Izzie-4: Hey…It’s Water!

It’s hard to adapt to things and circumstances you have not witnessed before. Imagine the wonder of a native from the jungles of the Amazon being dropped off in the middle of one of our large cities. It would be overwhelming. Those same feelings must also apply to dogs, cats, and other animals when they are abruptly removed from their homes and placed in new surroundings. They must be terror-stricken and have no idea of what to do, what to eat, or how to react to the objects or circumstances they encounter.

Our kitty, Isabella, was given to us when she was five years old. She had been an “inside” cat all her life and had no idea of how to protect herself from traffic or coyotes or a myriad of other things she might meet up with. We could see that she was dying to get outside and experience the world so we bought a harness and a leash and started walking her outside.

We thought it was funny when we would bring Izzie in from the outdoors and as soon as the harness was off she would run for her litter box. She didn’t know that she could go potty outdoors! As I became more sensitive to these kinds of knowledge I began to realize how much she had to learn and that I had better get tuned in so that I could help her.

The lawn sprinklers go off at daybreak three times a week and always make a couple of puddles on the sidewalk. When we are out for our walks Izzie always walks right through them with no concern. The other morning we came upon a puddle and she stopped and stared at it. I thought perhaps she didn’t want to get her feet wet so I just waited for her to make up her mind. After looking at the water for a few seconds, she performed the classic “wipe on, wipe off” maneuver from the Karate Kid movie. She stirred the water with her right front paw and then did the same with her left. Then she lapped up a couple of drops of water and licked her lips. I guess everything was satisfactory because she then bent down and drank her fill. I realized that I had just witnessed an “aha” or “Eureka” moment. “The stuff in that puddle is the same as the stuff in my bowl in the house!” After getting her drink, she sat back on her haunches and licked her lips, then got up and walked through the puddle and has never again had a drink outside.

Dave Thomas
May 17, 2012

IZZIE-9 Tucker-Inner

Cats like to have order in their lives. They establish routines that are meaningful to them and they expect the rest of us to honor them as well. To keep their routines running smoothly they assign tasks to each of us and expect us to execute these jobs on demand. For instance, Pat and I have jobs that were assigned to us by our cat, Isabella. We can both feed her and take her for walks outside and share in some of the other mundane responsibilities but we do have our primary chores. Pat is responsible for combing Izzie 2 or 3 times a day and is also the designated player in games like Hide and Seek and Chase. I’ll discuss these items another time. Right now, I’d like to tell you about my job as “tucker-inner” and how that developed and how it works today.

Izzie was more than 5 years old when we got her. Before she came to us, she had been living in a in a pet motel which is basically just a bunch of cages. She only weighed 2 pounds. We figured that after being in that place for 3 months without love or stimulation she was no longer cared about eating and would soon pass away. As you can imagine, her psyche was in bad shape when she came to us.

We didn’t know where Izzie was going to sleep and until she became familiar with the house, she didn’t either. We made it a habit, every night, to find her and know where she was sleeping so we wouldn’t step on her in the dark. When we found her, she would usually raise her head so we would scratch her ears and rub the bridge of her nose and tell her “good night.” Quite often, Pat would be busy doing chores so I was the one petting her at bed-time. If I wasn’t paying attention she would meow or attract my attention some way and let me know it was time for bed.

To be a good cat person, you have to be alert because their signals are usually pretty subtle. Cats normally become scared if you look them in the eye so they avoid staring at you. They only look directly at you if they want something.

It has become my responsibility to see that Izzie is “tucked in” every night. She has established the routine that we pretty much adhere to. During the period of Daylight Savings Time, Izzie goes to bed about 8:30 in the evening. After we “fall back” to Pacific Standard Time, she goes at 7:30. She starts the routine by going to the kitchen for a light snack. Then, after a drink of water, she sets in the kitchen doorway and looks out into the living room while she washes up. Next, there is a trip to the litter box to take care of business and then a return to the living room where she sits back on her haunches and stares at me. I have to be on the ball and recognize that she is telling me it is her bed time. If I ignore her because I’m interested in the TV or something, she’ll wait for a while and then go on to bed.

