Tuesday, September 28, 2010


My cats are always surprising me in the things they do. Sometimes, it's an instructive surprise, telling me something new about one's character. Sometimes, it's an annoying surprise. Sometimes, it's even a pleasant surprise. No, really, that happens. Sometimes.

I was asked recently if cats will use a litter-box even if they are shown it just once. They do. It's instinctive for them, as it is for a dog to ask in his own way to go out when he needs to use his litter-box, which is nature. I've seen a cat outside relieve himself and scrape dead leaves over the spot. My foster cat, Devon, uses two litter-boxes. Since he sleeps in the library, he will use the box that is kept there for his convenience. Other times, he likes to use the litter-box in the store-room, the one all the other cats use. I think it makes him feel part of the group. He will, in fact, go a whole night without relief, then use the common litter-box as soon as he is released in the morning. But it's good to know that he will also use the box in the library, if need be.

When a cat relieves himself outside the litter-box, there is generally a reason for it, one that can be corrected with a little deduction. Perhaps the cat is in physical difficulty and needs medical attention. Perhaps he is suffering from stress, and this is a symptom. Once in a while, it's as simple as being repulsed by the litter with which the box is filled. But they are compelled by their natures to use the litter-box. This brings me to the surprise. I was emptying the store-room litter-box the other day. Ren went into the store-room and started crying. He cries and sings and yowls once in a while, but rarely while stationary. I hurried in my task and replaced the litter-box, which he promptly used. He was waiting for it to be returned.

Ren also likes lying on my slippers. He seems to do it only while waiting for my return from work. He greets me at the door, as do the other cats, and there are my slippers, flattened and covered with long, fine hair.

Tungsten has taken to waking me by licking my face. If this were at the time I had to get up, it wouldn't be so bad. She'll do it, however, in the middle of the night. Not every night, though, and she will often do it when I am just on the verge of sleep, not quite there but not awake, either. One may ask what she wants, why she is doing it. I don't. She purrs while doing it. I push her away and she purrs more. She does it because she thinks it's funny.

Then there is the reaction to the comb. I have tried brushing my cats, but each and every one hated it. It was a struggle to get them to sit still. Tungsten would yowl as if I were murdering her and Josie would throw all her weight into the fight for freedom - and with her, that's quite a weapon. Then she developed a mat in her hair, and another was coming. So I was given a comb to use on her. What a difference her reaction was from the brush. My Chubs lie down on her side, purred, stood, roamed about bumping her head against things, came over for more combing. Now her hair is smoother and she's happier. Devon, Ren and Tungsten all enjoy being combed. Perhaps the brush's tines were too fine; perhaps they grated; who can say? But this was a good surprise.

And finally, a startling surprise. I was preparing dinner one day last week, standing at a counter in the kitchen. Suddenly, a clattering bang resounded, so loud I thought someone had dumped pots and pans at my apartment door. Then I saw, from the corner of my eye, Devon literally bounce off the window. He had jumped onto the stove, rattling across the burners (thank goodness they were not on) and against the window (thank goodness (again) it was closed; the force of his propulsion would have carried him through a mere screen), hit the floor and ran off, hiding under a chair with a puffed up tail. What had startled him so? I'd heard nothing unusual; the other cats were alert and startled but it was obvious that they were reacting to Devon, and not to what he'd heard - well, that applied to Josie and Ren. Tungsten of course snoozed through it all. A few minutes later, Devon was fine, roaming about and bothering my Chubs, as if nothing had happened.

All together, a week of surprises with my cats. As usual.

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