Posts Tagged ‘cat’

That’s not-my-cat, sleeping on the sofa, looking as if he were at home.
I call that cat a wonder, now. The placing of a feeding bowl,
Worked cunningly a year, and there he lies.

His people did not pass the test of pet-worthiness, in the end, and so, while I haven’t stolen Oscar, I have been less concerned about the proprieties of subverting his affections. I used to feel bad about feeding him, and refrained from doing so except on very rare occasions, as a very special treat, when I had something suitable that I would otherwise be throwing away. Then, I met his people and while I’m not going to indulge in a tempting ‘they-deserve-to-be-hanged’ rant, and I’m not going to tell the whole sorry tale, I do now feel able to admit that shortly after meeting them I lost my moral squeamishness with regard to them, and happily moved on to a somewhat Machiavellian strategy of enticing him with little treats on fairly rare occasions, but just often enough to keep him interested.  This is known in psychology as a [positive reinforcement] variable ratio schedule, and it’s the most lethally addictive pattern of behavior reinforcement known to Man. Or beast. It’s what keeps gamblers at the slot machines, and Oscar at my door. The fact that my fridge released delights only infrequently only makes the whole thing more devious.

Of course, as Oscar appears only intermittently, and sometimes makes himself scarce for considerable periods (which may or may not coincide with episodes of building work here), it is possible that he is also doling out his presence to me on a similarly variable ratio schedule, and I have to admit that he may have outsmarted me. After all, I did buy actual official cat treats a couple of weeks back, and yesterday, I think I finally showed my soft underbelly: he got a second dish, so that he can have a wee dram of milk with his overpriced gourmet cat snacks.

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I have an admission to make, only I’m not quite sure what the admission is. Either we have borrowed somebody else’s cat and heinously subverted it, or we have been induced to serve a cat that already has perfectly good servants somewhere further up the street. Which is more shameful?

half a cat

half a cat

I happen to think that a non-feeding, non litter-cleaning, non-vet-bill-paying share in someone else’s pet is a pretty good arrangement., and have thought so for years, ever since we had a share of the neighbor’s cat in Paris.

He had it all day, then – being a suave young bohemian bachelor – he’d go out for the evening and his cat would pop through the catflap onto his balcony, run along the rails (20 or 30m above the street) and around to our side,  and knock to be let in at the french windows. Being half Siamese, he also had a meow that could not be ignored for long, so we invariably would let him in and, being half Siamese (and therefore at least half crazy) he’d proceed to tear around the apartment, knocking things over, clawing at the furniture, leaping from behind the couch onto unsuspecting members of the household and generally swinging from the chandeliers. Making up, in short, for having spent the day in his non-Siamese, sweet, domestic housecat persona, curled up on a cushion next door. Well, more fool us for letting him in, I suppose. But he certainly did liven things up. The funniest occasion was when his official person came round to us for drinks one evening. Out he went early in the evening, as usual. Key turning in door, cat through catflap, round to the french windows… Normally the accomanying sound would be the neighbor thundering down the stairs and halfway down to the ground floor by this time, but in the event he’d merely crossed the landing and knocked our door. The Beloved let in the unsuspecting cat, while I let in the neighbor (who was perfectly au courant about the proceedings). You should have seen the expression on that cat’s face. Embarrassment doesn’t begin to cover it. I think the damned cat blushed.

So, all this is to say that when we are interviewed for adoption by the occasional curious neighborhood cat, we are pretty hospitable and curious in return. Usually nothing much happens. A cat wanders in when its people are away for a few days, it is descended on by over-excited toddlers and departs as a matter of some urgency.

Not so with Oscar.

Firstly, a word about the naming and shaming. I thought about this, I really did. And I decided to do it because firstly, we are not sure his name is Oscar anyway. We have it on the not very good authority of the poeple across the road. And they might be wrong, or they might be confusing him with another, quite similar-looking cat that also hangs around the street. On the other hand, he seems perfectly happy to answer to Oscar, so we will work with it. Unlike the French cat, which had a very pretentious name – Thelonious – and had to be renamed Frank (good, plain, frank cat; aka French franc). Secondly, I don’t think Oscar’s people will be reading this blog (they would be unusual if they were). I did a top-of-the head calculation on them coming upon it at random, and the odds are about seven zillion-to-one.  I also don’t think that they will one day decide to google their cat’s name (their names – which I don’t know, or the name of the street, which I studiously haven’t named: these are possible, but who in Heaven’s name googles their cat?). So I don’ think that I’m letting any cats out of the bag here. Into my house on a regular basis, yes. Out of the bag, definitely not. Anyway, they must know he’s going somewhere.

You know the way that cats know? Know whatever they need to. Like, who doesn’t like them (climb onto that lap immediately), who’s allergic (idem, but also follow them into the garden as required and twine round their legs), who is really reading a book/newspaper rather than hiding behind it, when it is crucial to jump onto the computer keyboard and press ‘cmd/ctrl+ [sudden death key combination]’ rather than, say, ‘kwehlgflIYWE;F’.

That sort of thing. Anyone who knows cats, knows they just know.

I think it relevant to point out (re, that cats know) that Oscar coming into the house and making himself at home coincided exactly (and I mean exactly) with my introduction into the house of stash. Yes, before there was yarn, there was no cat. As soon as there was stash to lie on and knitting to bat at and tear apart, then lo, instantly, there came a cat whose bounden duty on this earth was to put me and my knitting firmly in our place. Interestingly, he is utterly immune to the charms of glass.

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