My mother once adopted several sick kittens simultaneously, with the hope of nursing them back to health. Unfortunately, only one kitten survived. Based on his rescue and subsequent and successful recovery, this black and white Tom was named Lucky.
Lucky was lucky and he was also very sweet. He wasn’t very smart.
As Lucky entered cat-adulthood, the most blatant sign of his lack of intelligence surfaced when he starting to go exploring downstairs. Like most middle-class homes, our house only had one staircase, which for most of us functioned as an up- and a down-staircase. For Lucky, it was only a down-staircase. He would pithy hop down the stairs, chase spiders, sun himself ,and nap. When he was ready to come back upstairs he would sit by the bottom stair and meow-howl, “Mer -ra-ow.” He’d pitch the “ow” about a fourth higher than the “Mer.”
He was doggedly persistent as only a cat can be. He was also loud. He would meow-howl for however long it took for some human to walk down the stairs and plunk him over their forearm and carry him upstairs. Even if he went right back downstairs, he would not be able to figure out how to get back up, which was curious, because he figured out how to jump up to the top of the refrigerator. If that had been Lucky’s only idiosyncrasy, my Mom probably would have accepted it and not attempted to cure him.
Another of Lucky’s eccentricities was his fear of the dishwasher. He didn’t mind the dog, the vacuum cleaner, the mixer or strangers, but was quite adamant about not being left alone in the kitchen while the dishwasher ran. If one forgot, one would be reminded by frantic meow-howls and door scratchings. So, before the dishwasher could be started, one had to clear the room of the cat. Mom decided to cure him of this peccadillo.
I don’t know what Mom was reading in those days, but it certainly wasn’t Psychology Today. As she formed her desensitization program for the cat, the words “gradual exposure” did not enter her mind. She decided to simply shut the cat in the kitchen as she ran the dishwasher and assumed that by the end of the cycle her dishes would be clean and the cat better adjusted.
Granted, we had a large, pleasant eat-in kitchen with nicely wall-papered (this was the 70’s) walls with pull-down shades covered in the same green wall-paper. Mom figured it wasn’t as if she was locking him in a closet with a vacuum cleaner. He had a lot of room in the kitchen. Luckily, on the day of Lucky’s Better Adjustment, Mom kept a close ear on the proceedings. Within a few minutes the yowling became so frantic that the Better Adjustment Session was called to a halt. As she opened the kitchen door, she was greeted with a cat exiting in a blur and a scene she wished was a blur. Lucky had not tried to adjust better, but had tried desperately to exit the room. He had tired to climb out the windows by way of the shades and in so doing had pulled down every curtain and shredded every shade, wall-paper and all. Then, apparently, though we are only guessing as to the sequence of events, his fears had affected his bowels. Being neat and tidy, he did not soil the floor. Instead he left nearly equal gifts for my mom in each of her four kitchen chairs.
Elapsed time: 5 minutes.
Score: Mom 0; Cat 1.
Lucky never again had to endure being in the kitchen when the dishwasher ran.
© Laura Hedgecock 2009