The Art of Living and Working With a Cat
It’s a small, simple pine box measuring 19” x 14” x 5”. Made by my hands, with the skills I learned over the years from my grandfather and father. While the corners are not fancy mitre joints, they are square and true. My brain was just not up to the challenge of making the mitre joints, and that’s OK, I’m fairly certain the contents of the box will not mind. The box contains the frail body of my cat Jack, whose failing heart and health forced me to give him the final gift of freedom from the broken little body that now lies silently wrapped in a towel. My hand rests softly on the towel, feeling the strange sensation of the cold, lifeless form that lies beneath it. In an instant, I am fighting back tears, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Jack came to me on a cold, snowy December day. I adopted him from a veterinarian who had been caring for him after his elderly owner had to move into a nursing home and could not keep him. Coming home, I remember getting stuck in the snow on our road as my truck was unable to climb the hill to get to the house. The last bit of our journey was on foot, with his carrier cradled in my arms, and him plaintively meowing the entire way. Upon being released from his carrier, he strolled about his new digs and unleashed a yowl that rivalled any siamese I had ever heard. A siamese masquerading as a tiger, his striking coat was striped with deep orange and light cream, with only a few white hairs on his chest and a single white ring of fur at the very tip of his elegant long tail. Anywhere he went, that tail was carried proudly high into the air, with the very end bent into a gentle curve.
Human Training 101
Jack was an adult neutered male cat, who I was told had been a house cat. The first few days in the house had me questioning the house cat portion of his history, as he set about dutifully marking just about everything in the house. I spoke to my vet, I tried various sprays, I moved the litter box, I went through copious amounts of Nature’s Miracle, and just about tore my hair out. My vet jokingly said he would neuter him again if he thought it would curb the behaviour. Then he levelled with me that Jack was the “Cattiest Cat he had ever seen”, and more than likely if I simply started to let him outdoors he would stop spraying indoors. I held out for another week before I finally relented and gave him access to the great outdoors. Amazingly, as soon as his territory grew to more than the footprint of the house, he stopped feeling the need to spray everything indoors. I was happy we finally reached an understanding, I think Jack was happy he finally figured out how to get someone to open a door.
Now that he had one human trained, he set his sights further and started to train everyone to open doors. Jack perfected his training method so that my father would let him in the front door and he would saunter in and on through the house to immediately ask that the back door be opened, so that he did not have to walk all the way around the house to get from the front porch to the back porch as he chased the sunniest place for napping. For years to come, he would perfect that deep throaty yowl to get the attention of anyone within earshot that he had simply been left waiting far too long for someone to open the door. Jack did not have owners, he had staff.