevertheless, it is a feast, and the cats are happy to receive it, and conversely, extremely unhappy when it is delayed.

The feeding process usually goes something like this: At the appointed time, Bear, being the most vocal of the two cats, will “Mroow” politely to request that the plate and bowls be filled. There is no typo in the previous sentence; there is a single plate for canned food, and there are also multiple bowls. There is, of course, a water bowl, but it doesn’t really count. There is also a bowl for dry morsels of expensive gourmet food (but not health food; we’ve had THAT discussion already). There is also a bowl for the crunchy treats with soft centers. Some cats suffer the ignominy of being served their treats from a hooman’s hand, or even (Cod forbid) from the floor. Either way, the sanitary conditions are equivalent to that of third-world nations, and thus are completely unacceptable to Buddy and Bear. (Never mind that they eat so fast that they spit little bits of food back into their own bowl or that their fur rains down into the water bowl like snow in Pittsburgh; eating from the floor is right out. That is, unless the snack is an interesting bug, in which case, the rules are entirely different. Do, please, try to keep up.)

The process continues when the caretaker is finally ready to lead the caravan of ten legs into the kitchen. At this point, the cats pause near the feeding area and Bear’s food demands become more pronounced. The gentle “Mrooow” gives way to a hoarse, dramatic “MrooowNnnoowww,” revealing acting skills that would make Dame Judy Dench look like a high-school thespian. But when the caretaker opens the cabinet containing the cat plates, Bear moves over to assume a spot so that the fur on her right back leg just barely brushes up against the caretaker’s left ankle (yes, the placement is that precise). By this point Bear’s requests have tapered off considerably, as she has learned that being too persistent causes the caretaker to lose focus. As soon as Bear hears the lovely sound of the ring-top being pulled and smells the delightful aroma wafting from the can, she becomes silent again. After all, she does not want her jaws to be tired when the plate is finally placed on its appointed floor tile. Buddy usually watches these proceedings from afar, allowing Bear to do all of the work of “hunting” for the pride. (His domain may be small, but he still knows how to carry himself as king of it.) Once the plate is set before them, the cats go heads-down, slurping and smacking their way to satiety once again.

What has just been described is the “happy day” scenario. However, the caretaker can throw the entire house into chaos by one simple act: entering the kitchen at any time other than the two required feeding times. Her purpose may be to wash dishes or water plants or make tea, but whatever the reason, her foray into the sacred feeding ground confuses the cats. Bear generally follows the caretaker wherever she goes, so she will often begin the food requests just because they are both in the kitchen, and well, why not give it a try? Bear’s cries will then pique Buddy’s interest, and he will amble into the kitchen to assess the situation. His next action is to approach Bear and sniff her lips, as though asking that most Southern of food questions, “Jeet chet?”

Bear has two possible responses to this invasion of her privacy. Sometimes she will sniff his lips in return, and then saunter off with an “I-can-be-rude-too” look on her face. More often, however, her reaction is to deliver a swift left hook across Buddy’s nose as if to say, “NO, I DID NOT EAT YET AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.” Buddy tries not to take this buffeting personally, or to lose sight of the food bowl, just in case the caretaker decides to silence the fray by replenishing the treats. (Come to think of it, the whole purpose of this buffeting may be to conjure up a peace offering, in which case, the cats would be in cahoots.)

But even these unpleasant encounters cannot compare with the doomsday scenario that was enacted a few days ago. For some reason, the caretaker was completely off her game. She had the audacity to prepare her own meal before serving the cats theirs. Bear’s response was to polish off what little food was left in the bowl, an act which Buddy took VERY personally. The king of beasts was hungry, and his lioness had denied him sustenance. So he did what any self-respecting lion would do; in his anger, he pretended Bear was an antelope and began to hunt her. With all the ferocity of a jungle beast, Buddy stalked Bear so savagely that she feared for her life.

