This year, with the varmint invasion at an all time high–from rabbits to squirrels to pack rats to mice to gophers–we put into action tentative plan to acquire a barn cat–a cat of such nature so as not to be a viable adoptable indoor pet.
We have an agility friend with connections in high places at our awesome localish (in the city) shelter, Animal Humane. Okay, very high places. She runs the thing and is also a talented animal yenta. She hooked us up with a reclusive 7-year-old named Calypso whose ability to cope with humanity deteriorated daily during her stay there…and during her transition period here. She fled upon release, disappearing into the arroyo. No one was truly surprised, but it was hard all the same.
In short order, another kitty opportunity cropped up: a fourteen-week old little guy who had made clear his hatred of being handled. We hoped that at this younger age, we could at least gain his understanding that barn = good, people = food.
So home he came, and was immediately christened Mr. McKittypants (don’t judge me). He hissed at everyone who so much as looked at him, no doubt about that. But three immediate observations changed everything about his future:
He hissed, but he recovered. And became curious.
He’s intensely food driven.
He’s intensely social.
Well, not the least bit socialized in training terms, but social. “Where ARRRRE you? Why don’t you come and be in the BARRRRN with me? I can HEARRRRR you in the house!”
Add in the mouse he “dispatched” within 24 hours of his arrival*, and we were in love.
*That is, he thoroughly hunted, smacked around, and delivered killing bites to the already dead mouse I provided from the barn trap, and then he ate it. nom nom nom.
Because he was crated, I had the chance to control our interaction (as much as one can). Within thirty-six hours he learned No Claws. He learned No Teeth. I was able to shape a default behavior–if in doubt, back off a bit and lie down. He is fierce-wicked smart!
But this all put us in a quandary. First of all, he’s too young to be outside on his own right now. Coyotes, y’know. But here we are with the dogs and a household that’s completely and totally not cat-proof. The plan, after all, was for a Barn Cat.
So we’re on a very unexpected journey. Not unlike, I must say, writing a book by the seat of one’s pants. You have an idea where you want to go, but no clear idea how you’re going to get there, or even quite where you’ll end up.
So these are the McKittypants Diaries. If you’re on Facebook, you may have seen them–or not, because…Facebook Timeline Hijinks, amIright? But either way, I’m going to try to collect them here. Because timeline scrolls on, but blog is forever. (Ish.)
And if you’re wondering what this has to do with dogs…let’s just say that when McKittypants (AKA Mickey) came home and I was pondering the things he had to learn (like, no claws and no paws!), I was repeatedly told that my expectations were too high (although my past cats from way back when might have disagreed). Of course, I’ve heard this before, as regards my dogs. “Beagles are stupid/untrainable/too sniffy/what are you THINKING/OMG WHY?”
He’s a cat, people said. He is what he is. And I, a dog person, had unreasonable expectations.
Mr. McKittypants made it out into the yard today! Just in time–the stove guys came early and the rain followed them…
I included the standing picture so you all wouldn’t think he’s one of those cats who has no legs in a harness. Thanks to our early shaping, he now chooses a quiet default “down” position to assess the world when he’s in unfamiliar surrounds. Most wise little kitty!
Mr. McKittypants received a toy yesterday from a friend. Oh yes he did.
Mr. McKittypants would like to share with you all his progress on those plans for world domination. Most recently, walkies out to the agility yard. Next step…inside the fenced back yard without the long line. When I get the nerve.
Now we’re working toward our happily ever after. If McKittypants doesn’t take over the world first!