Houdini -- Better to be Smart or Stubborn?

>> Friday, August 7, 2009

Houdini has been pestering me recently to write a blog entry (or 2 or 3) about him. He says it isn't fair that Girl Cat and Big Black Cat get all the attention. I keep telling him, "You're such a silly cat, no one will believe me. Everyone will think I am making you up!" He just purrs at me and stares at me with those big "pet me eyes," which I interpret to mean, "What's your point, Mom?"

Houdini used to be an outdoor "wild" cat. He used to wander out in our yard from the time he was about 12 weeks old, the cutest little thing, popping his head up from below the glass door to say, "Hi there!" Clearly he was used to people and had lived with some people who either let him roam or kicked him out. It was hard to say which, but eventually it became clear that if he ever had a home, he wasn't going back. We had two semi-wild cats of our own living outdoors and he was trying to join their colony. (They needed a home, and we needed some mice protection, so it was a match made in heaven.)

When he got older, we captured him as part of our local TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) program to reduce the wild cat population. We knew he wasn't perfectly wild, because he "talked" all the time to us (still does). "Talking" is a form of interspecies communication that truly feral cats seldom do. However, he was also not very tame. You could pet him ... if you snuck up behind him in his cage and scratched him before he saw you coming. Then he'd snuggle back and love it, but if he saw you coming -- no way! When he was living in our garage, if the door went up even a crack, he went nuts. But, with all the talking he would do, we were afraid the TNR people might not think him "wild" and wouldn't treat him at the feral cat clinic. Well, Houdini fooled them. In he went to the clinic, yowling from time to time, but when they went to take him out of the cage, he peed all over them. "Yep, this one is wild!" they said. That's when I learned that a wild cat is prone to pee on you when it feels threatened. Good to know. (But seriously, I know the stuff smells gross, but is it really a deterrent to a predator? "Stop now, or I'll ... pee.")

We decided Houdini was too wild to find him a real home, even with us. We liked him, but he wanted the outdoors too much. After his vetting, we held him a bit to say goodbye, but he saw freedom and scratched the skin from DH trying to get away. Bye bye, cutie. Have a great life outdoors. Come back and visit! Thanks for the belly scratches! (I mean on us, not you, furball. That was sarcasm.)

Well, another year or so went by, and that big orange cat disappeared, returned, disappeared, and returned. We always recognized him because the TNR people accidentally took a huge piece of his ear when he went in for his ear notch. (They mark vetted cats with a clip of the ear so people can recognize them from a distance.) It looked like he'd found greener pastures and was stopping by only to see if we had better food. Suddenly, though, after a long absence, he showed up again. He looked like Houdini -- big ear clip and all. He sounded like Houdini. But this cat wanted to be FRIENDS! At first it was a few pets in the yard. Then it was a lot of pets on the back step. Then it was, "Can I come inside?" Then it was, "Please, I'll be your best friend if you just let me inside!" Finally, it was, "Just move that leg over one centimeter more, and I can make it!" After chasing him out of the house several times, we gave up. It was easier to let him stay. We always had the intention of finding him a new home, but before too long DH couldn't live without him. Still, we had hope.

See, Houdini and the other kitties didn't exactly see eye to eye. Houdini liked to take a swat at Big Black Cat from time to time, and Girl Cat stalked Houdini within an inch of his life. Part of the problem was that Houdini thought he had to make up some lost time from living outside. He thought every hand was supposed to be petting HIM. If another cat had pets, there he was. If your hand was unoccupied, there he was, butting you with his head to make you work for your cat. Whew! This was one high maintenance cat!

Every once in awhile in those early months, Houdini would get an attack of nerves. He would run and hide somewhere in the house for literally days. I have no idea where he went, but I'm guessing Girl Cat told him we were going to sell him or something. Then he'd creep back out, and the constant begging for pets would begin all over again.

Then Toddler came along, and Houdini saw his chance. I think he was the only cat to figure out that Toddler was, in fact, a real person and not a ball of stinky formula and dirty diapers. He decided almost from the beginning that HE was Toddler's cat. Smart thing, too, because once Toddler fell in love with him, there was no giving Houdini away.

Here is Houdini staking his claim on Toddler.


I've never quite met a cat like Houdini. On the one hand, he is all cat. On the other hand, he is a perfect pet for a small child. He will let Toddler do almost anything to him and purr his way through it. Toddler used to have some therapies he hated doing, and he would cry and scream and kick. Well, wouldn't you know it but Houdini would come up and lean against Toddler and let him cry and kick Houdini all over. What a trooper.

Here he is, being tolerant again.

smaller 4

One thing we can't figure out is whether Houdini knows he's being a pest with this constant "pet me, pet me, pet me" and is too stubborn to care? Or does he do it because he knows we will? Is he stubborn, or smart? Or both? Why don't you take a look at this picture and judge for yourself.



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