Sunday, 7 February 2016

Old Cats CAN Learn New Tricks

This adorable, sweet as pie, fluffy wuffy, puddy tat is....a fully fledged, feline fiend and serial attacker !!   truly....  i kid ye not.... he would savagely  chomp on an ankle if you weren't circumspect in your approach and if you prefer your flesh un-flayed.... DON'T TOUCH THE BODY !!!

Of course, like most creatures full of anger and suspicion, he has his reasons for reacting as though Attila The Hun were battering down the gates of his sanctuary whenever a two legged male of our species enters his airspace.   his kittenhood was spent living rough in the concrete alleys of Newcastle's inner city where the young humans were as feral, and considerably more malevolent, than even  he in his fear and rage could be. they considered him a valid vehicle for target practise with stones, fireworks and the random fly tipped debris that furnishes our city's deprived  areas as  universally as  the  kudzu vine in China.   He, in turn, viewed them as vermin to be attacked and neutralised as assiduously as the rats and mice that overran the fetid back yards.

Days were spent sleeping under my fire escape, curled around bones stolen from the local Halal butcher,  like a dragon jealously guarding it's gold.   nights were the usual full-on fight for sustenance, sex and survival that is the unenviable lot of an un-neutered, homeless tom cat. The day he strolled into my yard bleeding from a severed ear, a cleft paw and an infected eye the decision i had been avoiding for months could be postponed no longer....  terminate.... or tame.  

Raising a wild cat is rather like training a child,  decide the battles worth fighting, then be consistent and NEVER give an inch.  not relishing fending off a stealing, scrounging, ravaging felineus i instigated a  veto on slipping him treats from plates, and an all out ban on cake or biscuit. for thirteen years he was a sugar virgin until....  i dropped  a fruit  cake. what a difference a day makes !!  one taste and he became the grasping, intimidating, bully of old, as i feared.   sugar is like cocaine for cats, coming a close second to catnip.

felineus (Latin)  Origin & history

From fēlēs ("cat") + -īneus.

Knowing that the mammalian brain becomes more rigid as it ages, less absorbent sponge, more fibrous loofah, i was prepared for a prolonged battle as his earlier training had to be reinforced and the new, unacceptable, behaviour modified.   "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" played on a loop in my mind  each time a biscuit provoked a Pavlovian response of dribble, drool, and demand.   my opposing mantra became  "nobody is too old to learn".   Either i'm a cat whisperer extraordinaire or the dear little beastie has mellowed with age.... there was no battle, no blood shed, no sucrose rage, simply a week or two of popping him into the bedroom on his own every time there was an attempted scrounge with a firm word and disapproving look.  he hasn't given up, simply changed tactics.   now he sits at a distance and stares.... s t a r e s.... S T A R E S !!!! to induce guilt.   it doesn't work and i can live with it.

So.... it set me thinking.   If this geriatric cat with early year's malnutrition syndrome can be taught new behaviour, us humans have no excuse when it comes to change.   how many times have you heard poor choices or unacceptable  behaviour justified with  "it's just the way i am, i can't change now."   "i'm too long in the tooth to do it differently." "i've always been this way, always will be."  "i've tried to overcome this but i just can't."   not true.   i'm not saying it's easy, i'm saying it's possible.   

There have been many incarnations of jeni over the years, some more exemplary than others.   There have been attitudes and behaviours that fill me with shame when remembered, but also times of triumph  as those less than noble traits  were consigned to the past.   our setbacks aren't failures if we allow them to become a springboard for progression, a spur to action, a challenge to be better.   As we walk through life we have a choice, to allow our flaws and faults to become more and more entrenched with the passing of the years or to turn and face those feral responses, retrain the mind, be more human.... less cat.

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