Shelter Island is a place where animals think they are people, and people agree with them. My mother handled her empty nest syndrome by replacing her five children with 10 animals. At one time, she thought animals were less work than children but that they still provided all the joy. Over time I think she has reversed her opinion on that. Presently, she has eight cats and two dogs. The dogs are dachshunds, and not only do they hold themselves to be children, they envision themselves as spoiled children who deserve to be indulged. They project one message with their faces: I am pathetic, feed me.
The eight cats—Missy, MeMe, PeeWee, Audrey, Smokey, Magic, Ginger and Orlando—run the house and have my mother so trained that she calls the house when she’s out for the day to check on the cats. PeeWee seems to be the group secretary, because he commonly takes notes by unrolling toilet paper with his claws, leaving a series of punctures that I think are encoded cat announcements.
As I watch my mother, I have come up with a questionnaire you can take to determine if you are cat trained.
Does your cat determine when you wake up and start your day?
Do you rise from your chair in the living room whenever you hear a cat in the kitchen to see what they want?
Do you speak to them like a person, and after offering one or two things that they reject, do you stand in the kitchen looking at them and saying, “Well, I don’t know what you want!”
Do you keep telling them to stay off your kitchen counters and even say to them in baby, “Stay off Mommy’s counters. Be a good girl. You want a treat? I fix you a milk-milk cause I love you.”
When they meow to go outside, do you rush to open the door? And do you stand there with the door open, heating the backyard, while they walk back and forth near the door, deciding whether they really want to go outside? Or did they just want to show off to the other cats that they could make you do this trick of standing in doorway, freezing, while they just look outside?
Do you check your dryer for cats before you close the door?
Do you secretly let them sleep on warm clothes fresh from the dryer?
Is there a small bag of cat treats in your bedside table? Do you use the treats to bribe them to sleep on the corner of your bed instead of somewhere that keeps you from turning over? Have you wondered whether you’re teaching them to sleep at the foot of the bed or whether they’ve figured out how to get more cat treats?
Have you ever injured yourself by trying to avoid injuring them? Ever twisted your back, knee or foot because they chose that moment to walk between your feet and you did a double Lutz, triple-toe back spin to avoid falling on them?
Have they ever walked on the keyboard while you are working on the computer and lived to meow the tale? One of my mother’s cats stepped on the delete button at exactly the wrong time. It’s only because mother has a cordless mouse that I wasn’t able to strangle that cat.
If you answered ‘yes’ to two or more of these questions, I see bags of cat treats in your future.