After discovering Inkie pilfering the stack of cat biscuits stored in the back room, we've been careful to lock everything away.
Frustrated by the loss of his secret buffet, our kitten is now on a mission. In the hunt for extra meals, he's turned the house upside-down, upset Target, and inadvertently pulled in Mother Nature to fight on his side, too.
It started with Inkie channelling his inner ninja warrior. To make certain we'd not pulled a fast one, he went into the back room and turned over the stack of recyclable soap and laundry detergent containers. Then he dug about in the rag stack, tossing each item to the floor.
When it was clear there were no bags of crunchies secretted away, he left clean-up to me, and tried another tack.
Every time we walked into the kitchen, Inkie rushed in, stood by his bowl and demanded biscuits. We felt guilty for spoiling his fun, so at first he got extra top-ups. But as we're thinking about his long-term health, and we don't want an over-podgy fluff, we slowly reduced the amount and then started saying no.
Inkie fights dirty because he immediately roped in the big guns. As he sat there, meowing pitifully about being starved to death with only a half dozen meals a day, Tic Tac stepped up, squeaking support.
Our girl is Kryptonite to the little determination we possess. Also, she knows it and plays up to it shamelessly. Aside from the baby meow, she danced prettily on tiptoes, beamed with her enormous blue eyes, and rubbed her fluffy white tail against us.
We were helpless in her sweet toils. Completely routed, I found myself handing over the goods while murmuring, “Don’t tell the other biped, OK? This is between us.” The only thing that saved my pride was that I heard the same plea echoed by Tom.
The best way to change habits is to make tiny changes. I started by switching biscuit barrels, replacing the easy small screw top with a larger flip top. Then I moved the barrel away from the bowls and on to the kitchen counter.
Although it took terrific strength of mind, I also replaced picking up the barrel with picking up the cats and giving them a cuddle. Tic Tac loved it, leaning her chin in my hand and her eyes lengthening as she purred. But Inkie was miffed.
Our tiny Machiavelli took to bouncing into bed in the early hours, purring and headbutting me, demanding a pre-dawn breakfast. At this point, Target got involved.
As senior cat and executive office snoopervisor, our 14-year-old boy spends his day with me. He is on desk duty during office hours, and he sleeps on my pillow at night.
So when Inkie headbutted me, he disturbed Target. Like me, Target is not at his sparkling brightest pre-dawn. While I hid my face and played dead, Target grumped and registered his protest.
But Inkie is more stubborn than curry stains. Our kitten squawked and kept at it. Grumbling, Target got up.
It was a terrible tactical move. I warned him, “Don’t reward Inkie for this. Ignore him.” But Target has never grasped the concept of using behaviourism for training.
Target got up, and encountered Tic Tac who was by the bed, ready to support her naughty playmate. When I refused to engage, Inkie lay down and Tic Tac decided she would go for a stroll on the roof. Still grumpy, Target went with her.
Inkie didn’t give up so we re-ran that little scene all week. It didn’t bother me because it’s against my principles to get up in the middle of the night. Also, each unrewarded meow put me closer to victory.
Another bonus was that Target was enjoying his early roof walks. It’s fresh first thing in the morning and with the tree being close, there’s bird-watching and tupai-stalking too.
It was great, until he got caught in the rain. My poor boy came home, back drenched and paws soggy. When he jumped into bed, rubbing against me and complaining, I went to the rescue with a towel.
Hours later, I came out in a fantabulous rash. My face was red, the skin rough and grazed looking. Horrified, I rinsed, got an icepack and broke out the calamine lotion.
As I have sensitive skin, and various annoying allergies, I wasn’t too worried. I’ve had a few reactions after I’ve been cleaning. But then I realised the house is a tip because I’ve been obsessed about finishing the book I’m writing. Also, the rain had mitigated the pollen.
Petting Target who was providing healing cuddles, I remembered that six o’clock impromptu shower. It occurred to me that he might have carried a spider web on his coat and transferred it to my face when wakening me up. I’ve had some amazing hives after touching webs, so it wasn’t a farfetched notion.
As it turns out, I was half right. The very next day our neighbour brought along Mr Abdul, a knowledgeable tree trimmer. As he pruned and shaped various branches of our big tree, the one the bees love, he also dipped into the roof gutter, removing some yams that were growing there.
Throwing them down, he immediately dived under the garden hose. “Bad leaf,” my neighbour warned me. “It will burn you.”
Bingo. That’s what Target carried back on his coat. I went straight over to check him but happily he’s perfectly OK, as are Tic Tac and Inkie. Thankfully, their fur protects their skin.
But it just goes to show that pitting yourself against a cat is a tricky business. Cutting Inkie off from his self-service cat biscuit buffet has plunged us into a battle of wits, rife with shameless manipulation and cunning countermoves. But I never expected him to harness the power of nature.
I’m totally impressed and I think it deserves a biscuit.
When your cat is up before you
Cats are hugely social and they love to sleep with their humans. However, as they are beautiful predators by nature, they are active at night, especially at dawn and dusk. You can’t fight nature. Therefore, it’s impossible to make your kitty act human. However, you can work with your pet so that your calendars synchronise.
Play with your pets in the morning and in the evening. Ping pong balls, feathers, tunnels, whatever gets your kitty running around is good. Spend at least 20 minutes playing, and then give them a light meal. Add in a supper half an hour before bedtime. Hopefully, your pet will be tired and sleepy.
In addition, encourage your pet to be up and about for an hour in the middle of the day. Cats sleep a lot, but they love spending time with their human family, so aim to go for a walk or to hang out together.
At night, your pet needs a place to sleep. Cats will tell you where they want to be. If you like, you can try and guide them by putting a pillow in a cardboard box, a rug by the bed, or leave a small gap on your bookshelf.
Finally, when your kitty headbutts you or meows to waken you in the middle of the night, don’t reward the behaviour. That means you don’t pet or talk. Teach your cat that when you’re in bed, you’re unavailable. It will take a few weeks, but this gentle training method works.
Above all, never punish your cat. Your pet loves you, and doesn’t think like you. If you yell or hit, you'll only make your pet afraid of you. Gentle consistency is the key to success.
Orked is about a year old, vaccinated and spayed, and has a very cool personality. This beautiful one-eyed wonky girl was rescued from the Botanical Park, KL. She loves cuddles and a little play once in a while. She’s very contented to sit and relax with you while you read or work. She’s a real sweetheart. Orked is in Damansara, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Interested adopters please call or text 012-202 6384.