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December 8th, 2011


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01:43 am - Talking to buddy
I dislike "cat blogging" in excess and I've probably discussed some of this before, but today Abbie and I had a conversation that I wanted to share. He's fourteen and a half years old, and I've had him since he was six weeks old. In that time we've gone through a lot together, and we've learned how to talk to each other effectively well. I can recognize certain meows of his: the echolocation meow, the "somebody come and play" meow, the "I'm in the room now, at ease" meow, and the "But I want it NOW" meow.

And I've learned how to respond to him in ways that he understands. He's learned his name, and has matched his pitch roughly to the one I use when I talk to him. He also mimics the upward inflection we use when asking questions, though I'm not sure if he's connected that with demands or uses it cause he hears it a lot. He also understands "Okay" and "Go ahead", but probably because they're said in a friendly tone, not like "No" or "Get down", which he'll recognize of course but ignore.

Diane Duane, in her brilliant "Book of Night with Moon" series, holds forth that cat language is a lot more sophisticated than just meows. It also involves body language, posture, location relative to one another, and even eye contact or the lack thereof. And most cat owners will tell you that's certainly the case. (Everyone probably also has a story similar to this one here, so let's hear 'em, gang!)

Abbie's version of please, for example, is a gentle extending of the paw at whatever it is you're currently eating. It's almost a pathetic Oliver Twist gesture, but it also says "I could swipe that stuff outta your hand at any time, and don't you forget it." He also knows the best way to wake me up and get me to do something is swat at a plastic bag, because I will move heaven and earth to get him to Stop Doing That Dammit.

But he has an even more polite version of please: He just sits down next to me and gently headbutts my leg. That can mean either show me attention or take a look at the food dish when you can, you know, no big rush, I can wait for now. For now I said.

He stays gentle for the most part, because beyond the vacuum cleaner fear he's a very relaxed cat. Of course he is. He's an indoor cat who holds court in a purple papasan throne with a catnip plant growing directly above him. It dangles so tantalizingly close he could just reach up and nip a piece off if he wanted, the hedonistic little Caesar.

Today I was trying to shoo Abbie out of a room so I could head out for lunch. He was sacked out on a pillow and showed no interest in leaving. I started by petting him and doing the rump-patting thing, which usually gets a cat right up on their feet so you can gently send them on their way. Abbie, however, was having none of it.

He had a hind paw sticking out as he lay down, so I reached over to grab it and push it over, motivate him that way. Instead, as soon as I took his hind paw he quickly moved his head around and took my hand, very gently, in his mouth. It was not an aggressive move. He's not a regular biter. He did not clamp down, he didn't break the skin, he just grabbed my hand swiftly enough to say "No, man, that's not cool. Back off." I relented and backed off. He let go. Eventually I got him up and he went off to sulk for a bit due to the overall ignominy of it, but I gave him some treats before I left and we were friends again.

I've been watching him walk and he's not favoring the leg, so it wasn't an injury reaction. It was one of those defensive instincts that cats have (the belly is their most vulnerable spot and they'll protect it with their hind legs) but Abbie, at least, showed an admirable display of restraint, a rare feature in a cat who will beg for everything from avocado to bottled water. I guess we know each other well enough after fourteen years that he trusts me to respect a warning, and I trust he won't harm me intentionally.

He's a good fella.

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:sovay
Date:December 8th, 2011 06:56 am (UTC)
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He's a good fella.

Nice.

Who is Abbie named after?
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:December 8th, 2011 07:19 am (UTC)
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We got two kittens in the spring of 1997, and the folks we got 'em from said they were both sisters. (These people could not afford to spay or neuter their cats, and FIV was so common among them I'm glad we got two cats out before they got hurt.)

I decided to name them Abby and Martha, after the two sisters in Arsenic & Old Lace. Being odd ducks themselves (and slightly inbred), both kittens took well to their names. Until the first trip to the vet.

