Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What the Rodeo Taught Me


“Welcome home,” I said embracing Mr. Wonderful at the airport.
He rubbed his neck.  “Remind me never to take a trans-Atlantic flight that starts on the Pacific.”
“The House missed you,” I said.
He nodded.
“The neighbors missed you.”
He nodded.
“Jackson missed you.”
“All that cat misses is a brain.”

He called it.  After witnessing Jackson’s recent run-in with a wild opossum where the cat rolled over and played dead, Mr. Wonderful took to calling him the “Dumbest Kitty Ever”.   Looking at the cold hard facts, if the opossum had attacked Jackson, the cat would now be dead.  So our cat’s existence on the planet continued despite his lack of a brain and his complete physical unfitness.  Forget Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest theory, it didn’t apply to dim, pampered felines whose only street cred was they were named after “Jack” Bauer. 

This pushed me to act.  Perhaps I could help Jackson become less of a pillow and more of a cat?  Perhaps I could reawaken an inner tiger hidden deep, deep down inside him?  Perhaps I could give him the skills to fight off a fierce opossum attack?  

Nah.


But I had to try. I thought about the Reno Rodeo I’d just been too.  All the events were activities that cowboys, cows and horses really did on a working ranch.  Perhaps I needed to simulate real life cat activities to awaken Jackson’s latent tiger?

Currently Jackson’s day consisted of sleeping, eating and playing with his catnip toy, then… sleeping some more.  We’d bought the mouse-shaped catnip toy for him after he arrived in our home.  It had a Velcro pocket where you could remove the old catnip and restuff it with a fresh supply.  Once a day Jackson would hug it between his front paws and slowly lick it like an ice cream cone.  After which he’d crash into a drug-induced stupor right on the kitchen floor. 

Then it hit me.  Catnip was a drug!  It was preventing our cat from functioning at his highest intelligence or any intelligence.  The worst part: I was his supplier!  How could he get in touch with his inner tiger if he was as high as a kite?  I confiscated the catnip mouse toy and stashed it in the closet. 

Another game we played with Jackson was “catch the pocket pen laser”.  Friends had given us this toy to get our sad, lazy cat moving.  Initially he liked chasing the red light across the floor and around the furniture but after two minutes when he couldn’t catch the red dot in his paws he slumped off to his food bowl and ate.  The laser hadn’t help him become fit, it made him fatter.

So I went out to the garden, found a stick and tied a ribbon to the end of it.  Then I tied the ribbon to the empty catnip mouse toy.  Back inside I twirled this contraption around our cat, who ignored it with boredom.  His message was clear: Hey lady, I'm not bothering with this mouse toy if it isn’t full of drugs.

I continued wiggling the stick, ribbon and mouse toy on the floor for 30 minutes and just when I felt my wrist would fall off from spinning this clunky homemade contraption, the cat turned his head and pounced.  He clutched the mouse toy in his paws and bit the toy even though the toy was devoid of catnip.  He has animal instincts!  He's a tiger!  He's alive!



Back at the house, I showed Mr. Wonderful Jackson’s progress with the mouse toy tied to the ribbon and the stick.  While Mr. Wonderful ate dinner, rehydrated from the flight and kicked back on the sofa I spun the ribbon and stick toy until the cat collapsed into a panting, happy heap on the floor.     

“See,” I said admiring our feline.  “He has some cat instincts.  We just had to simulate his natural environment to bring them out.”
“Chasing a mouse toy doesn’t mean he can fight a opossum.”
“It’s a beginning.”
“It’s the start of a beginning.”
“It’s better than nothing.”  Mr. Wonderful nodded.  The cat walked to the sofa and rested his paw on Mr. Wonderful’s foot. 
“I told you the cat missed you,” I said.
“Did anybody else miss me?”
“I missed you.”
“Prove it,” he said pulling me close.