My Cat is Running a Racket

My cat is running a racket.

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My cat is running a racket and here’s how it works: Both the cat and dog are fed around 5 o’clock (second feeding of the day). They both have good reason to be on their current diets, as both are savage gluttons.

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My dog is a 120 lb lumpy, crooked-standing lab, approaching 12 years of age.

My cat is a possibly-7 year old once-feral cat who moved onto my porch and screamed at my door until we agreed to let him in, approximately 6 years ago. He has quite happily transitioned to a house cat and hungry, ruthless dictator in our home. As is true for so many male street cats (and house cats), he has urinary tract issues and his diet must be particular to keep him alive and avoid ever triggering that issue, which is horrible and painful for him, (and for us to watch). Recurrence of his issue was likely to be a fatal truth and we have managed to stave off a serious issue, save two incidents. The diet has been important but he’s stuck in another mindset. It’s like he won the private-island dinner on Survivor Housecat and he just wants to make up for every meal he ever had to find for himself. We learned during a stay at my mothers house that he remains a stealth hunter, when he caught three mice in one day, much to our horror and his absolute delight. He appeared to be gloating for days.

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Having much more time at home with our pets, both over the past two years and most recently due to health distancing measures which have many of us working from home, it’s been interesting to observe some subtle behaviours. Now, to be clear, the cat rules the roost between our pets, and he believes he rules us, too (obviously, he does). The cat long ago established that the dogs efforts would be no match for the cat’s teeth and claws. They frequently played quite rough. And are frequently incredibly affectionate. But lately, it’s seems less like they are affectionate and more like my dog is a shaken hostage who dares not disturb his keeper as the cat lounges in his personal space. My dog is having mobility issues and has taken to calling me from the bottom of the stairs with the gruff honk of an old doggo. I don’t carry him up, but a little cheering and sometimes a shoulder rub can coax him up and down. Any type of food also adds instant motivation to out think his stiff bones. There are several other reasons he might do this as well. If the cat is on or near the stairs, he will not pass. He knows darn well that he’s getting swiped in the back leg just when he thinks he’s made it-and frankly, he’s scared. Ditto when passing in and out through the back door to the yard for the ever important “pee”. The cat likes to hide in the curtains and swat as he passes through. A dear friend calls this cat behaviour “the bushwhack”.

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Now we (I, because apparently only I can hear the hideous assault) are quite accustomed to the cat protesting the feeding schedule at 2pm, 3 pm, 3:30 pm, 3:45 pm, 3:50….5:30 pm (after dinner), 7 pm, 9 pm, 3 am, 4 am, 5 am, 5:30 am, 5:45 am (at this point, the dog who is in my room has been activated like a Manchuria candidate under the control of a mad King, and may or may not have commenced crushing me with his elbows and full weight across the chest while inconveniently licking my face.

That’s right, he activates the dog. More recently, he has started activating the dog from the bottom of the stairs so that I run down from my home office to see what’s wrong. There’s water in the dish. He hasn’t hurt himself. He’s been out for a walk. He had a pee break 15 minutes ago….the cat sits in his spot in front of the sink, on a mat I placed for my feet as I wash the dishes, but which he has always believed to be some offering indicating his throne in the kitchen. He has many depending on what’s in the recycling bin. This spot is also in front of the cupboard where the *dogs* food is kept (and he will absolutely eat dog food). The cat stares up at me, suddenly both fluffier and downright emaciated at the same time. His eyes are like saucers, and it’s full-on Puss In Boots. I have been training him to say “wow” on command and he miraculously lets one out right now….I look to the stove-it’s 2:45 pm. I tell them both it’s not lunchtime but foolishly give them both a snack “to hold them over”. I am back in my office before I realize the cat has escalated his game. The cat is running a racket. He has just used the dog’s more compelling and *specific set of skills* (and challenges) to get himself a piece of cheese. He controls me through the dog!

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Last week we got to see this play out before our eyes. The cat had been strutting around indignantly protesting for second breakfast. The dog lay peacefully on the living room carpet. The cat casually lounges on the Ottoman next to the doggo’s location and slooooowly, discreetly, one paw outstretched off the edge of the Ottoman, he is jabbing the dog to life. When the dog makes the wise choice to bail, the cat bites his back leg on the way by. The dog joins me on the sofa for protection. The cat joins us too, and curls right up in the spot between the dog’s chest and me, and stares into the dog’s face like some kind of hit man.

We knew he was a bully, but the veil has been lifted. My dog now lives to serve the cat’s needs. At times willingly, and at others out of fear of retribution from this 9 lb mob boss.

Pay attention folks.

Week 7: the cats are rising.

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