Trip Wired

Dexter

Are you OK? Are the treats OK?

Some cats have no home, Dexter has two. Or he thinks he does. Apart from a chronic runny eye, he appears to be well cared for, but this neighbour’s cat prefers hanging with us. What do we have that they don’t? Could it be our winsome smiles, our winning personalities? Or is it the bag of treats he knows hides in the closet?

We first started using these apparently addictive little morsels as a way to lure him outside. Yes, he’s a perfectly fine feline; it’s just that he’s a Grade A whiner. And it’s not a cute little meow; he flat-out yowls. It’s enough to make your skin crawl. And when we ask him to take it outside, he doesn’t, at least not voluntarily. It’s not that we have trouble understanding what he wants. Oh, we know what he wants. Hence the bribes.

But here’s the thing. When I finally break down and head toward the closet to get the said treats, he races in front of me, serpentining around my feet, like he’s trying to trip me up. Why does he do that? If he succeeds in sending me cart-wheeling to the floor, he’s out of luck with the treats. You’d think he’d realize it would be in his best interests to ensure I arrived at the treasure chest with all limbs fully intact and functional, the better to serve him with. But no. There he is, every time, zig-zagging along the hallway, positioning his body in the exact spot where my foot will land. I’ve nearly done the splits trying to avoid him, and he’s nearly been drop-kicked when I can’t.

And he’s not alone. Cats everywhere do this bob and weave when they want us to follow them. And that, apparently, is exactly what they’re doing. According to some experts, the cat in question wants you to follow him, despite the fact you’re going that way anyway. But just in case you decide to veer in a different direction, he tries to herd you toward his, stubbed toes be damned. It’s his only way to communicate what he wants (when yowling doesn’t work). He can’t exactly say, “Hey Bub, my bowl’s empty, mind getting me a refill?” All cats have is a follow-the-leader tool in their limited belt.

Closet

I’m OK, just a mild concussion. More important, no treats were harmed in the fall.

If it’s not treats a cat wants, it’s that he’s afraid you’re just not that into him. If he’s feeling ignored and underappreciated for all that he brings to your life, he wants to remind you. And he does so by hovering at your feet, which is really what he relates most to, since your tootsies are at his eye level. Or he’ll sprawl across your newspaper while you’re trying to read it, or perch on your laptop while you’re trying to work, or crawl all over you when you’re on the phone. Your kitty is saying: “Hello! A little lovin’ here!”

OK, so I get it. Dexter’s not trying to bump me off for the insurance money. He just wants his treats, and he’s convinced I keep forgetting where they’re kept, here in his second home.

Robin Roberts, Pet Sitters, Dogs, Cats

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