There the vet reached up, felt Abby's undercarriage, and said "Uh, this one's a boy." (Abs wasn't surprised; he knew all along.) The name, however, had stuck by that point, and an attempt to call him "Abbott" proved a failure. So we just altered the spelling to the often-masculine Abbie and I said it was sorta now after Hoffman.

This proved well, for he turned out to be a longhaired reactionary who doesn't mind grabbing off your plate when you're done. Or even before.

Both cats still turned out like their original counterparts: Abbie was the boisterous, active one, while Martha was shy and retiring. (Marf was the smarter of the two, however, bless her little pirate heart.)

Ooh! Edit: It's amazing I never thought, up until now, to consider calling him Teddy. Whoa hey facepalm moment! Abbie did make the acquaintance of another cat named Theodore Roosevelt along the line, however, and that fellow was a bully good cat indeed.

Edited at 2011-12-08 07:24 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:sovay
Date:December 8th, 2011 07:38 am (UTC)
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(This is one of the icons I never use because I made it for a friend, but I think the circumstances require it.)

Both cats still turned out like their original counterparts: Abbie was the boisterous, active one, while Martha was shy and retiring. (Marf was the smarter of the two, however, bless her little pirate heart.)

That is marvelous. (I'd been guessing Young Frankenstein.) Admittedly it's less of a danger when there are cats around, but I'm glad you never told either of them you felt all alone in the world.

It's amazing I never thought, up until now, to consider calling him Teddy. Whoa hey facepalm moment!

It's all right; if your apartment had stairs, you'd have been doomed.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:December 8th, 2011 09:08 am (UTC)
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(I'd been guessing Young Frankenstein.)

Oh, he's been Abbie Normal a few times all right, but enough people have given him enough names to make T.S. Eliot gag. Oh, and that icon is absolutely wonderful. (I was so glad to have both Boris Karloff and a Peter Lorre-esque character in BB1946!)

It's all right; if your apartment had stairs, you'd have been doomed.

We've got stairs now, but even in his old age, with suitable motivation (I'm heading upstairs to bed which means a warm spot on the blanket) he'll treat 'em like San Juan Hill.

Strangely enough, I was just discussing A&OL tonight with ratatosk, and the bugle in particular. When I played Teddy in my senior year of high school (Greatest. Production. Ever.) I was tasked with learning as much of the bugle as I could. It was tough working up the embouchure from nothing at all, but I managed to work up some good loud blats out of the thing. I reasoned that Teddy being Teddy wasn't the best bugle player either, but like T.R. he'd try his damnedest anyway.
[User Picture]
From:sovay
Date:December 8th, 2011 10:01 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and that icon is absolutely wonderful.

Thank you! I made it for teenybuffalo, but I see that she no longer actually lists it among her userpics; so if you would like it on loan, it's yours.

(I was so glad to have both Boris Karloff and a Peter Lorre-esque character in BB1946!)

Arsenic and Old Lace is one of the movies of my childhood; I grew up on a crackly, taped-off-the-television, missing-the-first-five-minutes cassette that I watched nearly into oblivion. I'm sure it screwed me up in ways I haven't even been able to identify, but it also introduced me to Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, Edward Everett Horton, and Frank Capra, so I don't see how any of those can be a bad thing. Seeing it hat-tipped in the show was a delight.

Right: I also need to tell you that my brother's in-laws are pestering him about the Byfar Coffee Syrup I bought for him at this year's broadcast—apparently it vanished as only very delicious things do and he's been asking me (because everyone has been asking him) where it came from. Is it possible to get any more before next Halloween? At least one family in Swampscott would be in your debt.

When I played Teddy in my senior year of high school (Greatest. Production. Ever.)

Lucky. Bastard.

I was tasked with learning as much of the bugle as I could. It was tough working up the embouchure from nothing at all, but I managed to work up some good loud blats out of the thing. I reasoned that Teddy being Teddy wasn't the best bugle player either, but like T.R. he'd try his damnedest anyway.