If I’m alert, I’ll get “the look” and jump up and start toward her. As soon as she sees me coming she’ll turn around and start down the hall for whatever sleeping place she has chosen. She will usually walk 5 or 6 feet and then look back over her shoulder to see if I’m coming. She normally does this a couple of times until we get to our destination. (She probably thinks that having limited intelligence, I’ll wander off and get lost.)

When we arrive at the designated sleeping place, she stops and looks up at me. Then, I scratch her ears and forehead and rub the bridge of her nose. Then, she turns 180 degrees and takes a step so she is in position to have her back stroked. After 3 or 4 strokes, she reverses and we do the ears and nose again. Usually we repeat this 3 times and then she lies down. At this point, I pet her a couple more times and say “good night”. She’s tucked in.

This sounds complicated, doesn’t it? It’s what Izzie has worked out over the years and I just do whatever makes her happy.

Dave Thomas
December 20, 2014


Izzie-1: World Champ

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No. 1: World Champion


“The Cat That Caught 14 Lizards and 1 Mouse While In Harness And Attached to A 5 Foot Leash!”

Since the year has come to a close I’m declaring my cat, Isabella, to be World Champion and Title Holder for the year 2011. The title is: “The Only Cat Who Caught 14 Lizards and 1 Mouse While Harnessed up and Attached to a 5 Foot Leash!”

I know that a little background information is necessary so I’ll provide it now. Two years ago, our daughter, Terri, got a call from a lady realtor she knows. The woman explained that she had sold a new condo to a man who was a cat lover. The problem was that he had four cats and the Homeowners Association only allowed three. The man picked his youngest cat, a five year old and placed her in a Pet Motel where she had been languishing for three months while he tried to find her a new home. This was getting expensive so he decided to give it one more try before he gave up and took the cat to the pound. He called his realtor and she called our daughter who then called us. Our cat had died two years before and we didn’t really want another but this story was so compelling we agreed to take Isabella.

The owner showed up the next day with Isabella in a brand new carrier with a soft blanket in the bottom, a sack of the expensive nutritional canned cat food, and Izzie’s medical records. He gave us the cat and the other items and you could see it was breaking his heart. He explained that he had found Izzie in a cardboard box in the parking lot of his former home and had taken her in and she had been an “inside” cat ever since. He cautioned us to never let her get out of the house because she wouldn’t understand traffic or coyotes or any of the other dangerous things to be found out there.

Soon after we got Izzie we saw that she really wanted to get outside and explore. We talked about it and decided we should get a harness and leash and try to train her to walk with us. We went to the pet store and lo and behold, discovered that cat harnesses are a common item. We bought an attractive red harness and leash set and headed for home to try it out. We thought that the best way to train Izzie would be to use the same routine each time so she could memorize the steps involved. I selected one of the reclining chairs that I would use every time and determined that I would always sit down and place Izzie on my legs and facing away from me while I attached the harness. It turned out that the surprise was on me! I placed Izzie in position on my legs and she stood there stiff-legged and quiet while I latched the two snaps and attached the swivel. When I completed the tasks, I said “okay” and she took that as her cue to jump down and head for the door. That first time, she seemed to know exactly what we were doing and she performed the drill perfectly and has done so ever since. What a cat!
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Our first walk was exciting. Izzie checked out every inch of our property with all senses on full alert. I’m sure that she memorized every sight, sound, and smell in the yard. You could see that her eyes and ears were constantly moving and that her nose twitched full time as she acquired information for her memory bank. You’ll see how she used this information as we get into her hunting stories.

Izzie’s first lizard catch came as quite a surprise to me. We were walking in the grass, along side the hedge. Izzie was in her customary position, about two steps in front of my right leg. She was looking at everything but I was just gazing at the blue sky and some puffy white clouds. All of a sudden…WHAMMO! The leash was almost jerked out of my hand as Izzie dived under a bush. She backed out from under the bush with a lizard in her mouth

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which she dropped at my feet and then looked up at me with such a proud look on her face. I told her what a great hunter she was and continued to praise her as she stood guard over her prize. Every time the lizard moved she would put her paw on it and hold it until it quit wiggling. I finally picked Izzie up and carried her away before she killed the lizard.

Most of the lizard catches went the same way. If the lizard was smart it would play possum after she dropped it and she would get bored and turn away and the lizard could escape. I didn’t interfere until she had learned everything possible from the experience.

