Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Is This Species in Danger?

An Asian Leopard Cat on the floor.  The safest place for it to be I'm coming to think.

I'm very worried about Asian Leopard Cats.  I've never met one you understand, but having lived with Ambrosia, our Bengal cat who is half Asian Leopard Cat, for over 12 months I'm wondering how the pure jungle species has survived.  I mean they live in trees right?  Living in trees requires a certain amount of balance and fitness to ensure you don't fall out of that tree right?  Falling out of trees can't be good for your health, especially if you fall out of them on a regular basis right?

Well, Ambrosia is a klutz.  There's not polite way of saying it.  She is the clumsiest cat I've ever met.  Actually she is the only clumsy cat I've ever met.  That's why I worry about the Asian Leopard Cat.  Everyone of my ordinary moggy cats and the one Rag Doll and two Persians I've owned over the years have been the epitome of grace and balance under pressure.  I even had one tortoiseshell cat who could navigate her way across the kitchen wall,s to impossible to reach otherwise cupboard tops, via the top of the door jam without putting a foot wrong.  All these cats have sat on windowsills, tops of lounge chairs, lounge chair seats and any other surface higher than floor level and manage to stay there for as long as they chose.  When they did decide to leave they gracefully rose to their feet, usually stretched daintilly, and descended to the floor with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of feline fluidity.  Poetry in motion you might say - and nothing less would be expected of a cat.  Ambrosia on the other hand, is incapable of remaining on a raised surface without falling off and as the only difference between her and other cat breeds is her beautiful Asian Leopard Cat heritage, I am inclined to think the jungle cat is in serious jeopardy.

With unwavering klutziness Ambrosia manages to fall off said raised surfaces more times than she manages to stay put.  If Graeme and I are in another room when we hear a loud thud we no longer go to investigate, we just look at each other, nod and say, "Ambrosia," and leave it at that.  Many times during the night after the cats have been put to bed in the bathroom we hear the gentle thud of Ambrosia falling off the side of the tub, top of the litter box cover, windowsill or a slightly raised floor tile.  I've now put the cats' bed inside the bathtub in an effort to encourage her to settle down and stay put in protected safety, but without success.

After many months of observing this un-cat-like behaviour I have come to the conclusion that Ambrosia doesn't take the dimensions of the surface in relation to the dimensions of herself into account.  She insists on rolling, scratching, stretching or any number of other movements guaranteed to send her floorwards, while perched precariously on a narrow surface.  Any other cat could most likely manage to stretch, scratch or whatever on this surface, but you'd think Ambrosia would have twigged by now to the fact that she can't.  I suppose watching Nefertiti manage these manoeuvres over and over again while remaining comfortably stable on the raised surface just makes Ambrosia believe it can be done.  Well, I suppose it can be done.  Nefertiti does it all the time.  Tristan who isn't a great heights loving cat, preferring to stretch out on the floor, can even manage to lie on a lounge chair without falling when to mood takes him.  Ambrosia sees her siblings enjoying high places and believes it's the God given right of cats to be up high.  It is, except for Ambrosia.

One of her favourite spots from which to fall is my old treadle sewing machine in the family room.  The extended table at the side of the sewing machine is large enough to accommodate a number of cats but unfortunately far too small to accommodate Ambrosia.  She stretches out on the extended table and slowly but surely oozes over to the edge as she contorts her little body in all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes while she enjoys the texture of the old wood beneath her.  Without fail she eventually falls off and unlike your normal cat, Ambrosia doesn't land on her feet.  This is another worry about those tree living Asian Leopard Cats.  If they don't land on their feet how can they claim to belong to the cat family?  Once she's sprawled out on the floor she looks up at me with an obvious question on her lips - "What happened?"  You'd think by now, after 18 months of meeting the floor unexpectedly (I'm assuming she had this disability since she took her first steps), she'd know what happened, but it always seems to come as a surprise to Ambrosia.

Ambrosia loves to stretch out on my lap while I'm resting on the lounge with my feet up.  Even though I'm trying to read or sew  I have to keep a wary eye on the Bengal.  She invariably begins to thoroughly enjoy snuggling on my lap and begins to think a tummy rub would just add that extra bit of bliss.  She then begins to roll on her back in the hope that I will pick up on this subtle hint and rub away to her heart's content.  Sadly she always choose to roll towards the edge of the lounge rather than towards the back.  Bits of Ambrosia slip off my lap and slowly but surely she begins to sink towards the floor.  I have to drop my book or needlework quickly and scoop in the drooping bits of the cat.  I've found it easiest to then arrange her on her back and rub her tummy

Just recently Ambrosia has developed an interest in Graeme's morning ablutions.  To observe the male of the house going about his morning routine she needs a good vantage point and what better spot that the bathroom window sill?  As soon as Graeme enters the bathroom Ambrosia follows, skipping ahead and making her way to the window sill.  From here she sits down and watches Graeme carefully.  He begins with a shave.  Ambrosia finds this interesting but not exciting.  She's suspicious of the noise his razor makes so she's happy to keep a good distance between them.  Ambrosia sits quietly and waits for further developments to take place. You can see where this is going can't you?  Once he's shaved for the day, Graeme brushes his teeth.  Once he's bent over the sink Ambrosia moves in for closer inspection and bends over the edge of the sill to get a better look at this strange human behaviour.  It only took one mis-step during her study of the human male morning routine, and before he knew it Graeme had a surprised, prickly footed cat landing on the back of his neck.  Graeme reacted just as we'd expect him to and Ambrosia is now banned from the bathroom while Graeme prepares for the day.  Graeme never gives a pet a second chance.

I've given up worrying that she will cause herself some injury.  I used to race to her side while she was still gathering her dignity about her once again, pick her up and inspect every inch of her little body.  Luckily Ambrosia does share the normal cat's supple body characteristics.  She may not land on her feet, but she still manages to walk away from every landing.  Maybe this is the trick that has helped the Asian Leopard Cat survive in the wild.

Graeme insists that the Asian Leopard Cat is fine and there's no need for me to start a Teach The Asian Leopard Cat Balancing Skills Fund.  He insists that Ambrosia's klutziness is more than likely solely an Ambrosia trait - not a species one.

That can't be right can it?

An Asian Leopard Cat in a tree.  How long before it falls out I worry.