Before I began my series on Advent back in December, I wrote about Kitty’s encounter with a less than friendly neighborhood tom cat. She ended up with an abscessed bite on her leg and a rather larger veterinary bill. I also wrote that, once we returned home from house sitting with our dog friend Spike, she was well and ready for an outdoor romp. However, her attitude changed quickly.
She was okay physically, but as soon as she caught sight of her tormentor, she took shelter in the nearest tree. After that, she spent less time outside and more time in the laundry room. Then, it was time to wash clothes. It seemed cruel to make her go out, and it was a hassle to try and keep her from sneaking into the kitchen every time I opened the door – and that’s how Kitty officially became an indoor cat.
The problem was that, having lived outdoors all her life, she lacked some of the manners of civilized society. She didn’t understand that kitties are not allowed on the dining table and the kitchen counters, that curtains and venetian blind cords are not toys, and that the furniture is not an appropriate place for sharpening claws. We tried scolding and time outs in the dungeon – David’s new name for the laundry room. Neither had much effect, so I sent an S.O.S. to my cousin, better known as The Cat Whisperer. She has trained her cat to walk on a leash and other amazing feats.
She gave me some tips and sent me links to some articles she thought might be helpful. I found some useful suggestions, but the bottom line is that a cat is going to do what she wants to do. The best a cat caregiver can hope for (apparently no one really owns a cat), is to encourage the cat to want to do what the caregiver wants it to do.
The first thing I learned was to replace punishment with aversion therapy. A well-placed squirt of water, or a lot of squirts, has discouraged Kitty from touring the food preparation and serving surfaces – most of the time anyway. Next I learned that, if I provide enough toys, maybe Kitty will leave the curtains and blind cords alone. We’re still working on the scratching thing. We’ve provided a couple of alternatives to the couch arms, but unfortunately Kitty is among the fifty per cent of cats that are unaffected by cat nip, and she’s unimpressed by my demonstrations. We’ll keep trying, though.
We don’t trust Kitty’s manners enough to leave her unsupervised in the house, so she still stays in the laundry room at night and when we’re gone. She would prefer more of an open-door policy, but I’ve found a treat she likes, so she goes into her bedroom willingly enough. Kitty is still enough of a kitten that she prefers to wrestle and play fight rather than cuddle, but she’s beginning to allow us to pet her a bit more, especially when she is first allowed out of her room. She also naps on my ottoman or at David’s feet when he lies on the couch to watch TV.
All things considered, we’re all pretty happy with the new living arrangements. It’s been a long time since I’ve had cats instead of dogs, and it’s taken a while to get adjusted to the differences. It helps when I remember the opposite attitudes of the two pets. Dogs think like this: “You feed me, you give me a warm place to sleep, you pet me – you must be God.” On the other hand, cats think like this: “You feed me, you give me a warm place to sleep, you pet me – I must be God.”