Friday, May 14, 2010

The Spray Bottle - The Natural Enemy of the Cat

Things have become desperate here. Drastic action has had to be taken and Ambrosia is going to have a very damp time of it for a while. Nefertiti will most likely come in for some squirts too, but I doubt it will take long for her to learn her lesson and remain floor-bound from now on.

You see, Ambrosia is a jumper upper on tables, benches and bookcases. Worse still she is developing into a climber of shear surfaces. Any rock climber would be proud to have Ambrosia on his or her crew. She can climb surfaces that would leave just about anyone one else, not of the insect world, baffled.  I have had cause to mention Ambrosia's, and to a lesser extent, Nefertiti's bad habit of stealing my sewing tools (see ).  Ambrosia has now branched out to kitchen items, food left out and any other object not actually nailed or glued down.  Nefertiti is led astray very easily and not being as fleet of foot as Ambrosia, is often the only one left at the scene of the crime to take the blame.

Ambrosia's predilection to jump up on flat surfaces began almost as soon as she settled into her new home on Spring Rock. At first a stern word from either myself, or an ever sterner word from Graeme was enough to make her feel abashed and have here heading floor-ward once again with a guilty look on her pretty face. There she would slink away and turn up somewhere where the guilty expression had changed to an innocent one that clearly said, “What? I’ve been here all the time. It must have been my wicked twin”

I have been lucky in my more than 50 years of cat owning (I’ve owned cats since the day I was born).  Only once before in all that time have I owned an inveterate jumper upper on tables and benches. This cat was one of the cats I tried to hide in the kitchen cupboard of the flat we were renting (see ).  I found him just two weeks before we were due to leave the flat and move to the Southern Highlands to take up residence in the very first house we’d owned. He was skinny, dirty, very smelly and owing to a street cleaner truck catching him unawares, very, very wet. I found him on the artist Michelangelo’s birthday so of course named him Michelangelo. A very grand name for a very bedraggled cat.

Michelangelo couldn’t believe his luck. From the cold streets of Cabramatta where scraps were few and street cleaning trucks plenty, to a home with walls, ceilings, a heater and food to be had simply by jumping up on the table and helping oneself  – life was definitely looking up. I put my taking in the stray down to the excitement of having my own land around me and being able to reclaim Christie, my pinto pony and fill the acre and three bedroom house with pets. Graeme put it down to a moment of madness on my part. He was to learn as the years passed that if a stray and I were to encounter each other, and Graeme wasn’t there to hold me back, the stray soon became a member of our family.

At the time I already had three cats in residence. Three beautifully behaved ladylike cats who wouldn’t jump on a table or bench top to save their lives. Sapphire, Topaz and Ophelia were often left inside while I had some sort of food thawing out or cooling down on the kitchen bench top. It never occurred to me that any one of them might be a thief and all three deserved the trust I placed in them. Michelangelo took the first opportunity to hunt down a chicken I was thawing out the day after he arrived. He then had a quiet talk to the girls and showed them just how easy it was to claim their own food in a similar way.

The girls were easily convinced to go back to their angelic ways – they felt a bit guilty stealing food, no matter what Michelangelo said about “to the hunter go the spoils”. It just wasn’t worth the stern words and slightly smacked bottom they received when I caught them. (The smack was much more of an indignity than painful.) Of course, once Michelangelo had brought the captured bounty to the floor, the girls had no prick of conscience and tucked in with gusto. Michelangelo on the other hand, who never forgot the lean years continued to be untrustworthy around food. I ended up re-training myself rather than the cat. No food was left out, things were thawed in the turned off oven and the spoils the hunter acquired became virtually no-existent. That was all back in the 1970’s. Michelangelo has long been just a wonderful memory and many cats have lived and sadly died with me since.

As the years went on, I forgot about jumping cats and slowly food began being left out for various reasons. Then along came Ambrosia. Ambrosia has no excuse for thieving. Unlike Michelangelo, she has never known a hungry day. The worst that has happened to Ambrosia is that she may have gone to the dry cat food bowl only to find it empty and had to find me and demand it be filled.

