Kitties Part 4: Quirky or certifiable?

— Photo by Mike Seinberg

Lemon is stretched out on his throne.

— Photo by Mike Seinberg

Sylvie guards the author’s chair for him.

By now, most readers of this column are well acquainted with the three feline folk who cohabitate with us. Lemon, Nibbler, and Sylvie are part of the family and part of daily life.

As such, we get a chance to see them in action on a regular basis and watch them and their antics. After a year of such observation, I began to realize that cats are either the quirkiest, most interesting creatures we’ve chosen to share space with or they’re just plain nuts.

So how does one determine eccentric versus crazy? Well, since we usually don’t do a very good job figuring that with people, I give us only a small chance to do it with beings we can’t even really communicate with. However, if you spend more than a few days watching cats operate, you really do wonder what goes on in their heads.

Take feeding time. They like to meow loudly, climb counters, and try to trip you, all in an effort to speed up the opening of the sacred can and filling of the food bowls. They will stand right over the dry food bowls while you attempt to pour dry food in, thereby blocking you and slowing the process down. Not what I would call signs of sanity or even overt intelligence.

They are also really messy eaters, leaving wet and dry food in a seven-foot radius around the bowl. But then they spend 15 minutes after a meal licking themselves clean with an air of purity and intensity normally restricted to surgeons scrubbing up before a heart transplant. All the while sitting amidst the cat equivalent of the food fight scene in “Animal House.”

They have a habit of watching someone go through the process of cleaning out a litter box as if they’re in charge of supervising the proceedings. “There’s a bit of poo over to the left and don’t miss that big stinker buried on the right!” they psychically beam at you.

Then one of them will saunter in, use said freshly cleaned box and look at you as if to say, “Well, what are you waiting for?” A bathroom attendant, I ain’t. But then, I suppose we all like a “fresh bowl” so to speak.

Their behavior with other living things is always interesting. When one of them sees an insect, especially of the flying variety, they’ll sail through the house in hot pursuit knocking over lamps, tearing at curtains or attempting to climb walls. Obviously, a common housefly, or stinkbug is a fire-breathing dragon in the eyes of a cat and Khaleesi is not available to exert control, so they have to.

And once they’ve actually killed said dragon, they leave the carcass in the middle of the floor, or spend the next 20 minutes batting it about like a toy mouse. From dragon to chew toy in 30 seconds. Seriously?

Their behavior with the Yorkshire terrier that lives next door is even funnier. They sit at the back door and watch him in rapt attention as he runs around the yard, the back deck, and through the gardens. If he comes up to the door in an effort to say hi, they bolt.

Except Sylvie. She occasionally slips out the back door and, if the dog is out, they begin what can only be described as a ballet of schizophrenia. The dog comes close and sniffs, maybe barks a bit. Sylvie hides in the garden and meows loudly.

The dog backs off and Sylvie slinks out and follows him. You have to keep in mind the dog weighs about the same as Sylvie and is very friendly. Eventually they stare at one another, obviously confused as to the next step in their courtship.

“What the hell kind of cat is that?” thinks Sylvie.

“What the hell kind of dog is that?” wonders Jameson.

At least they don’t have any need to ask one another about religion or politics.

As our guys are strictly indoors (except for Sylvie’s aforementioned jail breaks), they don’t get the chance to roam the yards like a pride of lions combing the veldt for a stray antelope. However, they perch on windowsills with great fervor, studying every living thing that passes by as if they could knock it down with secret eye lasers. As if…

Water is generally considered a problem for cats, but not our Sylvie. After one of the pink people (us) finishes showering, she’ll push the bathroom door open, stroll in, and hop right into the wet tub and just sit. I once tried to turn on the shower and she lit out like I’d attempted to roast her alive. Then the next day she was back in the tub.

She likes the faucet, too. If I’m washing dishes, she’ll jump onto the counter beside me, sit down and supervise with great attention to detail. But, if I flick water at her or pet her with a wet hand, she is gone.

So I guess you could say the jury is out on the issue of cat sanity. I’ve seen other writers attach great swathes of prose to what must be going on inside the minds of cats. They usually suggest they’re long-suffering prisoners bent on world domination while dogs are happy-go-lucky doofs with the IQ of a tennis ball.

I’m not sure I agree as Minnie, our old Chihuahua, was anything but doofy. I’ll just have to continue my observations like Dian Fossey and her gorillas. Kitties in the mist. More like kitties in the shower….

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he is looking into the possibility of funding further cat-sanity studies by uploading a video of the cats attempting to use a Kitchenaid mixer; Sylvie is asleep in the bowl though, so production has ground to a halt.