Old Cats Teach New Tricks

I’m not sure what number life our cat, Daphne, is on now. It depends on how you count them, I suppose. Certainly the time she pushed out the screen from a second story window and landed in our driveway was one. Besides scaring the bejeepers out of us both, she appeared unharmed. (I think she left her bejeepers under the car where she scooted and would not come out until I squeezed under to retrieve her.)

We were pretty sure that we were losing her a year and a half ago when she started having seizures and hiding and lying in her own pee. Having turned down an MRI to confirm what the vet (and neuro specialist) agreed was likely a brain tumor, we started her on Phenobarbital and prednisone.

Now a year later, she is a little wobbly, but she is still light on her feet and otherwise very interactive. In fact, she continues to exhibit behavioral changes which might be attributed to maturing (she’s now 11), or might be nurtured by whatever is going on in her enhanced brain.

It started with the shift from very shy to more outgoing personality. Many people never even met her til last year, when at age ten, she decided to host her own coming of age party, came downstairs to socialize, and has never returned to being an upstairs only cat. This is fun, if a bit challenging for big brother Bobcat, who thought he had established the downstairs as HIS realm.

Lately we’ve seen her cuddled up with the dog on his bench when it’s sunny and the window is open. She even jumped up into the chair that Bobcat was inhabiting. This was astounding, as you can imagine how much room is left on a seat with a 22 pound cat curled up on it. Bob raised his sleepy head in bewilderment, and I thought for a second that Daphne was going to clamber on top and settle in. She thought better and found an adjacent chair.

A month ago I picked up a tub of olives and discovered that the top was not on securely. They covered the kitchen floor, which although a mild annoyance, I thought I was at least spared the added challenge of keeping animals away. They wouldn’t be interested, would they? Daphne came running, and immediately lay down and rolled around in the oil and brine. What?! The dog had turned around, disappointed in the offering and Bob opened an eye, but didn’t budge. The more I tried to move Daphne, the better coverage she got on her fur. Perhaps bath time was coming sooner rather than later (though it did do lovely things for her coat!)

Her latest, and perhaps most delightful trick, is that she has decided she LOVES when we whistle. I evidently sometimes whistle along to music without realizing it, and a couple of weeks ago Daphne came dashing over, meowing enthusiastically and purring. We repeated this a number of times with the same result. Singing is also appreciated, if preceded by the whistling. Also, when my husband first tried, she didn’t react until he used a higher register. She is not particular about song or style or whistle quality. She just cannot get enough and so far has outlasted my whistling every time.

We don’t know how long she will continue to teach us about the evolution of a cat’s mind, but we are in it for as long as she cares to help us learn, for as many lives as she can muster.

By: Meg Stafford

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