I really don't use emoticons, and Livejournal doesn't have that little thumbs-up feature, so just imagine a lot of grinning.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:December 9th, 2011 08:18 pm (UTC)
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Arsenic and Old Lace is one of the movies of my childhood; I grew up on a crackly, taped-off-the-television, missing-the-first-five-minutes cassette that I watched nearly into oblivion. I'm sure it screwed me up in ways I haven't even been able to identify, but it also introduced me to Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, Edward Everett Horton, and Frank Capra, so I don't see how any of those can be a bad thing. Seeing it hat-tipped in the show was a delight.

I saw the movie after seeing the stage adaptation and then performing in it, so the watered down punchline "I'm the son of a sea cook!" didn't have quite the punch of the original for me, but it's just one of those Front Page-type incidents where the Hays Office just has to poke its snoot in. The movie is still absolutely wonderful, though, and the acting top notch.

I love the fact that the play had been written as a dark murder scenario, but so overdone that the transition to comedy was very easy.

Right: I also need to tell you that my brother's in-laws are pestering him about the Byfar Coffee Syrup I bought for him at this year's broadcast—apparently it vanished as only very delicious things do and he's been asking me (because everyone has been asking him) where it came from. Is it possible to get any more before next Halloween? At least one family in Swampscott would be in your debt.

Email me. I've got the connections. We can make this happen.

I had more to say about my high school production of A&OL, but parts of it suddenly bloomed into what should be a full-on post. That'll happen when I'm in that writy mood but don't want to do The Important Stuff. Hoorah!

Edited at 2011-12-09 08:19 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:sovay
Date:December 9th, 2011 10:46 pm (UTC)
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so the watered down punchline "I'm the son of a sea cook!" didn't have quite the punch of the original for me, but it's just one of those Front Page-type incidents where the Hays Office just has to poke its snoot in.

Well, yes; and it would have been really aweome if Boris Karloff had gotten the time off to make the film. I still used to go around shouting, "I'm not a cab driver, I'm a coffee pot!"

Email me. I've got the connections. We can make this happen.

Done. Thank you!

That'll happen when I'm in that writy mood but don't want to do The Important Stuff. Hoorah!

I'll look forward to it!
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:December 10th, 2011 08:22 am (UTC)
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Email me. I've got the connections. We can make this happen.

Done. Thank you!


Hmm, haven't seen anything appear yet in the inbox. Try, um, Romeo November Oscar Yankee Echo Sierra at gmail.

Geez, Romeo November makes for a horrible pen name.
[User Picture]
From:sovay
Date:December 10th, 2011 08:43 am (UTC)
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Hmm, haven't seen anything appear yet in the inbox. Try, um, Romeo November Oscar Yankee Echo Sierra at gmail.

Re-tried. I sent the first one to your livejournal e-mail, which was the only address I had for you.

Geez, Romeo November makes for a horrible pen name.

It sounds like the attempted hero of a series of spy novels c. Our Man Flint.

. . . of course, I'm Sierra Tango. This is like a porn-name game. I think I lost.

Edited at 2011-12-10 08:57 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:sovay
Date:December 14th, 2011 12:31 am (UTC)
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If none of my e-mails come through, I suppose you should try me on Facebook. It is the privacy-eradicating wave of the future, but it does seem to work.
[User Picture]
From:zyrya
Date:December 8th, 2011 10:13 am (UTC)
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I thought this post was going to go in a very very bad direction. Oof.

Could Abbie have a bit of arthritis going on? Theodore Roosevelt got pretty stiff after about age 12 and the vet put him on a daily drop of Metacam, which is an anti-inflammatory. It helped him enormously.

Darling Abbie, he takes very good care of you.
[User Picture]
From:wring
Date:December 8th, 2011 10:55 am (UTC)
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good kitty
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:December 8th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
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good kitty
best friend
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From:mmcirvin
Date:December 8th, 2011 02:33 pm (UTC)
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Radka, who is otherwise an excellently-behaved cat, gets very bitey when she's in a playful mood. It usually seems to start out as a signal that she's had enough petting (given without any warning whatsoever after extended purring), but if you don't immediately disengage, she starts biting for the sheer fun of it. I'm trying not to give her the satisfaction, in part because there have been some tear-filled incidents with Jorie.
[User Picture]
From:susskins
Date:December 8th, 2011 05:33 pm (UTC)

Cats

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Miss Rose is a playful biter, if she decides it would be a great game to kill The Hand. But she's always careful to never break the skin, even in the heat of the game.

I love Abbie from afar. Everything you've ever told us about Abbie just makes me love him more.
From:archangelsk
Date:December 8th, 2011 07:12 pm (UTC)
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My late friend Silas, a book store cat, had me well trained. He'd let me come three or four paces into the shop, and then drop whatever he was doing and walk over to the top of the basement stairs — and then he'd stare at me until I came to him. Once I started walking in his direction, he would lead me to an armchair in the basement... he'd stop in front of the chair and look at it, then back to me, until I sat down. I'd look at him and pat my thigh once, saying "Well, come on," and he'd jump up, make biscuits for a while, and then curl into the crook of my elbow and just doze. One time I fell asleep, too, and had to be rousted at closing time. Another time, I stopped to chat at the counter and Silas walked over from his perch at the stairs and began meowing insistently. I looked over at him, and he gave me a head flip, like come on, then.

The thing is, he only did this on Sundays. When I visited the shop on other days, he'd let me pet him, or give me a cursory nudge with his head, but was generally blasé about my presence. On Sunday, though, I was his man.
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From:mybadhairlife
Date:December 8th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
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Alice B. Capone does that "I could totally bite you right now" warning. She doesn't like having her paws touched, despite the fact that I have been regularly clipping her nails since she was old enough not to need her claws for walking. Nevertheless, every single time that I clip her claws, she gently takes my hand or wrist in her mouth and gives me a look that clearly says that further mayhem will occur if I don't cease and desist IMMEDIATELY.
(Deleted comment)
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From:derspatchel
Date:December 9th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
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I love cat agreements, especially in cat language. If Abbie's at the door and wants in, he understands a hiss back means "Not right now" and usually goes away. If he doesn't hear it, he'll scratch the door up so the hiss is pretty emphatic. Not right now and STOP THAT DAMMIT. I consider that an agreement. It's certainly a step up from detente, that's for sure.
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From:chitzk0i
Date:December 9th, 2011 10:41 am (UTC)
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Our cat Jenny has trained us pretty well. She loves to lick fresh water, especially when it's running, so she saunters about outside the bathroom and whenever someone bends down to pet her, she darts into the bathroom and jumps up on the counter.

We started leaving a small saucer of water in the sink for her to drink, thinking she might be satisfied with the freshest, cleanest water. Instead, she will nudge the saucer to spill water out whereupon she tries to catch the water in midair before licking her paw and bit of wetness off the sink.

When someone needs to use the sink, they empty the saucer and set it on the edge of the sink. If you're using the bathroom and she wants water, she'll knock the saucer off into the sink. Oftentimes we humans find it endearing, so we fill up the saucer again and thus she has learned a trick.

Scooter definitely has a plaintive "Pets, please!" meow. If you ignore it, he will reach a paw out to touch your shoulder or elbow, resting his pads on you until you look. I can't help but laugh and pet him, because with his pleading eyes he seems to be saying, "Please, man. It's serious."
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:December 9th, 2011 06:57 pm (UTC)
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Oh, yeah! Cats with water fixations! I've met a few cats who will follow you into the bathroom and demand the tap be turned on. There is no such concept as privacy to a cat unless they're the one being disturbed.
[User Picture]
From:batyatoon
Date:December 9th, 2011 12:52 pm (UTC)
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Aw, Abbie. *pets him*
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From:littlegirltoast
Date:December 12th, 2011 04:14 am (UTC)
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I wrote something last month about how I talk to my cats, but I want to warn you that it is sadder than all hell.

It is here though: old feline animal i said how is tricks (and I bet you know where that title's from)

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