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Copyright © 2008 Dorian Scott Cole

I know that the cat doesn't actually like me. He just likes conversation. Cats are invariably of two types. The loving ones that rub against your leg and want to sit in your lap and be stroked all day. The independent ones that want to do as they please all day, and when they want a little attention - stress on little - they appear before you and meow. You are here to serve them. The only time the independent ones jump in your lap, or get in your face, is when you pick up a book or type on a computer - anything that says your attention may be dangerously diverted from your primary task of serving them.

If you want a cat to meow, just close a door. I have studied this behavior. They don't necessarily want on the other side of the door. If you let them on the other side of the door, then they sit there and meow incessantly until you let them back on the other side. We often cite "curiosity" and "investigation" as cat motives for this behavior, but this is not really accurate.

I close doors for privacy: bathroom, bedroom, other rooms where I don't want the cat, like the garage. When I close the door, the cat immediately starts to meow. I know the cat doesn't like me enough to want to be with me, so what does he really want?

I have learned from careful observation what cats want when they sit at a closed door and meow. They want the door to just stay open. One side or the other is irrelevant. The closed off room is like a tabby taboo. He wants it because he can't have it. After all, cats own their domain, and their slaves, and carefully mark and defend their territory. I mean, who wouldn't jealously refuse entry to a kingdom where you are fed, watered, groomed, petted, played with, cleaned up after, never asked to lift a finger, and in all ways treated like a king? A closed door can't be tolerated. A closed door means that the lowly inhabitants must own something instead of the cat. Ownership by others is taboo in the cat world.

I'm not actually all that fond of cats either, and I refuse to back down on who actually owns the house. A man's home is his wife's castle. But I come to an understanding with animals. For example, I have an understanding with alligators: I don't eat them, and they don't eat me. I'm living proof that understandings with animals are 100% effective. No alligators have crawled out of the swamp and lunched on me. But of course I don't invade their territory either - that might be interpreted as predatory, or viewed as an invitation to a meal. You know, you just don't threaten a lion or put temptation in front of a thief. You have to use common sense.

So considering the reality of the situation with our long chain of cats, who have had every reason to believe that they owned the house, and perception is a good as reality, early on I came to a very effective understanding with our cats. I tolerate them and they tolerate me.

This was not an easy negotiation. After the family had worn out a couple of cats, I finally laid down the law. "No more cats." Of course, with kids, "No" is a "definite maybe" - a challenge. What they want is all that is really important, and a "No" just means they have to work harder, pleading and negotiating, to get what they want.

Finally the incessant begging and crying wore me down and I lost all reason and spouted unreachable specifications for another cat, confident they could never find one like my description. I would permit another cat if it didn't leave fur all over the curtains (short hair), didn't wee wee everywhere to mark its territory (neutered early), didn't scratch the wear layers off of the furniture and me (no claws), and wasn't an all around pain.

I was correct in my assumption that filling that bill was impossible. Unfortunately I left the door open. They are master negotiators. "It" showed up one day when I wasn't watching for any new four legged critters. What could I say? "Send it back?" Take candy from a baby? They had the winning hand - "It" had arrived, and they were in love with it, and they lobbied with all the strength of having fullfilled my bill of expectations for a cat. They had located a purebred. It was a something mixed with a something, mixed with a something. A real hybrid with papers. If it had been a dog, it would have been called a "mongrel." But in the pure-bred cat world, it was called a new breed show cat.

The compromising began (I was licked - fold the cards). "It" was a hybrid - all bad cat qualities had been bred out of the cat. It was "de-catted." Forget the short hair - it came with long hair. You can't change such things; they just are. Spraying - maybe - we made an appointment with the vet, hopefully in time. Sometimes that works. Claws? They would keep them cut or put little balls on them. I accurately forecast that the latter would never happen.

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