But the caretaker soon came to her senses, set her own dinner aside, and fed the cats so that peace could be restored to the formerly happy home. Having finished their meal, the cats joined the caretaker as she munched her salad greens. Soon the pride rested once more on the savannah, er, couch, and the cats bathed themselves while the caretaker answered email. The Apocalypse thus averted, Buddy and Bear turned their attention to the last few minutes of Cat TV that were available before sundown. And once again, all was right with the world.

At least until another meal is due . . .

Read Full Post »

Spiders notwithstanding, most days the house does not provide enough diversion to satisfy Buddy’s curiosity, so he spends a lot of time watching Cat TV. It’s the best reality show around, as it is free, it is solar powered, and it has no advertisements or annoying people yelling about how important it is for you to buy the gadget they’re demonstrating. (Just as an aside, have you ever noticed that exactly half the gadgets are cooking utensils and the other half are exercise machines?)

Cat TV, which is activated by raising the blinds in Buddy’s favorite bedroom, provides hours of G-rated entertainment starring birds, squirrels, swaying branches, the occasional opossum or raccoon, and if Buddy’s really lucky, an orange striped stray that the caretaker calls Oscar. Since Buddy himself had been rescued from the dangers of an outdoor life, you might think he would take pity on Oscar, except for Feline Rule #2: Cats do not have the capacity for compassion. Instead, all he can muster is an air of superiority. One glimpse of Oscar, and Buddy sits straight up and juts out his chest. You halfway expect him to stick his fingers in his lapels and start strutting about like a Louisiana lawyer.

Bear’s attitude is even worse than Buddy’s. The same sweet-baby-kitty-girl who can’t bring herself to harm a spider goes completely postal when she sees a stray cat, presumably because she views it as a rival for food. With ears back, eyes drawn down to slits, and hissing like a punctured tire, she makes it obvious that if she could reach Oscar, she would dismember him and serve him his own heart to eat. But not, of course, in her bowl.

Cat TV may be free, but it isn’t available 24-7, and that is why the conversations begin. Somewhere between 2 and 4 every morning after several hours of having nothing available to view but the neighbor’s carport light, boredom sets in, and Buddy finds it necessary to wake everyone in the house. You see, gentle reader, if Buddy ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Sometimes it’s the familiar “Mrroow?” uttered increasingly louder until the desired effect is achieved. Sometimes it’s just a cold wet nose on the caretaker’s nose, or a paw strategically placed on the caretaker’s arm, followed by the flexing of toes.

The Claw
The Claw

Tonight, reminiscent of the persistent urban legend, it’s the claw.

“Owwww. Buddy, stop it.”

*claws digging deeper*

“Buddy, I mean it. STOP now. Go play with your toys.”

“Mrroow?” (“Don’t you love me anymore?”)

“Yes, I still love you, but I’m really tired, and if I fall asleep at work, I’ll get fired, and then I won’t be able to afford cat food or rent, and we’ll all have to live outside and forage for food.” (Insert melodramatic background music from a Lifetime movie here.)

Unfortunately, the nuances of veiled threats have no effect on Buddy, so he continues in his quest. His next wake-up maneuver usually involves treading upon the caretaker, with paws placed strategically so as to cause the most pain. Buddy doesn’t appear to be heavy, but he is, especially at 3 in the morning.

“Get down, Buddy! I mean it. I’m really tired.”

If you will recall Feline Rule #2, cats have not the slightest shred of compassion, so Buddy’s campaign continues until ten feet have started down the well-worn path to the kitchen. Buddy’s conviction is that if his TV is broken, as it seems to be EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, he is entitled to compensatory damages. Having no use for money, he demands snacks. At the sound of the bag being opened, Bear chimes in with a little “Mwaah.” Though she is not seeking damages, she does make a convincing argument that it’s just not natural for folks in the South to dine alone. When the clanging of snacks against stainless steel bowls has died down, the only sounds in the house are crunching (times two) and the soft padding noise of two human feet sneaking sleepily back to bed.

With any luck, the next sound will be the alarm and not another round of conversations with snack hound Buddy and his hollow-legged sidekick Bear.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »