Know Your Blind Spots

Warning: The following narrative describes acts that may be offensive to many people and may be illegal in some states. Please stop reading now if you are easily offended.

Be Prepared

I was mowing the yard, riding our lawn tractor, when I spotted Scooter the cat spraying the corner of our house. (For those of you who do not know much about cats, "spraying" is a polite way to describe a male cat peeing backwards to mark his territory. You can tell when a cat is "spraying" by his tail, which points straight up and vibrates. Since I was inducted into his inner circle, Scooter has demonstrated his prowess to me hundreds of times. I must admit that I am impressed with the physiology involved in this particular feline behavior, peeing on something behind you.) 

I stopped the lawn tractor to yell at Scooter. Yelling at Scooter has no effect on him, but it makes me feel better. Like most cats, Scooter’s reaction to a verbal command that provides no immediate benefit to him is indifference. I cut the throttle and the lawn mover backfired like a gunshot. Scooter didn’t have time to stop peeing before he started running. Another example of superior feline design — imagine being able to start running while you are peeing and not get it all over yourself. Cats are ready to chase or flee at any time (does CAT stand for Clever Anatomical Tricks?).

Being able to pee on something behind me would have been most useful in my youth. When I was a young teen, one of my friends had a trick that he thought was hilarious. While we walked through the woods, Kent would fall behind me and soon I would feel a strange sensation, warm and wet, on the back of my legs. By the time I would realize what was happening, it was too late. Like many of his friends, I learned that given the opportunity he would pee on you and then roll on the ground laughing. If only I could have peed backwards….

Payback

I woke up from a good night’s sleep and went to the bathroom to answer the call of nature. As I was leaving the bathroom I caught the unmistakable scent of fresh cat scat. I looked on the floor and in all the corners of my bathroom — nothing. I could still smell the bad air. I looked behind the toilet, in the shower, out in the hallway — nothing. The smell was still there. The bad smell seemed to be following me! I looked up at the sink and the countertop — nothing. But something caught my eye when I glanced in the mirror. I turned sideways and, stuck to the back of my t-shirt, was what looked like a small candy bar.

Scooter’s litter box stays in the basement. He conscientiously travels to his litter box whenever the call of nature dictates. Sometimes when he makes a deposit, however, the deposit does not clear completely. When we hear him running up the steps, we know he is probably trying to shake off a residual. We then perform a “cat scan” to identify and prevent subsequent problems. When we are sleeping, we are not aware of Scooter’s activities and thus are unable to protect ourselves with a cat scan.

On this particular morning, I remember Scooter jumping on the bed and snuggling up against my back in the early morning hours. Between that time and my waking up, Scooter transferred his unwanted baggage to the bed, where I rolled on it and it became attached to my nightshirt.

Watch your back

Scooter has been on restriction for more than a year — he lost his freedom to go outside unescorted — for fighting. (To be more accurate, for badly losing a fight requiring extensive medical expenses. Scooter, at 7 pounds and 19 years old, should fight in the super-senior light-weight division, but he chose to fight in the young cat heavy-weight division. Scooter’s forced retirement from fighting has quite negatively affected the revenues of local veterinarians and, apparently, the stock market.) So Ann or I have to take him out and keep an eye on him while he sniffs, sprays, eats grass, and drinks water from the garden hose. When he’s ready to go out, he goes to the kitchen door and yowls as only a Siamese cat can.

Scooter likes to go out soon after sunrise. This is a problem in the summer when the sun rises early because Scooter will yowl and walk on us in bed until someone gets up to take him out. He has learned that the squeaky wheel gets the grease so he will continue to be obnoxious until one of us takes him out. During the day when he wakes up from one of his many naps, he will follow us around yowling until we take him out. When he goes out in the summer, he often wants to take a nap in the driveway, like he did before he was on probation. Now, because watching a cat nap does not improve our productivity, we have to interrupt his nap by picking him up and bringing him in, which aggravates him greatly. Lately, Scooter has been unhappy with us and we’ve been unhappy with him.

A black-and-tan coonhound recently moved into our neighborhood. Ann, Scooter, and I were in the driveway when the coonhound came for his first visit. Scooter ran into the garage but we could see this coonhound is not a cat chaser — cats and coons must not smell alike. The next day Ann was out with Scooter. He was drinking water out of the garden hose when the coonhound came down the driveway. Ann watched as the coonhound walked up behind Scooter and sniffed his butt! Scooter’s hearing and eyesight are on the decline (so are mine) but he sensed something and glanced left and right. He didn’t see the dog!

Finally, Scooter must have felt the dog’s presence because he looked straight back. Seeing a large black hound dog so close behind scared him badly (remember the classic blues song "Hellhound on my Trail"?). That experience changed his disposition and attitude completely. He became quite polite, sweet, and appreciative. Anyone want to borrow a brown-nosed coonhound?

August 4, 2001