Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Mat Cat

I kinda got how Dave trained our old cat, (Saint) Larry. She was more or less willing to do any old thing, as long as there was still a prospect of a lick of someone's ice cream cone, or a plate of chicken left in a nabbable location. Just the thought of such things put her in a biddable mood. Also, she was raised like an Amish child with no television: she had no access to the list of privileges that accrue to a cat simply by being a volatile mammal with pointy fingers. When her claws emerged the first time she saw a mouse, it was probably a huge surprise to her. So when Dave taught her to roll over, and shake hands, and tell time, and monitor the phone for solicitations, it seemed kind of normal.

The outdoor-cat privileges came later. First she was only allowed out on the porch when Dave went out to smoke a cigarette. After a bunch of years of that, she was permitted to meander on to the patio, and no further. Sparrows could line up along the perimeter in sturdy confidence. Larry was pretty much a perfect cat, except for that pooping-any-old-where thing, but even that just showed how laid-back she was.

But Dave quit smoking long ago, and Tater is a whole different cat. She's a rolling vat of verve. When she gets a notion to verve all over the house, she registers on a seismograph. She's also been raised Amish, but she seems to have more of a direct line to her instinctual heritage than Larry did, and that can only be bad news. Sure, she rolls over when you tell her to, but you can't get her to shake hands for anything, she never RSVPs, and she does not give one shit about ice cream or chicken. But, twitchy and avid at the window, she certainly gives the impression that the only thing keeping her from extinguishing a raft of birds is us, and our doors. Minus our intervention, the entire bird population of the back yard would be reduced to pillow stuffing and a gnarly pile of guts.

So I hollered the first time I saw Dave leave the back door open. Tater strolled out on the instant. Dave looked calm. "Sit," he said, and she sat on the welcome mat.

"Mat Cat," he said to me in explanation, and I began to object, and then I realized: he's going to do it. Later we sat out on the patio at beer-thirty. After about five minutes, Tater affected a long stretch and repositioned herself a few sly feet away from the mat. "Mat Cat," Dave said, using a tone, and pointing, and she circled back to the mat. "Sit," he said. Tater sat.

I don't know how he does it, but he does it. Hell, I haven't strayed in years.






40 comments:

  1. Oh, my god! Do you realize what this MEANS? You are married to the elusive Cat Whisperer!

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    1. You need to stay on a Cat Whisperer's good side, or he might enlist the cat to do nefarious things to your slippers.

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  2. Cats are like snowflakes, no two alike and you can't train them...well most people can't train them...cats that is, no one can train a snowflake.

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    1. I know, right? They're so sensitive. They fall apart at every little thing.

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  3. I've never trained my cat to do more than get up on a piece of furniture so I could pet him more easily. And I believe he initiated that.

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    1. Truth be told, Larry's famous hand-shaking abilities evolved from her inclination to reach out and grab for a tidbit. But training her not to use the left paw--that was all Dave.

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  4. *mouth falls open*

    *genuflects in Dave's general direction*

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    1. Be careful. Every time I do that, Dave says "say, while you're down there, you wanna do a guy a favor?"

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    2. Bahaha!!! Hey, he's a guy. I'd be shocked if he *didn't* say that.

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  5. Cats are definitely trainable. Most of them just choose not to cooperate. The label "dumb cat" suits them fine; the lower the expectations, the better off they are. Something like teenagers.

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    1. Actually, I was going to say that was one of my life strategies, too.

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  6. Do you rent Dave? Or do I have to wait until he is cloned. In this house the cats have trained us. We aren't perfectly reliable yet, but we are getting there...

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    1. He's free but you have to pay the air fare. Which will be considerable.

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  7. Some cats will and some cats... wilful. Our currents two have the upper hand...It's probably my fault for allowing The Man to break the rules.

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    1. I'd say that's a pretty good bet, for anything.

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  8. I call foul. Cats train us to do their bidding and get free warmth, food, and cardboard boxes. David is obviously just an early adopter.

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    1. He came late to the scene. Before Larry, he hated cats. So I guess HE never got the memo about you can't train cats.

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  9. Dave has magical powers. I understand because I have them, too. I'll have to show you someday.

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    1. You're on. Wait--are we talking about the same thing?

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    2. Probably not, but we are down to eleven cats now.

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    3. I hope you've got them doing synchronized swimming.

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  10. Dave is gifted and should hire out his talents. I had no idea cats could be trained to do anything. Color me impressed.

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    1. Dave IS gifted and always gives his talents away. He's socking away karma, I figure.

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  11. I actually was able to train one of my cats, the most ornery one, to re-enter the house when she escaped. I holler, "Mooshoo, get back in the house right now!" and she does!!
    I was so surprised when she began to obey!

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    1. You must have one hell of a hollering voice.

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  12. When I was 6 or 7, I was given the privilege of naming the new kitten. I said 'Larry,' and everyone laughed. It took 65 years, but dammit, I feel vindicated now.

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    1. LARRY IS THE BEST NAME FOR THE BEST CAT EVER. I salute you, Al.

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    2. And now we need to know, Al - did the kitten get named Larry or not?

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  13. Well done Dave! My Angel has come to realise the doors are his limits. I recently went out to hang the washing, thinking I'd shut the porch gate and when I turned to come back in the gate was wide open and Angel was sitting just inside it watching me. In other things, like jumping up to the table a hand raised in the universal stop sign will stop him momentarily, then he will still jump up, but onto the other end from where I'm working or eating. He loves ice cream too, but I'm not sure it's good for him, so when I have some Angel gets just a teaspoonful.

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    1. I used to let Larry lick on side of my ice cream cone. Dave thought that was disgusting, but I've had worse things in my mouth than cat spit.

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  14. I love this. So much. And Dave's loving tone tells me that he gets them to do what he wants not because they're cowed by him, but because they truly want to impress him. Priceless!!

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    1. They are definitely not cowed. Nobody's afraid of Dave. Oh I should point out that Tater and I aren't priceless--right, Dave Price? (I think he and a bricklayer buddy also named Price once hatched a plan to start a business called Twice The Price Masonry.)

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  15. It used to be when I yelled "SIT" the dog and every kid in the neighbourhood hit the ground.
    The cat just ignored me.


    How about we all boycott you , boycottamericamwomen, you are obviously weak and neurotic.

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    1. I punted him out of here, RR. He gets to stay on my previous post just for old times' sake (I hadn't seen him in years), but we don't want to make a habit of him, do we?

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  16. After losing our Ragdoll last year we have finally gotten around to adopting two Maine Coon Cats. One is three years old and the other is a three month old kitten. I had forgotten that kittens never stop or even slow down - Aaaaaaaa!
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. Dude. We almost brought Tater back in the first week. Way WAY more cat than we'd been used to. She settled down only enough to remain adopted. It took a few years for her to quit being downright naughty.

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  17. If Dave has a secret that trains cats not to claw furniture, ask him to pass it along please. Please???

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    1. God no. We don't have that secret. What we do have is bright red rubber claw covers. Too late for most of our chairs, but the new rug looks safe.

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  18. I'm hoping to sneak in a comment after all the smart people have left. I love this homey post, Murr. I mean I love all your posts and the book too, but this is so sweet.

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    1. But sugar, this is where the smart people hang out. THAT'S WHY YOU'RE HERE! Dave's got magic.

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