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Norwich Bulletin - 11/29/2009

How Trained Are You?

If you for one minute think that you have trained your cats, this column is to let you know that you are sadly mistaken. The truth is that your cats have trained you. I learned that a long time ago when I was so smug because I was able to train my cats to stay off the kitchen table. I was really naïve enough to believe that, until one day I came home and through the kitchen window I saw four of them sprawled out on the table.

I had caught them unawares, but as soon as they heard the key in the door, they all jumped off the table and looked very innocent as I walked into the house. That day my cats showed me that they are smart enough to know that as long as they are off the table when I am at home, all is well. That was the day I decided to quit worrying about the table – so who really trained who?

The funniest thing in our household is that my husband honestly believes he has taught the cats how to fetch a ball out in our kitty courtyard. He gets about six tennis balls and throws them one at a time. The cats race down the yard after the balls, jumping over each other to be the first to reach them. When all the balls have been tossed, they sit near the balls and wait for my husband to walk across the courtyard, pick up the balls and do it all over again. This will go on as long as my husband is willing to fetch the balls – so exactly who trained who?

Cats also know how to get your attention so you will do whatever it is they want you to. For instance, Both Dray and Rumbles love to be on top of the refrigerator. And they will jump from the refrigerator onto our shoulders when we least expect it purring and kneeding while we figure out how to stop the bleeding. Tank and Gravel like to lurk behind our living room chairs and jump out and grab our ankles when we walk past them, and then look innocent. And, how many of your cats are right there when you want to read a newspaper or magazine? You know, that’s not going to happen.

I always get plenty of help when I am on the computer. Pebble will sit right next to me and stare at me until I pet her. If I don’t succumb to her quiet entreaty in a timely manner, she will take it upon herself to help me with my typing by walking across the keyboard. And if I pick her up once and put her on the couch, it becomes a game and continues until I get frustrated and put her out of the room so I can finish my work. She will then sit at the door and meow pitifully. When I give up and open the door, she generally does her best to trip me and then look at me like it was my own fault.

Clint’s cats love to get his attention when he is asleep. They will help him groom at night by licking his face while he sleeps. If that doesn’t work, they simply give him a love bite on his ear. Usually they draw blood and he does wake up, although he is a bit grumpy. The cats never do that to me. What I get is Soma, who likes to groom my hair and randomly putt it out. He does get my attention…

Polar, our non hearing cat, gets our attention in the middle of the night, by jumping on one of the bedroom bureaus and knowing everything off to make us jump out of bed to see what happened. He can’t hear a thing, but he knows that whenever he does this, one of us comes and gets him off the bureau and brings him to bed with us with our arm around him. We are keeping him in place, he feels he is being hugged. Polar also knows how to step on the phone locator button and turn on the touch lights we have in the bedroom. He is the one who gets our attention very quickly. So, who trained who?

The cats are also very crafty in the ways they have found to wake us up to feed them on the weekends. They do not care that it is Saturday and we do not have to get up. After all, they have their schedules to keep. And so, they will start by laying all around us and making sure that their tails swish over our face. Dray is great at going face to face with me, sticking out one claw and grabbing my lip or eyelid. This does not endear him to me in the least, and he has more than once found himself on the floor, very quickly. I do have my limits.

Did you ever notice how your cat gravitates to the one guest you might have at your house that doesn’t particularly like cats? They know that it makes the guest uncomfortable but they would never complain because they know everyone in the house is a cat lover. My cats love to torture these people. They will sit on top of their cat trees and wait for the guest to stand near the tree and then either drop down in front of them, or better yet, on their shoulder.

Life is always a challenge with cats. They keep us on their toes, and they train us well. They also love us and that makes it all worthwhile.

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