Sadly, removing all food had no effect on Ambrosia’s climbing ambitions. In a house where food in no longer left out she is reduced to jumping up to knock over vases, attack the dried flower arrangements in them, bat ornaments off shelves to see what happens when they hit the floor and of course, that old standard, stealing quilting tools. She climbs vertical surfaces of kitchen cabinets and linen cupboard shelves. Yesterday she hit a personal best in climbing (possibly a cat world record, but I don’t have the details to hand to claim that record as yet). She began the day by climbing onto the bathroom window sill (about six feet off the ground), knocking over the little vase on the vanity on her way down. She then moved into the kitchen, climbed the vertical cliff that is the kitchen cabinets (don’t ask me how I wasn’t there to witness the beginning of this event, just the disastrous consequences), arrived at the top of the cupboards and knocked off one of my decorative tea pots, smashing the teapot I actually use that was sitting on the bench below and chipping a bit off the spout of the decorative, handmade pottery one. She also sent egg cartons (empty thankfully) and a wire chook flying across the room. By the time I rushed to the kitchen to investigate the racket Ambrosia was nowhere to be seen.  She still continues to deny any involvement in the mayhem. Nefertiti was sitting on my lap at the time, so has an iron clad alibi and there were no other pets in the house at the time, no matter what Ambrosia says about seeing ferrets in the kitchen. Ambrosia also suggests that a very localised earth quake (just over the cabinets) must be responsible. From the kitchen she moved to the hall, and finding the linen cupboard door not completely closed, climbed to the very top shelf, right up there near the ceiling and proceeded to move to the back of the shelf, knocking aside the boxes and paraphernalia that we store up there. These of course came crashing down to the floor, once again bringing me hot foot to the scene of the crime. Ambrosia had a hard time denying this one because when I arrived she was standing on the top shelf, looking down at her handiwork.

Later, I moved to the bedroom to have my much needed afternoon lie down and Ambrosia and Nefertiti followed as usual. Nefertiti settled down on my stomach as usual but Ambrosia kept busy finding as much mischief as the bedroom could provide. And the bedroom could provide a surprising amount of mischief for one little determined cat! I spent the first half of my rest jumping up and saving various items around the room, removing an indignant Bengal cat from behind owl collections, on top of a stack of books, inside my cupboard (if she can get a paw in she can slide the door open) and being stuck between the bed head and the wall. Nefertiti joined in the fun after just a short time of watching Ambrosia’s determined effort to reduce the room to rubble. I ended up putting them on their bed in the bathroom and closing the door on them. This wasn’t the end of the trouble though. From time to time I’d hear a muted bang or other noise that needed investigating. I finally decided that there was nothing in there that they could damage and went back to reading my book and ignoring the sounds emanating from the bathroom.

I am now taking action. I have placed three spray bottles around the house in strategic spots, ready to be brought into action whenever needed. Ambrosia first encountered the spray bottle when it was looking decidedly innocent - just sitting on my sewing table minding its own business. Ambrosia decided it was harmless enough and returned to her nefarious ways. She soon found out the purpose of this little bottle.

As of this moment Ambrosia has experienced the effects of being squirted with a stream of water and she doesn’t like it. Unfortunately she has shown no signs of ceasing her dastardly jumping and climbing habits, but I live in hope. Stealth is the supreme weapon in this war. If she sees or hears me coming she is down off whatever piece of furniture she shouldn’t be on and streaking off to hide elsewhere until the spray bottle once again returns to its dormant state.

Now all I have to do is train Graeme in the art of stealth squirting. 

Note the alert expression – ready to flee at the first sign the bottle is about to start something.


Ozjane said...

I just hope she does not find out that it is a bottle that Mummy will squirt in your mouth....
It takes a bit away from the fear of it all when it sits on your lap and drinks from it.
But we do know that they squirt water but then...that is just something to link.
And madam moggie usually a good cat was sitting by the fire when I covered my 1/4 bread roll with meat on it with a napkin and took a visitor to the train. Came home and all looked perfect.....till I lifted the napkin. Houdini had struck.
Vinegar in the bottles is meant to make them more effective.....ha
good luck.

Rosemary said...

Bengal cats love water, so I added the vinegar to make it less water like. Ambrosia isn't at all impressed with water delivered by a squirt! She's a suborn little madam so I am prepared for a long battle. Sadly, I'm not betting on me to win.

Dorie said...

Such a lovely kitty! We used to have a Jack Russell terrier who defied gravity. Once she got up on the table and devoured a whole platter of deviled eggs- and then looked at me like, "What? They were mine, right?"

paula m said...

So the battle has been on-going for a couple of weeks now. Any sign of victory...for either side? My money is on the cat.