Guest Post by Elaine Viets
There are people who can train cats to do tricks, to walk with a leash, to use the toilet and flush afterward. Dominique, the Key West cat man, has a whole show using his specially trained “flying house cats.” He gets them to walk on tightropes and jump through hoops.
After hearing about these feline successes, Don and I tried to train our cats. Three cats back, we adopted a young semi-Siamese named Sylvie. We’d heard that Siamese cats liked to walk with a leash and were easy to train. We bought a Chihuahua leash for her. Sylvie flopped down on the sidewalk like a passive resistor and went limp. We wound up dragging the protesting cat half a block, which caused talk in the neighborhood.
“Be patient,” the text books advised us potential cat trainers. We kept trying to use the leash. Finally clever Sylvie learned to escape its leather confines like a hairy Houdini.
The cats quickly succeeded in training us. They started yowling every morning, and we learned to leap out of bed at seven a.m. and feed them.
It took six cats before Don succeeded in training one. Now my husband regrets his success.
We adopted Harry, a brown-and-black striped tiger, from our local vet. Some idiot had shot Harry’s family. Harry escaped with his life, but he was left with a fear of large, white males, which proved he was a sensible animal. Whenever a big, white guy loomed at our condo door, Harry hid under the couch. If it was a bill collector, I joined Harry.
It took Harry nearly six months and lots of coaxing before he would let Don pet him. After a year, Harry permitted Don to scratch his ears.
Another six months later, we had a breakthrough. At least, we thought so at the time. Harry let Don scratch the base of his tail. Don was thrilled. So was Harry.
The cat would follow Don around and jump up on chairs so Don could scratch his tail. Don thought this was hilarious.
He’d slap a chair seat and say, “Present butt!” Harry would jump up for his tail scratch. He would fold back his ears and look blissfully happy.
Harry started following Don everywhere. If Don took a nap or stretched out on the couch, Harry was there, demanding a scratch. He was polite about it, in a catlike way. He’d give Don a formal forehead bump, which is cat for “hello” or maybe, “wake up, stupid.” We weren’t sure on our cat translations. Then Harry would turn around and present his rear end for a scratch. The cat looked like a brown-and-black watermelon. A very happy watermelon. Don obliged and scratched him.
Harry has become a scratchaholic. If Don lights anywhere for a moment or two, there’s Harry, demanding a butt scratch.
It’s ceased to be funny. Don can’t read a book or fall asleep until Harry gets his butt scratch. Now the cat has started waking up Don in the middle of the night.
“This is kind of kinky,” Don said, as he scratched the cat’s rear end at three in the morning.
“Couldn’t you train the cat to turn on the coffee maker, or dial 911 in case of an emergency?” I asked. “You did pretty good with all those dogs.”
Don has trained the neighborhood pooches to line up at their fences when he passes by on a walk. He says, “Present ear,” and the dogs get their ears scratched. It’s a much more wholesome pastime.
“Why couldn’t you have trained Harry to get his ears scratched?” I asked.
“That’s for dogs,” Don said.
I guess I should be grateful he doesn’t scratch Clydesdales.