Monday, 29 June 2009


As you can see from this snap, children can be extremely deceptive. This one looks practically harmless, not even very pinchy, but believe me you mustn't be lulled too far into a sense of security. The key to whether a child is horrendous or not is largely down to the attitude of its providers. (Note: I have never quite settled on whether a child has providers, as we do, or owners, as dogs do. The ways in which they can manipulate however lead me to the former.)

If a child's providers like you, you have won the first battle. One key here is to remember at all costs not to scratch the face of their child, no matter how much it may deserve it. If you do accidentally (or deliberately) catch the face, or to be truthful any part of the child with a serious claw or tooth, you may as well resign yourself to the outdoor life. This is my experience in any case. The key, therefore, is in speed and volume, rather than in direct violence.

If a child is pulling your tail or holding you in such a way that you would have to physically damage it in order to get away, screech at as high a pitch as you can muster. If a child is chasing you, do this alongside the obvious attempts to flee. On the other side of the paw, if a child is being, by some miracle, gentle and quiet with you, and not stroking you the wrong way, you must become especially pleased - purr like the wind, and roll if you can (always being mindful of the danger of backward stroking, which never fails to get my tail going).
You will find, with any luck, that your screeching will cause the child to be held to account, and nice stroking will bring upon it a shower of praise. Hopefully, in this way, you can be in command of teaching the child how to behave correctly around you.

This is, as I have said, dependent on its providers being at least a little on your side. If they do not seem to be, make a huge fuss at the expense of their child in front of as many people as you can. If the child is in one room, dash from it, screeching, into the next - there's no need to await provocation in this case. Remember, no one wishes to publicly admit that their child is horrendous, and will generally feel obliged to take your part in order to save face.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Endearing yourself - the three basic skills

Occasionally compromising your natural behaviour in order to obtain some personal goal is not to be sneezed at; remember, you are chief both of yourself and your providers, and allowing them to feel soft towards you does not mean relinquishing control. On the contrary, it's you who can switch their hearts to your favour at your own whim. Use the following wisely, however - do not over milk it, or you may find it loses its bite.

Endearing yourself to your providers - in other words behaving in such a way that 'inspires' a reward of some kind - means mastery of preferably all the following skills:

1. The 'eccentric' skill
2. The 'human' skill
3. The 'cute' skill

Please refer to the below snaps for a visual lesson on each of these skills, as demonstrated by the capable paws of yours truly. I shall now endeavor to address them in turn:

1 - The eccentric.

As you see, I am fruitlessly sitting in a box. The key here is to do something strange, pointless and, if possible, out of character. Be warned - this is the skill over which you are most likely to have a provider laugh openly into your whiskers. But the results can be very rewarding: following a short stint in this particular attitude, I was given a good brushing and a jolly good romp with some garden twine - all without my having to leave the sunny warmth of the box.

2 - The human.

This is simple. Have a swipe at doing something like trying to open a door or window (see the charade above), and you could be amazed at the delight caused. Alternatively, think of some other prank that is traditionally carried out by your providers, and not by you. Bizarrely, people tend to think of themselves as cleverer than you are, and it follows that, should they ever see you behaving 'like them', they will assume you to be particularly intelligent or capable of 'learning'.

Once I had gained entry to the above door, I was immediately rewarded for my 'cleverness' with a saucer of unscheduled milk.

3 - The cute.

You will probably find yourself actioning the cute skill without even being aware of it. However, it is more than possible to hone. See snap three - I discovered from a very early age that demanding attention by picking a provider out from a group and gaining paw of their lower trousers made them feel extremely special. As the self-contained, strong headed and clawed individuals that each of us are born to be, it is viewed as a particular privilege for us to give any one provider special attention. And hind leg behaviour, once mastered, makes full use of the 'cute' skill.

For maximum impact, pick someone that is generally disliked. They will immediately find in you an unexpected mate of the spirit, and are bound to offer extended knee time and perhaps even illegal table scraps. What you are saying with the upright patting of the leg is 'I choose you'. Once chosen, they will be veritable butter in your paws.
A single note of caution: be mindful here of claw snag. Getting yourself hitched on when performing this skill undermines the entire operation, and is likely to result in your being regarded as unable to conduct yourself properly in company.