Izzie caught two lizards while Pat was walking her. The first catch was on the patio and she simply outran it. The second catch was much more impressive and gave more of an indication of how her mind was developing. Pat and Izzie were walking on the grass next to the hedge when all of a sudden Izzie lunged. Pat was able to see a lizard running under a bush and it was just out of reach. Izzie was still lunging and trying to get to the lizard but was at the end of the leash. The lizard ran to a bush and scampered up the trunk and into the lower branches. Pat and Izzie got closer as the lizard was climbing higher in the bush. As Izzie got to a spot under the lizard she tried to go for it but the branches were too dense and she couldn’t reach it. She settled back on her haunches, keeping her eyes on the lizard. All of a sudden, she jumped up and grabbed the lower branches with her two front paws and started shaking the branches vigorously. It wasn’t long until the lizard dropped to the ground and she grabbed it with her teeth. She solved her problem, grabbed her prize, and then proudly dropped it at Pat’s feet.

Sometimes Izzie wants to stay out in the back yard for a while so we stake her out and then check on her every 10 or 15 minutes. Again, her leash is only five feet long but that doesn’t deter a mighty hunter like her. She’ll lay there for 30 minutes without moving until some dumb lizard wanders into range and then, like a lightning strike, it’s all over. Once she’s done the deed, she makes that throaty “kill” sound like all cats make and we go get the lizard before she tries to eat it. I made the mistake of letting her eat one and she had a stomach ache for two days.

Okay, I’ve saved the best story ‘til last. We’ve got a sidewalk that runs clear across the back of the house and across the north side and is right up against the footing. From the sliding glass patio door around to that diagonal corner of the house it’s probably 90 or 100 feet. One fine morning, Izzie and I came through the patio door and stepped down on the patio. As her feet hit the ground, she froze for an instant and then took off down the sidewalk as fast as she could go with me struggling to keep up with her. The amount of power a little old cat can generate is astounding! I felt like she was dragging me all the way! We got to the end of the house and she slid around the corner with her claws scratching the concrete and immediately regained her speed. I’m trying to stay on my feet as we race to the other end and she doesn’t seem to notice that she is dragging me behind her. We get to the other end and she zips past the trash cans and sticks her nose up into the corner of the fence. She pulls back out of there and she’s got a lizard in her mouth! All I can say as I try to catch my breath is “what the heck?”   I still can’t believe it. That lizard was probably 100 feet away, around a corner, and climbing a wooden fence, and she knew exactly where it was! Amazing!

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This concludes my justification of the superior ability of Isabella and I am proclaiming that she is “The Only Cat Who Caught 14 Lizards And 1 Mouse While Harnessed Up And Attached To A 5 Foot Leash!”

Dave Thomas
May 16, 2012

The Black Cat

This one was probably 45 or 50 years ago, when the kids were young. We all liked cats and had several of them. Also, it seemed that when anyone dumped a cat in the neighborhood it ended up at our house.

One day, this young, black tomcat showed up. He had a beautiful, shiny, black coat and a sunny disposition as well. He seemed very smart and loved to be held and petted. We took him in and thought that since we already had too many cats we should try to find a home for him.

Over the next few days we all enjoyed having this guy around but discovered that when it was time for a bowel movement he would always do his job in the fireplace rather than the litter box. We kept our eyes open and if any of us spotted him heading for the fireplace we would grab him and deposit in the litter box. We tried for several days to teach him, but it just wasnt working. That settled it, and we decided there was no way we could keep him. He had to go.

Soon after, Pat was at work and one of the men said that his wife and kids were bugging him to get a kitten. Pat says Weve got a beautiful young male, only a few months old that was dropped off in our neighborhood. Hes got a beautiful black coat and loves kids and loves lots of attention.Her co-worker says he sounds perfect and Id like to have him.So, the next day, Pat takes the cat to work and gives him to the guy. A few days later, she sees the guy and asks him how the cat is doing. Oh, he says, hes such a beautiful cat and we all just love him!Then, he says, There is one thing…” Pat tries to look cool and unknowing as she asks What would that be?” “Well, says the guy, we cant keep him from crapping in the fireplace!

Dave Thomas
`July 13, 2014