Saturday, 7 March 2009

In pet training, who trains who exactly?

I’ve previously commented on the technique developed by our cat Misty for ensuring he gets our attention at night. This is to go round any flat surface on which small objects are lying – glasses, watches, pens, mobile phones – and flick them with a paw until they fall off. He does this until the noise, and fear of damage to the objects, forces us to get up and attend to his wishes.

The most spectacular incident of this kind came when he was being looked after by our friends Félicie and Yannick. He managed to push Félicie’s engagement ring off her bedside table and they’ve never been able to find it since. Yannick, honourable man that he is, ensured Félicie ended up with an even better ring, but it astonishes me that we ever got the cat back alive at all. What’s even more amazing is that they’ve even got themselves a cat of their own. Talk about the triumph of optimism over experience.

Meanwhile, Misty continues to develop in intelligence or, at least, cunning. The push-the-object-to-the-floor technique doesn’t always work with me, particularly if I’m sleeping deeply. So now he’s developed the insert-the-claw-into-a-convenient-finger technique. Please understand that I’m not talking about anything so crude as scratching. What he does is altogether more delicate, more sophisticated. If he decides I’m wasting time sleeping when I should be dealing with his needs, he will carefully select one finger from my hand, and one claw from his paw, and with all the precision of a surgeon, insert the claw just underneath the surface of the skin on my finger.

It’s an experience that it is remarkably difficult to sleep through.

But last night, or rather this morning at 4:30, I was more than usually disinclined to get up. This may not have been unrelated to the fact that we had been out that evening, with our friends and neighbours Becky, Mel, Dave and Darren, celebrating Mel’s birthday (‘My 28th,’ she told me, ‘Again’). So after the claw in finger treatment, I rolled over and got my hands under the covers.

This only meant that Misty went back to pushing things off surfaces. Things that fell noisily, even onto carpet. Since I was already awake, it didn’t take long for me to decide I could stand it no longer. I left the comfort of my bed and headed downstairs, preceded by a flurry of fur and tail.

We got to the back door and I opened it. He rushed up, apparently all eagerness, but stopped just inside the door, looking out as though to say ‘yes, that’s the outside. Very pretty. But this is relevant to my present requirements how?’

Half asleep and in the dark – in my dazed state I hadn’t switched on the lights – I blundered into the kitchen and felt around for his bowl. It was empty. Still groping, I got hold of his biscuits and filled the bowl. He started eating, purring loudly – he does have the good manners to express satisfaction when we get things right. He ate heartily and for several minutes while I stood by waiting for him to finish.

He then walked back to the garden door, in a stately manner, and stood there looking at me, as if to say ‘Ah, is this what you were thinking of before? I understand. You know, it’s all in the timing. Then it was inappropriate, but now would be a good time to let me out.’

So I let him out before heading back up to bed.

By then I was awake enough to reflect on what had just happened. I had been completely manipulated by a bundle of fluff whose body weight is under 10% of mine.

It’s often said that you can’t train cats. Why would they need to be trained? They’re perfectly capable of training humans instead.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

david, i sympathise with your being tyrannised by misty whilst you;re asleep, but have you thought of the simple solution of closing the door when you turn in?