Life Lessons: Animals Behaving Badly

The subject of this column: animals behaving badly; Specifically, my cats; More specifically, Samantha the Cat, aka STC, and The Sally Cat, aka TSC.

Jerusalem street cats: A dubious future, but hopefully fewer cans (photo credit: ERICA SCHACHNE)
Jerusalem street cats: A dubious future, but hopefully fewer cans
(photo credit: ERICA SCHACHNE)
Of all the plagues that the Internet has visited upon us, among the most treacly is the “World’s Most Adorable/Cutest/ Smartest/Funniest/Most Wonderful Pets” genre. So it gives me great pleasure to offer up a small antidote.
The subject of this column: animals behaving badly. Specifically, my cats. More specifically, Samantha the Cat, aka STC, and The Sally Cat, aka TSC.
Now, my wife and I have never spent a dime purchasing house pets. OK, there was Banner, a clunky-looking 19-year-old Arabian mare Erin bought for $1. They had a great couple of years until the old gal (Banner, not Erin) could no longer stand and had to be euthanized and buried beside her favorite trail. But we never let her in the house, so that doesn’t count.
I like to think I expanded Erin’s horizons by introducing her to cats, the only animal species ever successfully to domesticate humans – in this case, cats either semi-feral or abandoned by their owners. Both here and in the Old Country, we’ve taken in such cats, knowing they could be difficult, but that made them no less in need of a home.
And so it was that five years ago, STC showed up at our door, explaining that she was looking for staff and we seemed as biddable as any. We took her in. She’s never been an affectionate puss – Erin considers her dour – but we’ve grown attached. Three years ago, we tried to bring in another cat, a young male. STC’s reaction was fierce, as was the lecture she subsequently inflicted upon us.
“For I, thy cat, am a jealous cat. Thou shalt have no other cats before me.”
We obeyed. But then a month ago, Erin came home with TSC, a 15-year-old on the verge of starvation.
TSC has no teeth. So we put her on a soft, high-protein diet. She started gaining weight and has proven very affectionate when she isn’t sleeping, which is about 22 hours daily.
Sad to relate, STC noticed that TSC had moved in. She was not happy about it. Not happy at all.
There was no violence, just the occasional hiss, which we refused to tolerate.
Discipline was enforced by recourse to the Pillow of Wrath, a foot-square, four-ounce decorator schmatte that could be used both for light swatting and for the interposition of a physical barrier between the two.
Then STC decided to move out, returning only for meals. Six times a day. And the two developed a relationship based upon STC’s antipathy, TSC’s indifference and an odd pas de deux concerning food dishes.
I demand feline discipline, so when I open the front door for their First Breakfast at precisely 4:15 every morning, I expect them to be there. And indeed they are, sitting side by side like soldiers waiting for the chow hall to open. TSC runs inside, but since STC refuses to eat First Breakfast in the same house, I lure TSC back out with her dish, then tend to STC in the kitchen. STC dines quickly. I let her out; she sneers as she walks past TSC.
Second Breakfast is served whenever STC wanders in past the table by the front door, under which TSC resides. STC strides into the kitchen. I feed her, then place a bowl for TSC in the salon. TSC consumes it rapidly, then returns to her place under the table so that STC may depart the house with an appropriate glare or ostentatious avoidance.
Sometimes STC actually runs off, as though afraid. TSC waits until I close the door, then ambles into the kitchen and finishes off whatever’s left in STC’s dish.
First and Second Luncheons proceed roughly the same, except that STC will sometimes empty TSC’s bowl. TSC remains under her table and shows no response.
Dinner, ditto.
Then comes Final Snackage and the task of getting TSC into the front yard for the night. STC consumes, then departs. TSC has to be lured, coaxed, poked, prodded, picked up and deposited.
Lately, however, STC has been making unusual noises. Erin thinks they’re a prelude to physical hostilities. I believe they’re more in the nature of peace feelers. Since this is the Middle East, it can be hard to tell which is which.
Still, I remain hopeful for an ultimate rapprochement. After all, both cats spend summer nights outdoors. If STC really wants to work some sort of mischief, she has all night to do it. But I rather expect the opposite. When no one’s looking, the two get together and discuss ways to maintain the status quo while irritating and infuriating their humans.
After all... this is the Middle East. And if you’ve totally lost track of who’s who and what’s what in this tale, not to worry. This is, after all, the Middle East.