Regular readers of this blog know that Phoenix has an obsessive/compulsive disorder about cats. This started when he was a baby and we had a lot of farm cats. By the time I realized his prey drive was pretty much out of control where cats were involved, he’d already been practicing some bad behaviors. Well, they were just naughty, not lethal. He chased with an almost religious zeal but he didn’t catch and he didn’t kill. Mostly because he could never focus on just one cat and tried pursuing multiple cats at the same time, which meant none of them were ever in any danger.
Over the last few years, our farm cat population has dwindled. There’s always natural attrition when it comes to semi-feral farm cats and I admit to helping it along when “cat flu” swept through the population last year. A number of infected cats made a one-way trip to the vet.
Now we have only one cat, not counting the neighbor’s cats who bop in and out. Winnie The Cat is my antique cat. She is about 15 years old and looks half that age. She is the ONLY farm cat I have ever had spayed and vaccinated who lived longer than six months after I wrote a big check for their care at the vet’s. While I had tried the responsible spay/neuter/vaccinate route with our farm cats a number of years ago, this seemed to be a death sentence for them. Inevitably, they got hit on the road, caught in engines or just disappeared in short order, taking all my carefully planned and paid for health benefits with them.
As Phoenix has gotten older (notice I did not say “grown up”), he has gotten better about behaving himself around Winnie. I worked hard this summer at “cat desensitization.” Winnie is a good cat for this because she does not run. If you are a malinois, stationary cats are not a great deal of fun. The program consisted mostly of “Look at the cat, get a cookie. Sniff the cat, get a cookie. Co-exist peacefully in the same sphere of existence with a cat, get a cookie.”
By this fall, Phoenix could actually be loose in the garage with Winnie and not engage in OCD behavior, which included, but was not limited to: active pursuit, muzzle punching or squishing (squashing her to the ground with a paw.) In fact, he occasionally seemed to go out of his way to avoid her. He spent a lot of time following me around, looking for a cookie. I was delighted. (I was also under no illusion that this behavior was transfer to other cats.) When Winnie was in a mood, she would rub against both dogs and try to wash their faces. Phoenix took a dim view of this and would flee rather than be subjected to cat indignities.
Last weekend, I was putting stuff in the van to go to an agility trial. Phoenix and Jamie were in the garage. Winnie was in the garage. I called Phoenix to put him in his crate. He didn’t come. I looked all around the van. No Phoenix. I looked under the big grain truck that is parked next to my van. No Phoenix.
Then I found him. There is a stack of four old pickup tires from 1982 (because you never know when you might need four bald tires), topped with a sheet of plywood. This is where I put Winnie’s food and water dishes. It keeps them out of the way of errant dogs running through the garage and they’re within easy leaping distance from her cat box atop a nearby old wooden telephone cable spool.
Phoenix was balanced atop the plywood sheet, which was wobbling precariously atop the tires. The whole thing had been engineered for a seven-pound cat, not a 55-pound dog. To make matters worse, Winnie had joined Phoenix and was lovingly rubbing around his legs and belly. She was trying to reach his face to wash it. Phoenix had his head stretched as high as he could, to avoid her, and the look on her face clearly said, “MAKE HER STOP IT!” I suspect he went up there in the first place to get away from her and she followed him.
Poor Phoenix. Paybacks are hell.