Friday, July 22, 2022

Insight: Strange and unusual cat behavior

Gracie the cat lived to be the age of 16 and loved to catch
water drips from the bathtub faucet. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Ed Pierce Managing Editor

I confess that I don’t know very much about cats or cat behavior but having had several cats as pets through the years, I do know strange and unusual animal behavior when I see it.

For the most part, I’m a dog person and although the cats I’ve been associated with have been great, they have at times exhibited odd and quirky habits that can only be described as aberrant.

The first cat our family took in was when I was in high school. A young woman from our neighborhood knocked on our door carrying a box of Siamese kittens and asked if we would like one. Up until that point my mother and father were opposed to getting a cat because my brother had hay fever, and they thought the car hair would aggravate that.

But both my brother and I were able to talk them into taking in this adorable kitten. He quickly became a favorite and got along well with our dog. So much so, he loved to gulp down the dog’s food when the dog wasn’t around.

As the kitten grew, so did his quirky habits. He loved to fall asleep on top of the sofa and from that vantage point, he was able to look out the window and watch the birds flying by. But it also spelled trouble for anyone choosing to sit on the sofa as he zealously defended his territory by grabbing and biting anyone’s head who dared to sit near him. 

He also took great delight in seeing how far he could fling cat litter away from his cat box. Flying pieces of cat litter were a sight to behold and reminiscent of Jack Nicklaus hitting out of a sand trap on the 16th hole whenever he visited his cat box.

When I was in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, we took in a small kitten we called Benson. He was a grey tiger-striped little fellow who was curious about everything. For some reason, he loved to eat paper and was known to climb and to claw furniture to his own amusement.

I quickly learned to stash my important military papers in a safe location upon arriving home as he once ate three copies of my temporary duty orders that I left inadvertently on our kitchen table.

He also had another unusual habit that drove us crazy.

My wife and I had purchased a brand-new plaid sofa and love seat for our apartment and within six months, the armrests of both pieces of furniture were in shambles.

Even though we provided him with a scratching post set up in another room, this cat would slowly torture us by jumping up on the armrest, yawning, and then vigorously strapping his claws as much as he could get away with before we chased him away from doing that. It became a ritual for him, and we tried everything to prevent him from doing it, including covering the armrests with vinyl. It made no difference to Benson as he’d knock the vinyl off and soon the armrest fabric was shredded and reduced to stuffing.

He wouldn’t bother any other furniture in our apartment, just the armrests of the sofa and love seat.

Another odd trait of Benson was he would climb up on my chest while I was sleeping and whack me in the nose on weekends until I got up and fed him. It never happened during the week, just on weekends. It was like he had some sort of internal clock that mandated this strange behavior every Saturday and Sunday morning.

The other cat I’ve had was a tiger-striped beauty named Gracie. She was 2 when I rescued her, and she soon had to have surgery to rebuild her bladder after suffering from bladder stones. The veterinarian prescribed pills to give her after her surgery and said we should wrap her in a towel to try to give them to her.

That proved to be near-impossible, and she kicked and fought being given a pill each time she was supposed to have one. It was like going to war using hand-to-hand combat.

Gracie was frightened by dogs, and she chose to stay upstairs in our townhouse when our dog was downstairs. Once when we were at work, the dog hopped over a baby gate separating the upstairs from the downstairs and chased Gracie under our bed. The dog became stuck and when I got home, Gracie was sitting on top of our dresser and all I could see was the dog’s tail wagging underneath our bed.

It didn’t take long for us to catch on to Gracie’s most unusual habit. She’d wait in the bathroom until we took a shower and then sit under the faucet and try to catch the water drips in her mouth. This game went on for years and continued as we moved from the townhouse to seven years in one home, a move from Florida to New Hampshire, and then from a home in New Hampshire to another in Maine.

Cats are gorgeous creatures and make fine pets, but I much prefer dogs. <

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