Saturday, February 11, 2012

Herding Cats

Something that's been bandied around at my house for years is the following phrase:

Doing x is like herding cats.  It's rarely successful and it annoys the cats.

This saying came to mind earlier this week when Danielle unsuccessfully tried to pet the neighbor's cat.

Our next door neighbor has this absolutely wonderful kitty that lives in our yard.  I feel sorry for her, because she's the sweetest thing, and often tries to sneak into our house when the door is open.  I'd let her in, but FosterEema is deathly allergic.  We never leave food out, knowing where she belongs, but when we are coming or going, I'll often call her over, and give her a scratch.  She responds by bonking her head into my hand, and purring furiously.

The cat has a name, but I almost never call her by her given name.  Instead, I call her Miss Kitty.  She comes just as well to my name as she does to her real one.

For whatever reason, Miss Kitty seems to prefer our yard to her own.  I frequently find her sunning herself on the lawn.  Sometimes, she's in the back yard, other times, she's in the front.  Almost every morning, I hear little kitty feet scampering across our roof.  She walks along the top of the fence between the houses, and leaps onto my garage roof.  She leaves her little kitty paw prints on my cars when they need washing, and pretends to hunt gophers in my yard.

Once, she got trapped in my garage overnight, because she was a little too curious and opted to do some investigating.  I unknowingly locked her in there, after I'd finished my outdoor chores and pulled the garage door shut.

We found her a day later, when the concerned owner's daughter came looking for her.  I hadn't seen the cat in at least a day, but then remembered I'd heard some yowling in the middle of the night.  I opened my garage, and Miss Kitty flew out like her tail was on fire.

Since then, she's opted to stay out of my garage.  It is probably a good thing, as I have an old car stored in there, and it would suck if she jumped in through the window and peed inside.  (Cats have a tendency to pee in cars, I've noticed.  A neighbor's tom cat jumped in the window of my mother's car once and sprayed the dashboard.  In the days before FosterEema, I had an angry cat pee in his carrier, which then leaked out onto the upholstery of then-truck.)

I don't mind Miss Kitty hanging out in my yard.  She isn't a nuisance, though the neighbors reported that the previous owners of my house used to complain bitterly about her.

I don't care.  She's a nice cat, and minds her kitty business.  I only wish she would actually catch the gophers she pretends to hunt.

Earlier this week, Miss Kitty was outside sunning herself on my front lawn, in one of her usual spots.  We were on our way out the door somewhere, and Danielle tried to call Miss Kitty over for some lovin'.

Miss Kitty wasn't having it.

Now in Miss Kitty's defense, Danielle had been having an extremely bad week.  We'd seen lots of yelling, temper tantrums, and emotional instability.  Even though Danielle wasn't having a tantrum at that precise moment, I'm sure Miss Kitty sensed Danielle's unstable internal emotional state and refused to come over.

Our birds do the same thing.  When Danielle is unstable, they won't go near her.  If she forces them, she gets pinched for her trouble, or they will attempt to escape at the earliest possible moment.

Animals know.

So no amount of coaxing that day would convince Miss Kitty to agree to visit Danielle.  Instead of accepting the animal's refusal, she became angry.  Her eyes blazed.  I could tell she was furious.

"Fine, be that way!" she shrieked at the cat, as I asked her to get into the car.

As we drove to our destination, I told Danielle that I understood her disappointment, but that her lack of respect wasn't appropriate.  "Just because you want something, doesn't mean the people and the animals around you are obliged to give it to you." I explained.  "Speaking to Miss Kitty that way was hugely disrespectful."

Danielle sulked.  She seemed to think that Miss Kitty didn't deserve respect because she was only a cat.

I didn't say much more after that.  I just aimed the car towards our destination and shook my head. I was shocked at how angry she became simply because a cat didn't want a petting.


  1. I don't think it's about the cat. It's about the rejection.

  2. I think it's about rejection too. One of the good thing about animals is usually they give unconditional affection even for trauma kids. There are therapy dogs at my eldest daughters school for just that reason.

  3. Having nothing to do with Danielle,but thank you. I have been trying to remember that quote for weeks. I wanted to use it in describing a classroom of 10 toddler boys, one of whom is severely autistic. Fun to watch if you know you can leave at any time.


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