That Darn Cat

16 02 2011

I love my cat, Smudgy. Probably more than a lot of people I know… but hey – she’s ‘family’! Plus a cat, which sort of already places her above the human species.

[I am not a crazy cat lady, I am not a crazy cat lady, I am not a crazy cat lady…]

Being the cute, not-always-but-at-least-sometimes loving cat that she is, I obviously care about her well-being, hoping that she doesn’t stray outside the complex’s gate to go explore the wide world down the street and meet with unpleasant circumstances (say, the yapping dogs or kids on skateboards or such).

So, one could argue, I was validly worried when I started to find her food bowl empty so frequently and she kept staying hungry – to the point that I had to refill her bowl two or three times daily, with a bit more food than usual. Sure, she’s active. She likes running about outside and regularly comes in with bits and pieces of thorns and brambles and ‘sticky’ flowers and whatever else stuck in her tail. But still: having to give her a lot of food so regularly, causing the large bag of Whiskas to disappear practically overnight?

There was a snake in the grass…

…or cat leaping through the window, if you like. Literally.

Exhibit A (and B, and C, if you want to get technical) – one of our neighbours’ cats:

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

I took these pictures at the end of September – almost a full five months ago. Let’s call the cat Dusty, since my English readers probably won’t be able to pronounce his real, Afrikaans name.

Now, Dusty is a sweet old thing. He doesn’t mind if you pet him, and he has this cute meow that doesn’t seem to fit him. About a month ago, I raised my concern with our landlady that the cat might neglected or something, since he actually started to come running to me once he saw me, meowing and rubbing against me, wanting to come into our apartment… I fed him for three evenings, I believe, waiting out the weekend to see whether or not his owners were away for the weekend and perhaps their apartment window had banged shut, thus cutting off Dusty’s entryway to his food supply. I doubted this, however, since said neighbours have another cat, and s/he seemed to be doing just fine.

I ended up feeling a bit foolish – Dusty’s owner came to thank me for my concern, then told me that he has some kind of cat virus/infection, which means that he’s on a special diet and does get three meals a day, plus a treat at six in the evening. Turns out he was the first cat to live in the complex (three years ago), thus he sees himself as the king of this here ‘castle’ and was accordingly playing me for the sucker in order to get more food.

Pretty foolish…

But now, however, I’ve had enough. We caught him sneaking into the apartment once or twice through the window we leave open for Smudgy in the evenings, so my Significant Other gave the cat a hiding (just to scare him a little bit, so he wouldn’t come back), and we didn’t see him at our apartment for a while. Yet since Smudgy’s food started ‘vanishing’ so rapidly, we started to suspect that Dusty – or That Darn Cat, for future reference – might be coming in again…

And what do you know: this morning Smudgy sat silently next to the bed, so I got up to feed her. I even let her out of the apartment myself. Then a while later, I heard the soft tinkling of a bell, and I knew it probably wasn’t Smudgy. I caught the culprit in the act, voraciously nomming at my cat’s food bowl, which by that point was just about empty, give or take a few crumbs. That Darn Cat saw me, fled to the balcony, and then made a dash for the study and the open window.

I don’t know what to do. There’s no use talking to his owner, because she cannot lock him in at night. And I cannot not leave the window open for Smudgy, otherwise she’ll meowing my ears off. We’re thinking of moving her food bowl right next to our bed in the evenings – and if we find That Darn Cat, we’ll simply spray him with water, or something… I honestly don’t know 😦

PS: did I mention that Dusty’s owner is an animal behaviorist?! Yip…

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3 responses

16 02 2011
Seraphimalia

Animal Behaviorist? – tuh! – not a very good one it seems!

I have had more cats in my life than I have owned socks (I can almost say that without exaggerating) and I have an experience (or more) that I can share with you that might help 🙂

A cat doesn’t often see a “close shave” as “I better not go there again if I value my life” but rather as a “I succeeded”, especially when food is involved. The klap on the but may only boost its confidence.

The only invitation dusty needed to enter smudgy’s humble abode was the smell of food the first time; thereafter, his opportunistic nature keeps him coming back.

The only way you will solve your issue is to remove his reward for gate crashing the feast – if his reward is absent often enough (and somehow he does not get to smell the food again), he will come less frequently until he eventually gives up altogether. I have done one of two things in the past which always work:

a) Feed smudgy wait for her to finish her food and then remove it. In the beginning, she won’t eat enough because she will assume the food will always be there (although if she is as hungry as you say this shouldn’t be a problem). Make sure you give it to her two (or 3 if you like) times a day at the same time. Within a day or two, she will understand, and it will become the norm. I used to feed my cat (Gorgeous) whenever we ate – made it easier to remember and be disciplined.
OR (and don’t hold your breath)

b) Close the window at night. It is not cruel to keep a cat inside as long she has enough to do inside and gets enough positive attention and playfulness from you. This may be a bit difficult since your cat is used to going outside, so I don’t recommend it – she will drive you insane for the first few weeks of doing this. Also, you probably like a window or two open while you sleep so if you close her window, she will try another (possibly more dangerous one) you will need to keep them all closed. I have tried this method before, it worked, but it is really not easy.

Good luck – I highly recommend option A – it helped me and my cat (at the time – his name was gorgeous) and he got the idea – chop, chop.

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