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Circling Cat

by Vicky Chapman, NSW, Australia


As some of you know, Shmoggleberry was raised in a pokey two bedroom flat. The lounge and the kitchen were really one room, and the bathroom/toilet and the two bedrooms also were only accessible by the lounge. It was small, boring and although Shmoggleberry found many things to entertain himself, things were pretty normal. Well as normal as things can be with a cat, anyway.

After living there for about 8 years, I moved to a large 2 bedroom house. For those of you that have read Surfing Cat, you'll know that it was much larger than the flat, and also had a lino floored kitchen. But I digress.

Unlike the flat, where all the other rooms came off the lounge room, the house had a hall. The two bedrooms, and the bathroom came off to the east of the hall, and the lounge and dining room came off to the west. The kitchen was at the back of the house, joined to the dining room. The lounge and dining room were also linked, so you could either go straight to the dining room from the hallway, or go into the lounge room, and then walk into the dining room through an archway.

Shmoggleberry had not encountered such complicated architecture before. As far as he was concerned, if you went into a room, you came out of it at the same point, which is quite logical, if you think about it. This cat logic also explains why a cat will walk slowly backward if a paper bag is slung over their head - they must have got in there by going forwards, so cat-logic dictates that the way to get "out" is to go backwards, thus compelling them to walk slowly backwards around the room. This sort of kitty behaviour will provide hours of amusement when arriving home at 3am in a rather less-than-sober state. But I digress again.

Anyway, when Shmoggleberry had worked up the courage to come out from under the cupboards where the nasty New-House Monster couldn't see him (his "magic disappearing cat" skills were enough to send me into a panic thinking he had done a runner back to the old place), he set out to rid the house of the New-House Monster by claiming all new territory as his own. First, however, he'd have to strut his stuff a bit, just to establish he really was the alpha-male of the place. (Please don't give the game away to my fiancee).

With as much bravado as a cat can muster, which is quite a bit, Shmoggleberry started show the mean old New-House Monster just who was boss. The whiskers were taught, the back rigid, ears pricked, and the tail was doing a very good impression of a radar antenna. Nothing was going to stop him from regaining total control of the house and its unsuspecting occupants. Nothing, I tell you!

Strut, Strut, Strut. Groom. Strut, Strut. From the kitchen (where the cupboards were the best place to hide from, err, to outsmart the New-House Monster into not seeing him), Shmoggleberry paraded through the dining room, and into the lounge room, where I was watching these kitty display of 'modesty'. Through the lounge door, casually into the hallway, with an aloof air into the bedrooms, with dignity into the bathroom, and with the air of complete superiority as one who has claimed the lot, back into the lounge room.

Hang on, wait a minute, this isn't the lounge room, this is the dining room! Who switched rooms on me? Lets see, I went kitchen-dining room-lounge. Then out from the lounge and into the hall. I went to the bedrooms, and then back in the hall. Hmm. If I went out of the lounge room into the hall then logically I should go back into the lounge room from the hall. But I'm in the dining room. Perhaps I should just groom myself, go to sleep, and everything will be fine. Lick, Lick, ZZZzzz.

Shmoggleberry woke up, and was obviously still in the dining room. Slowly, very slowly, he tentatively walked back into the lounge room, out into the hall and then back into the dining room. Poor thing. You could see him trying to nut it out. He sat there in a serious state of kitty bewilderment, and then bolted over to me for some serious reassurance that he was still the smartest cat on earth.

I assured him he was indeed the Best Cat Ever (as are all cats, according to them). His courage, and his ego, returned, he tried again. Walking in the slow sort of slinking pace that he uses when he's trying to sneak up on The Toes, he tried to catch out the New-House Monster changing the rooms around when he wasn't looking. Alas, the rooms changed yet again and poor Shmoggleberry had no idea what to do. He let out the sort of yelp that usually means that his litter is full, that his kitty-crunch bowl is empty or that the space at the back of the wardrobe has suddenly shrunk- the sort of yelp that means "Hey Can-Opener! I need some assistance here!". He promptly sat, gave himself an intense grooming, and then and gave me The Stare, which also means "Hey Can-Opener! I need some assistance here!", but with an added "what's taking so long?" just in case I missed the yelp the first time.

Cat firmly attached into shoulder blade, I took the first anti-clockwise circuit through the dining room, to the lounge room, out to the hall and then back into the dining room, letting Shmoggleberry sniff the doorways each time. I kept giving him nice skritchings behind the ears, and told him again what a wonderful moggy he was so as to cower the New House Monster into submission. After removing the inevitable cat fur from up my nostrils, my ears, mouth, and ignoring the wonderful grey chest hair that I had suddenly developed, I extracted the cat claws far enough from my scapula so no to cause lasting damage and pulled Shmoggleberry off my shoulder. This was not going to be easy.

To give him his credit, Shmoggleberry didn't do the typical kitty thing and run to the nearest cupboard. Perhaps he needed to "save face" in front of my now hysterically laughing fiancee. Shmoggleberry The Brave was now in charge. After informing the fiancee that he shouldn't laugh at superior being by tattooing "idiot" (in kitty script) into my fiancee's leg - cats always know when you are laughing at them - Shmoggleberry defiantly walked the anti-clockwise circuit: dining room-lounge-hall-dining room.. Again and again he walked around it, showing the new-house-monster (and the fiancee) that nothing could phase him now that he was in control...

At first I thought the cat had come to the realisation that it was he that was moving around, not the rooms, because after about half a day of slow circles (with plenty of snoozes, scratches and trips to the crunchies bowl in between) he seemed satisfied, and settled down for a good sleep, rather than just a cat-nap.

Nothing is quite as simple as it seems. Although Shmoggleberry had figured out that the order of rooms went dining room-lounge room-hall-dining room, he still hadn't quite got a handle on what exactly was happening when he went out into the hallway. How do I know that he's not as smart as he thinks he is? Because a few days later we went through exactly the same thing again - but now Shmoggleberry was trying to go clockwise (lounge-dining room-hall-lounge) with the same deeply befuddled look on his face, letting out the same pathetic yelpings at fairly regular intervals. To save the poor cat's dignity, (and my ears) I decided to keep the door joining the lounge to the hallway firmly shut, so now people only assume that the cat is an idiot, rather than having him demonstrate the fact.

Anyway, Shmoggleberry recovered from trying to figure out the wonders of modern house design. After all, this house had fly screens to climb, curtains to wreck, nice new furniture to claw, and mice to completely ignore. (Please explain to me why a cat will chase absolutely nothing up and down the hall for hours on end in the wee small hours in the morning, but will completely ignore mice.) No time to ponder the mysteries of the universe when any self-respecting cat would be gainfully employed keeping the Can-Opener's favourite chair warm and full of that comforting cat hair she seems to enjoy so much. (Sneezing and wheezing is a sign of appreciation, right?). Absolutely no time at all in between the naps, designated-skritching-times and feeding breaks for much else, really, until The Place Without A Ceiling was discovered. But that's another story again.


Editor's note:

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