Monday, 20 April 2009


Look at the absurd look in the swine's eye! The way he postures as though he has an ounce of sense! I assure you, the only thing on any dog's mind is how to please, at any cost, their strangely smitten owners.

Yes, owners... there is no nobility among the dog breed, only subservience - they gladly give up their independence and status for the sake of food and to be walked on a leash (can you imagine the humiliation!). For those of you who live with dogs - and you have my extreme sympathy - you will know how readily they will be dominated by us; even - or sometimes especially - when we are very small. Use them as cushions and sample their food if you take a fancy to it, they are bound not to take long term action.

The danger in dogs is indeed not inspired by malice, but on the contrary by a complete lack of brain. They may chase you mindlessly, bark at you relentlessly, and even attack you physically simply through lack of tact and mental direction.

I do not exactly advise you to fear dogs - this would suggest a kind of respect - but instead to fear their general stupidity. Remember, they cannot climb trees and are as a rule less agile than you are, and will always make a tremendous racket when chasing anything (a further sign of their willingness to relinquish skills that were perhaps once natural to them), so you're sure to hear them coming. I wouldn't say either that they were particularly unpredictable. And they are just as likely to chase a stick as to chase you.

However, the sorry fact remains that dogs are equipped with jaws whose power far outweigh their mental capacity, so take care you are not brought into contact with them - not least because you'd be webbed in drool.

Personally, I put my somehow inherent inability to abide dogs down to their fearful smell.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

The troublesome issue of cars

Cars are nasty contraptions. I'm afraid to say I've seen many a cousin fall foul of their weight and speed, and have always stuck to green spaces and avoided grey spaces as a result. All I can really say about that is to advise you to do the same.

However, let's put aside the rather gruelling possibility of being knocked by a car (it's up to you to display some nonce here and remember that arrogance in this area will get you nowhere, or worse) and turn to the business of occasionally having to travel by one. I'm afraid to say I used to make a tremendous fuss as a youth when it came to car travel. The minute I sensed something afoot, I'd first take on terrific speed, then once cornered make myself as heavy and noisy as possible. I'm afraid these tactics didn't much work, and generally made the process somewhere between ten and twenty times worse than it would have been had I remained calm.

In later years however, something came to me. I realised, while on my way to goodness knows where in the car, that travelling by it was in fact not too bad, provided I stayed calm. The vibrations are actually quite soothing, it's generally warm, and you're nearly always treated at the journey's end. I realised, in fact, that the worst part of going by car was first being put - or should I say rammed, more often - into the 'carry basket'.

Argh the basket! This, I now know, is the thing to try and avoid wherever possible.* So here's the trick: if ever you find your providers unpacking the car (this always happens when they go out to fetch pilchards, bags of the stuff must be lugged in), pop into one of the open car doors and have a little lie down in the floor at the front. Now stay there, napping, until you're spotted.**

You will find this: your providers will find this nesting inexplicably adorable, and it will occur to them (hopefully after minimal repetitions of the exercise) that they might 'keep you calm' in the car by letting you travel in this apparently natural fashion, without the use of the heinous basket. Yes, you can still be in control, even in the car! You can make a place for yourself, freely, settle down and use car travel as nap time. You will certainly find that you'll be provided with a blanket, and sometimes regular snacks. Believe me, car travel need not be anything to cringe at. I repeat - it is warm, rocks soothingly and you are sure to be well rewarded for 'good behaviour'.

* I do not pretend that you can avoid the basket on every trip. If you are on your way to the cat doctor, you are almost certain to find yourself shut in, unless you're the kind who can remain calm wrapped in a blanket or similar. I fear I'd lose my wits if anyone tried this on me.

** Don't actually fall asleep. Remain vigilant, otherwise you may be making the car your home for an indefinite period, and you'll find nowhere either to eat or perform your toilet.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The withering eye

I shan't squeal on about this, as you will know the importance of perfecting the withering look of the eye from a very young age - see my snap for one example of a look as disparaging as I could muster.

