Out of the Blue

The Feline Mystique

Yes, my cat is smarter than your border collie

By Deborah Salomon

Hello, Happy New Year and welcome to my Fifth Annual January Kitty Column.

First, a recap:

After a lifetime of rescuing and adopting animals, I had retired. Then, seven years ago a coal-black kitty came to my door, friendly and hungry. Black cats are so special, needy and mournful. I fed him outside for months before letting him into my home and my life, later learning that he — a neutered male with front claws removed — had been abandoned when his family moved away.

I named him Lucky because any animal I adopt is.

A year later I noticed another cat — mottled grey and white, cross-eyed, lumpy and grumpy — sitting on various porches. Neighbors called her “everybody’s” because she begged more than enough food. Her clipped ear indicated a spayed feral. I added chicken livers to the mix. One day she showed up with a bloody paw. I opened the door and that was that — except for her disposition, which prompted the name Hissy. Hisses quickly turned to purrs. Now, she’s Missy, Lucky’s devoted companion who mothers him, fusses over him, wrestles him and pushes into his food bowl.

Whereas Lucky possesses keen intelligence, deductive reasoning, powerful persuasion and the sweetest disposition I have ever encountered in an animal, Missy’s a dingbat, always underfoot, forever wanting something . . . like my lap. I should have named her Edith.

There’s just one problem. Two, actually. Cats can tell time and, to my surprise, cats are creatures of habit.

From the beginning, they slept on my bed. But because Lucky had napped all afternoon he didn’t snooze for long. By midnight he was pacing across my back, purring in my ear, pawing my hand. He must be hungry, I thought. I’ll keep a little bowl of kibble in the nightstand drawer and give him a few — a pacifier.

Huge, life-changing mistake. Soon, Lucky considered my bedtime his noshtime. His inner clock knew exactly what time I usually retire. Late basketball game? A perturbed Lucky tries to lead me away from it, into the bedroom. When I finally succumb he perches on the nightstand and commences pawing excitedly, desperately, first at me, then at the drawer, which he can open if cracked. The expression in his eyes mixes pleading with annoyance and, finally, desperation: “Hey lady, this was your idea. I’m only playing along.”

After a half-dozen kibble snacks, he desists, nudges onto the heating pad that should be soothing my shoulder arthritis, and snores softly.

Until 3 a.m.

I am a lifelong early riser, about 5 a.m. In high school and college, I studied. A rested brain fueled with black coffee works efficiently. Later, I baked and folded laundry. Once back at work, I wrote. Still do. That means by 10 a.m. I’m ready for lunch. By 1 p.m., a nap because after his 3 a.m. snack lucky Lucky can resume his sleep but I can’t. Once I’m up, I’m up. Imagine when the end of daylight saving turned 3 a.m. into 2 a.m. Took a month to convince him that just because it’s dark doesn’t mean it’s bedtime, especially with Duke roaring onto the court.

I hear you feline-dissers screaming, “Close the bedroom door!” Well, maybe Lucky doesn’t have front claws to scratch it, but his pathetic meow is worse.

***

Lesson: Just because you can’t teach cats tricks doesn’t mean they won’t learn. Watch my Lucky: He gives his paw on cue, when the clock clicks 3:00. Smart boy, Lucky. Now roll over, please, and gimme a break.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a staff writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

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