Miss Kitty's quirks

Friday, February 20, 2009

Miss Kitty has had a good week. She has found more ways to toy with her humans.

As you know, our calico cat is an outdoor cat who, thanks to the tender sympathies of my allergic wife, spends a lot of time indoors, particularly when the temperature is low.

Miss Kitty knows she is likely to get in the family-room door in the afternoon but not so likely in the morning. She knows what time I leave for work every morning and takes up her position next to her food dish in the garage -- a position that wordlessly communicates, "Hey, Big Guy, does this dish look empty to you?"

The position I'm talking about is the one where the cat sits on her rear haunches and deploys her front legs like sturdy Roman columns. It is what the Sullivan household calls the "I need attention" pose.

In the early hours of the day, Miss Kitty leaves her post beside her food dish only if I fail to notice her or if I decide she has plenty of food already. Then she goes into border collie mode, herding me toward the workbench where the magic bag of cat food resides -- and which requires opposable thumbs to open.

In the afternoon, when my wife takes pity and lets Miss Kitty in the house, the cat heads for her indoor food dish in the kitchen. Again, she assumes her attention-needed position and waits patiently. If we fail to take notice, she cautiously creeps toward the hallway -- forbidden territory -- because she knows we'll react even if we are complete dolts when it comes to tending to her appetite.

I do my best to make sure Miss Kitty never lacks for food or water in the garage. I watch her water dish to make sure there's plenty for the cat to drink. Miss Kitty is one of those rare cats that likes water. She likes to drink it. She likes to play with it. She likes to lie in it, particularly if it's running across the patio on a warm summer day.

Tuesday morning I went into the garage on my way to work. As I checked Miss Kitty's food dish, I realized there was something unusual going on. Miss Kitty was sitting next to her food dish with her front paws in her water dish. Another wordless message: "Hey, Big Guy, see what you let happen?"

(In case you haven't figured this out, anything that goes wrong in a cat's life is never the cat's fault. It's your fault.)

This winter, our cat has developed a habit that may be familiar to other cat owners: rolling in dirt.

If there's a dry patch of dirt anywhere in the yard, Miss Kitty falls down on it and does a wiggle dance on her back. Then she comes in to a nice, clean house to groom herself.

I checked several websites to find out what's going on. One cat person said the cat's coat contains bacteria that is ingested during grooming, and the bacteria aids digestion. From time to time, cats roll in the dirt to replenish the bacteria, this theory holds.

Maybe.

Another website said the rolling in the dirt helps in the shedding process. Another said the dirt adds a familiar odor to the cat's fur, much like humans who put on perfume or after-shave lotion.

I have another theory: Cats roll in the dirt because it makes humans go crazy.

Miss Kitty knows a lot of words. The one she can't stand is "no." When I see her rolling in the dirt in the flower bed next to the family-room door, I say, "Bad kitty, No. No. No." This is the only time I ever say "no" that Miss Kitty seems to like it.

Wednesday afternoon I came home from work. Miss Kitty was waiting beside the garage. She watched me get out of the car and head for the house. As soon as I reached the patio, she raced for her dirt pile and flopped on her back.

Unspoken communication: "Go ahead. Yell at me. What do I care? I'm a cat."

jsullivan@semissourian.com

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