Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cat Stories: Little Mysteries

After belonging to Snictoria and Snalbert for 16 and 15 years, respectively, I can say that neither one has ever shown any puzzling behavior. They are pleasant, affectionate cats, who do typical cat things.

Snalbert with his toys.

Snicky in her dotage.

We expect our cats to throw up on our white coverlet, claw antiques, and get into any baked goods we leave outside the bread box. We expect them to tear around maniacally now and then and to sneak onto our computers. But none of my cats has ever done anything that routinely drives me crazy.

Until Wendy.

Both she and Possum have intriguing habits that are new to me. For example, we have plenty of steam radiators, bookcases, and chests around here, which are low to the ground and ideal for collecting runaway cat toys.

Wendy proudly carrying her snake.

You would imagine that their toys would get stuck under most of these pieces of furniture. I kept expecting this as I'd go around with my long wooden spoon and flashlight to fish them out. Instead, I kept finding that these kittens are strangely organized about losing their toys. I always find almost all of them under the same chest. I recently found TEN toys under there; just a minute ago, there were five.

It's odd: they don't play around that chest very much, so it's like they toss them under there deliberately. And they only do it when I'm not around. It gets weirder: they "lose" their toys by type. Just now, I found five fluffy or crinkly balls under the chest. When I do find toys under a radiator or bookcase, they are almost always in pairs: they have two fake-fur mice, and they end up together. It's the same with their real-fur mice. And I find the two balls covered in leopard-print fabric together.

Do these kittens, who love to play together, also think that their toys need company?

While this puzzles me, it doesn't drive me up the wall. Wendy's water-bowl maneuvers do that. Every morning, my husband gets up and finds a chilly lake on our kitchen floor. Wendy scoops the water out of the communal dish with her paw, splattering cabinets a few feet away. We don't know why. I step barefoot into an icy puddle of hers almost every day. I screech, I lecture, I beg. You'd think the other cats would put a stop to it because they can't have a drink after she's done with her waterscaping.

The wise cat people in the forums know of cats who do this, but offer no satisfying explanations or solutions. (Some tried cat water fountains or reservoir dishes, but found that a cat can splash all the water out of those, too. I trust Wendy to figure it out.)

I need to find a ceramist who will make me a special dish — either spherical or tall and cylindrical — with an opening just big enough for a cat's head, not her side-stroking paw. It must be heavy and untippable. When I have a workable model, I will patent it and make my fortune.

Possum doesn't mystify me, although I wonder why he loves to sit in a wet bathtub. He has one other odd habit. Rather than eating directly from his food dish, he will lie near it, reaching in, like it's a bowl of popcorn, and pawing some kibble onto the floor. Then he roots around to eat those, and spills some more: Here he is, in action. Doesn't he look like he's snacking through a Sox game on NESN? I recognize that expectant yet long-suffering expression.

Where did he learn this? We rarely snack in front of the TV. It must be a primal male behavior. And Possy was only about 10 weeks old when the Sox played their last post-season games. But he's a New Englander, and a Maine Coon, and clearly a furry future member of Red Sox Nation.

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