Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Love and Logic for Cats, or, How Mr. Morton became an 'Outside Kitty'

I have to preface this by saying that we are 'cat people', me especially. I've loved cats since I was a tot, and most of my life, I've had kitties. Right now, we just have one kitty, Mr. Morton. Mr. Morton has been living the life of luxury, but recently, he's made some poor choices, causing me to move him and his food dish into the great outdoors. Not to worry - he has ample shelter. He can choose accommodations in the barn or the shed, and there is plenty to do outside. There are grounds to patrol, mice to hunt, birds to stalk and blades of grass to chew.

Last week Mr. Morton left a.....nugget.....on the rug in Little Bit's playroom. I thought perhaps he wasn't feeling well, so I cleaned everything up really well and kept an eye on him. He seemed to be in perfect health, eating, drinking and using his litter box, except for that nugget. Then, there was another. And another.

I took up the playroom rug, put it outside for deep cleaning, then bleached the playroom floor so he would not pick up any lingering scent. The next morning, I found three wee nuggets. Seems Mr. Morton has something to say - mainly that Little Bit is trying to use HIS playroom, and that's not OK with him. Turns out we were mistaken to think that we had permission to use the basement - it is his.

I have made sure that his litter is clean. I have sprayed scents he doesn't care for in the play room. I have talked to him, and I did give him plenty of warning that, should this behavior continue, he would be returning to outside kitty status. His reply? A nugget.

My reply? Enjoy the fresh air, Mr. Morton.
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angry kitty

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hopeful kitty

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pleading kitty

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despondent kitty

For the most part, cats are not into gratitude. Morty doesn't care that we were here first, that we took him in, or that we feed him, keep him healthy, love him and pamper him. None of that matters to a cat. Those concepts just don't register. Even though I know that, I can't believe that he is being such a brat!

About a dozen years ago - give or take - we started seeing this rather scrappy, lean grey cat out by the barn. He was really skittish and shy, but kept hanging close. I was determined to make friends with that cat! Armed with a forkful of tuna and a lid from a cool-whip bowl, I tried to win his heart. OK, stomach.

I put the tuna in the middle of the floor in the horse stall. (This alone is proof that we hadn't lived here very long - the floor of the horse stall was still visible!) Moments later, a grey streak zipped out from one corner, wolfed down the tuna, and zipped to another corner, further away from me.

That behavior didn't last long, though - before we were halfway through that can of tuna, he was slowing down, considering that this might be a good setup for him. He started hanging out by the back door of our home, and eventually, he let me pet him.

From the moment he got that first scratch behind his ears, he was a completely different cat. He wanted IN. He wanted love. Mostly, he wanted more tuna. We already had cats, so I wasn't prepared to let him in until I could get him checked by a vet, give him a rabies shot, all that good healthy kitty stuff. Kitty, however, had other plans.

He kept appearing, out of thin air, from somewhere in our kitchen. We'd be in the living room, and he'd just stroll in and hop on some one's lap. The doors were all closed, the windows all had screens, but if we put him back outside, he'd be back in a few minutes later. Turns out there was a hole in the floor behind the dryer where the vent pipe was supposed to go. He was using that as his own private kitty door. To tell the truth, I'm glad he alerted us to the hole before a skunk found it!

At this point, we had to do something. We sealed up the hole, called the vet, and named 'Kitty' Mr. Morton. We learned he was generally OK, just a bit starved. Over the course of the next several months he went from a scrawny, scruffy cat to a sleek, 17 pound (no, I'm not exaggerating) grey tiger.

He never did lose that skittish behavior, and he never warmed up to our other cats. He likes people, primarily hubby and me. And that's what has gotten him into trouble now.

He is a bit 'fraidy' around Little Bit. I can understand that - she's louder than we are, she moves more quickly than we do, and she wants nothing more than to pet him. On the other hand, she's pretty gentle with him, she doesn't hit or throw things, and she mostly leaves him alone. Still, he's been making it clear that even though she is a 'cat person', he is not a 'kid person'...er, cat.

I am hoping that a few days of fresh air will change his attitude. It's Winter, after all, and when it comes to cats, I'm a softie. However, when it comes to nuggets, I have issues. So, Mr. Morton, please accept that we live here too, that you have to share the basement, and that really, your life is not so bad!

UPDATE: It's cold tonight - 19 degrees right now, and it's not even 9:30, so Mr. Morton is in. I hope he behaves!

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Laura ~ I love your blog about Mr. Morton! Besides being well written and humorous, you've incorporated the unlikely idea that Love and Logic might work for cats! (I'm a L&L instructor and an animal lover. I tried L&L with Tippy, our "bad kitty" who decided my husband's briefcase was a great litterbox. (She decided this while he was sitting at the table drinking coffee with his briefcase next to him. My husband is no longer a cat lover.) Tippy is now an outside cat on a farm in the country. Thanks for the laughs! If this works on Mr. Morton, you may want to start teaching "L&L for Kitties."

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