The first time I saw what would eventually become our cat, Missy, she was the neighbor’s kitten and she woke me up at 3 a.m. by bellowing at the neighbors door to be let in. I opened my door to see what in the world all that noise was and this adorable, itty-bitty kitten bounded into my apartment. John and I, who were dating at the time, often played with Missy when he was visiting me on the weekends as she was forced to spend much of her young life outside.
When the neighbors moved suddenly, they told me I could keep Missy or “take her back to where they got her.” Needless to say, I decided to keep her with John’s full support.
In the more than two years we’ve had this beautiful tuxedo kitty, we’ve both loved her and believe it or not, learned from her. We’ve also become afraid of her a little because in the last two years it’s become increasingly obvious that this cat is scary smart. As in Animal Farm pig “take over the humans” smart.
Who could be scared of a cat? Especially one that well-behaved, that pretty and that petite? Well, lemme tell ya. Missy has increasingly shown her ability to reason and problem solve.
One example is actually more touching than scary. Ever heard of a seizure dog? They can detect a seizure in its owner before it starts, thus giving its owner time to get to a safe place for the seizure to happen by barking frantically to alert the owner to the oncoming problem. Well, Missy could be called an “attack” cat. Many of you have heard me refer to this mystery illness I’ve had for two years and part of that illness involves what John and I call “attacks.” They are sudden, sharp and agonizingly painful attacks that involve gagging, wretching and well, lots and lots of mind-numbing pain. Sometimes they last a minute or two, but they can last for an hour or more.
We’ve noticed that Missy starts to pay more attention to me in the minutes before the attacks and gets very upset during the attacks. If I’m in a different room from John when one hits, she frantically goes to get him but keeps coming back to get me. I distinctly remember one attack about a year ago when John was behind a closed door and I was in the kitchen. Missy pounded the door with her body over and over and cried loudly until she got John’s attention and he was able to come to my aid.
I’m not the only one she protects when sick. Whenever John is sick, she stays by his side and often gets right under his nose when he’s sleeping on his back in what is an obvious attempt to see if he’s breathing. When Colby, our other, less intelligent but still cuddly and sweet cat, got neutered, Missy stayed by his side for more than a day after the procedure. She even growled at us when we tried to get close to him out of a sense of protection.
Speaking of her and Colby, that’s a whole other area where Missy is incredibly smart. I often say she taught Colby (who we rescued when he was about 3 months old and Missy was about 18 months old) how to be a cat. John related a story to me one day about how Colby didn’t “cover up” after using the litter box one day and Missy growled at him and pounced him. She flipped him, pinned him, then beat him across the head a few times. She then let him up and he ran back to the litter box under Missy’s careful supervision, covered up his “deposit” and then carefully went past Missy to leave the room again. It was only after her inspection of her work that she let him go in peace.
She’s also almost taught Colby to help her open our screen door. Both cats have figured out that any door with door knobs can be opened by turning the knob, but neither has figured out how to accomplish that. Missy has come the closest by realizing she has to get close to the door by standing on something that raises her level with the knob. She also uses both paws to try and turn the knob and we believe that if she was strong enough to pull the door at the same time, she would eventually figure it all out.
But that’s about the door knobs. The screen doors are opened with the standard push lever and Missy knows this. When we leave our front door open, she can be found standing on the futon that is located next to the front door while she pushes the lever. The problem is, she’s never been strong enough or big enough to push the lever and push the door open at the same time. Then we got Colby. He was a “little fella” at 3 pounds when we got him, but he’s now a whopping 15 pound cat that clearly loves his “big sister” (who is nine pounds). We’ve seen them both by the screen door and from their actions, it seems Missy is instructing Colby to throw his weight against the door as she pushes the lever. They’ve succeeded at least once when the door wasn’t shut tightly. I now keep the screen door locked when it’s the main door is open! (Missy may be smart, but I can still outsmart her!)
Here’s the two partners in crime hanging out by their mutual water bowl, probably plotting something.
The front door isn’t the only door that Missy tries to open herself. Sometimes she comes in the bathroom with us during a shower, etc. either to use the litter box, which we keep in the bathroom, or to simply “supervise” our shower. (She literally sits between the shower curtain and the clear liner and watch. It’s disturbing but funny.)
Anyways, Missy will often climb on the hamper and try to open the bathroom door if we’re taking too long. She can’t open the door, so she would start to come bellow at us in the shower. Obviously we don’t stop showering to let the cat out, so she resorted to something else. Apparently, Missy now knows how to turn out lights. She climbs up on the hamper and turns out the light that is above the shower. Not all the lights that are on that panel, just the one that is above the shower. She’s not done this to me yet, but then again I rarely turn that light on. She’s tried this tactic with John, who still doesn’t succumb to her wishes and is just amused at her latest antics.
Another switch-pressing related function she’s learned involves my CPAP machine, which I have to use at night when I sleep to help me breath. She w0uld first jump on the machine to then jump on me to get my attention, but she quickly learned that those bright buttons on top of the machine do something else. They turn the machine OFF, thus waking up mommy when she suddenly stops having assistance breathing. Needless to say, Missy soon started pressing the buttons in the morning to wake me up when she wanted to be fed. I know this because there were times I woke up before normal and watched her threw half open eyes to see what she would do.
Missy is also very good at getting into places. She’s figure out how to get into our closed cabinets and even uses one spare cabinet as a “kitty shelter.” She goes there when she’s scared or wanted to be alone, that is until Colby figured out how to get into the same cabinet. Missy also knows how to open our dresser drawers but thankfully they are too heavy for her to completely push open.
Besides being crafty at getting what she wants, we swear sometimes Missy is trying to drive us crazy or spook us. Recently I noticed that one wedding picture that is on the wall above our main television was crooked. I figured it had accidentally been hung that way but didn’t want to bother John about it so I said nothing. A few minutes later, we were continuing to watch TV when Missy woke up (she sleeps on top of the TV when it’s on) and started staring at the picture. She just stared and stared then did something that was both hysterical and irritating. The crazy cat stood on her hind legs on the TV and proceeded to smack the photo! It was obvious that its crooked placement came from her and she’s been caught several times trying to mess with it, perhaps knock it off the wall?
The last thing I’ll share is something that has gone on for a while and we just recently figured it out. We’ve always known Missy liked to play in or sleep in the bathroom sink but didn’t think much of it beyond that. We’d both noticed recently that the bathroom sink always seemed to be dripping just a little bit, as though the faucet wasn’t shut off tight enough. We both noticed it at different times but equally assumed either the other hadn’t gotten it shut off properly or that the faucet might need landlord attention soon.
That was until John caught Missy in the sink recently. He finally realized that Missy was not only messing with the handles to make the faucet drip, but she was using the water to take a bath! (Aren’t cats supposed to hate water?) Seriously, though. He watched her work her way in various positions under the dripping water and using her tongue to smooth the water over her coat. When she was done, she jumped out of the sink and went on her way (without, of course, turning OFF the water!). We now know that when she becomes mysteriously wet that we need to go check the faucet.
Now if only she could learn to get a job, pay the bills and clean the house!