The withering eye can be used to make a provider check their conscience (if they have been attempting to bully you, for example, or have tried to pass sardines off as pilchards at supper time), or can also be used to stir action when sitting beside an empty bowl or disgraceful toilet tray. Your providers are there to ensure you never suffer the indignity of clearing up after yourself - perfect the withering look of the eye, and you'll find you can spur any required action at a single glance.

If you do suffer anything entirely intolerable, such as no supper or excessive contact with a difficult child - or dog! - try lying completely still in the same place for a day and a night. I think you'll find this inspires the appropriate stroking and treats. Be warned however - do NOT lie still for any longer than this unless you really are feeling dry of the nose, as you may find yourself in the car on your way to undignified prodding.

Light things and hot things

Here I am enjoying putting the finishing touches to my snowcat - to show I'm not a complete whisker in the milk when it comes to shivery outdoor fun, despite my natural love of heat.

As for indoors, heat and light do not necessarily go hand in hand, as I have discovered to my occasional annoyance. You may notice a square box in your territory around which your providers sit (sometimes for baffling hours), suggesting that it offers a glow equivalent to something hot. You'll probably know however that sitting in front of it offers little or no comfort, and you will nearly always be removed. (The light from the box, you should note, moves, and pretending to chase the shadows on it as they flit from one side to the other might win you extra time in front of the thing, but believe me it won't entertain you for long.) Also, the light from the box can be startlingly loud, so unless you suffer deafness, as I do, I'd give the thing a wide tail - except to take advantage of knee time while your dumbstruck providers sit stationary, glaring at the wretched machine.

On the other paw, some hot things do not give light, despite the obvious laws of the sun. Walls, for example, can be very hot indeed. Try lying against them at dark time or in a cold snap, and you may find terrific results. I also advise you to try and get into your providers' beds as much as possible, preferably just as they are falling asleep; they will normally find this annoying to the extreme, and are therefore more likely to succumb to notions of heat in your basket (hot water under-blankets are a good wheeze), just to keep you away. This can be especially effective if you're shedding a lot of fluff, as they're even more likely to do anything to get you out from under their covers (and remember always to make a tremendous fuss if you're simply shut out - this is your territory, not theirs, and they must learn to live by your rules).

The ultimate indoor heat comes, of course, from flames. Flames are the only thing that truly limpify me, and all my guards are down before their warmth - much like when sun basking*. The same outcome is not reached with the small flames you may find on sticks on the table or window sill. These give little heat, and can catch one painfully on the sniff or tail if one investigates. Avoid.

*A cautionary tail: when your guard is down and you are floppy with flame basking, be careful you don't suffer indignities such as being dressed up, or tied all over with string. If you awake to see a black lens or flash before you, move off with extreme caution.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Staying on the knee and instant sleep

Staying on the knee can be a tricky manoeuvre, and one which should be mastered if possible while you are still a tiny. Tinies are far more likely to be allowed long periods on the knee, and with any luck you'll subtly have grown up before your people realise that you've tricked them into letting you dictate knee time. There is no warmer, strokier place than this, so be sure to train your people well not to fidget whilst you're aboard.

A good way to ensure that your knee provider keeps still is to become suddenly alarmed at the slightest movement; the first time your place is rocked beneath you, be ready to jump and cry out, then hold your provider with a sad, steady eye. The eye is critical here. Perform this routine from as young an age as you can manage - preferably while very small - and all being well you will win an immediate ruffle and a future of steady knee time. Remember, if you do find yourself suddenly at the ground in the middle of enjoying the knee, stay very still - or even sway if you can manage it - as though you've sustained a nasty shock. And always give yourself a good shake here before moving unsteadily off.

Needless to say, the minute you find yourself knee bound, you must immediately fall 'asleep' (note the still I snapped of myself above for reference), remembering to roll, stretch or twitch every so often to ensure good stroke time. If you can mumble in your 'sleep', all the better. People have an eccentric attitude towards sleep, as though disturbing it were some kind of terrible evil, and are far less likely to oust you when your peepers are closed. (My providers have absurdly rigid sleep time and become quite irrational when disturbed; mercifully, they project this queerness onto me, so that I only have to curl up and close my eyes, generally, for them to leave me in peace.)

I may come back to this issue of sleep, so keep your ears up.