This year, with the varmint invasion at an all time high–from rabbits to squirrels to pack rats to mice to gophers–we put into action tentative plan to acquire a barn cat–a cat of such nature so as not to be a viable adoptable indoor pet.
We have an agility friend with connections in high places at our awesome localish (in the city) shelter, Animal Humane. Okay, very high places. She runs the thing and is also a talented animal yenta. She hooked us up with a reclusive 7-year-old named Calypso whose ability to cope with humanity deteriorated daily during her stay there…and during her transition period here. She fled upon release, disappearing into the arroyo. No one was truly surprised, but it was hard all the same.
In short order, another kitty opportunity cropped up: a fourteen-week old little guy who had made clear his hatred of being handled. We hoped that at this younger age, we could at least gain his understanding that barn = good, people = food.
So home he came, and was immediately christened Mr. McKittypants (don’t judge me). He hissed at everyone who so much as looked at him, no doubt about that. But three immediate observations changed everything about his future:
He hissed, but he recovered. And became curious.
He’s intensely food driven.
He’s intensely social.
Well, not the least bit socialized in training terms, but social. “Where ARRRRE you? Why don’t you come and be in the BARRRRN with me? I can HEARRRRR you in the house!”
Add in the mouse he “dispatched” within 24 hours of his arrival*, and we were in love.
*That is, he thoroughly hunted, smacked around, and delivered killing bites to the already dead mouse I provided from the barn trap, and then he ate it. nom nom nom.
Because he was crated, I had the chance to control our interaction (as much as one can). Within thirty-six hours he learned No Claws. He learned No Teeth. I was able to shape a default behavior–if in doubt, back off a bit and lie down. He is fierce-wicked smart!
But this all put us in a quandary. First of all, he’s too young to be outside on his own right now. Coyotes, y’know. But here we are with the dogs and a household that’s completely and totally not cat-proof. The plan, after all, was for a Barn Cat.
So we’re on a very unexpected journey. Not unlike, I must say, writing a book by the seat of one’s pants. You have an idea where you want to go, but no clear idea how you’re going to get there, or even quite where you’ll end up.
So these are the McKittypants Diaries. If you’re on Facebook, you may have seen them–or not, because…Facebook Timeline Hijinks, amIright? But either way, I’m going to try to collect them here. Because timeline scrolls on, but blog is forever. (Ish.)
And if you’re wondering what this has to do with dogs…let’s just say that when McKittypants (AKA Mickey) came home and I was pondering the things he had to learn (like, no claws and no paws!), I was repeatedly told that my expectations were too high (although my past cats from way back when might have disagreed). Of course, I’ve heard this before, as regards my dogs. “Beagles are stupid/untrainable/too sniffy/what are you THINKING/OMG WHY?”
He’s a cat, people said. He is what he is. And I, a dog person, had unreasonable expectations.
Mr. McKittypants made it out into the yard today! Just in time–the stove guys came early and the rain followed them…
I included the standing picture so you all wouldn’t think he’s one of those cats who has no legs in a harness. Thanks to our early shaping, he now chooses a quiet default “down” position to assess the world when he’s in unfamiliar surrounds. Most wise little kitty!
Mr. McKittypants received a toy yesterday from a friend. Oh yes he did.
Mr. McKittypants would like to share with you all his progress on those plans for world domination. Most recently, walkies out to the agility yard. Next step…inside the fenced back yard without the long line. When I get the nerve.
Now we’re working toward our happily ever after. If McKittypants doesn’t take over the world first!
He most definitely plans to take over the world—or at least your household.
Well, he’s halfway to having the household under his paw, I think. Given that I currently have a LITTERBOX in my KITCHEN, ai yi!
He looks SO much like our Cleo, except her underneath is a bit warmer beige and some of her stripes less marked, esp. on the cheeks. She was an exceptional hunter when younger, taking mice, rats, and small rabbits and eating them quickly and neatly. In very old age (she’s about 20) she hunts only the stupider white-wings that come to our backyard water-for-wildlife. May you have years of pleasure from Mickey.
Cleo has been an amazing cat–I would be so lucky if Mickey does as well!
My household is filled with hounds that are expected to run after whatever moves. Yet we have always had cats as part of our pack. No reason it can’t work, especially with dogs as wise as Beagles and Salukis
It always did work while I was in southwest VA. My dogs would ignore my cats–and adore them–at any distance, whilst instantly leaping up to chase off intruders.
Looks like the kitten I had as a child… I called him Alfred von Sauerkraut… he was an outdoor cat mostly. Only Mama Silver had free house privileges. All her babies were great hunters and knew enough to leave the rabbits, geese, chickens, and baby raccoon alone. They also knew how to stay out of the way of the horses.
Alfred von Sauerkraut…hee hee hee hee!
I am afraid to try a barn cat. Mr McKittypants is gorgeous. My poor deprived cats must stay indoors and one of them is not so fond of the dogs. The other wishes she were a dog!
I’m afraid of the barn cat thing, too. That’s why we were looking to provide a home for a cat who didn’t have indoor options. That didn’t turn out so well for Calypso, but now here’s the opposite end of the spectrum–a wild child who’s actually quite social in his own way. We’re finding our way slowly on this one. If we had a cat-safe house it would be different, but every habit/logistic we have really isn’t. (The cat who lives here is on one room for her own sanity, and is incredibly sedentary.)
My Borzoi pack learned that cats in the house were friends and cuddle toys (not shake toys), while cats outside were off-limits and should be ignored. Each new dog took about a month to learn the rules, but I never lost a cat to one of my own dogs. The Borzois continued to deplete the rabbit/ground squirrel/mole/rat populations, but the cats reigned supreme and untouched within my dog fencing!
Neighborhood dogs outside the fencing, unfortunately, were not so well trained/socialized, and I lost several cats until I decided that all future cats were indoors only, since I was not able to train them to stay inside the fencing (1.5 acres).
Jeanne, I made this same vow some time ago. I honestly don’t know how things will turn out here. The way we’re handling it is to work on introducing him to all the elements of all the choices (!!).
Clearly I need your Borzoi roaming my pasture. (It’s fence-safe for a big dog, just not for my modest Beagle people.)
Maybe I just lucked out with the particular Borzoi I had, but they all were very obedient to Pack Leader/She Who Must Be Obeyed (i.e., ME)!
Thank you SO much Doranna, for taking the time to put a McKittypants blog together! He’s my new Number Two Blogging Favorite (after Connery of course 🙂
Oh! Thank you! What a cool thing to say!