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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 05.13.06
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Conversations with Moe and other tricks

Who says you can't train a cat?

Every night, around 4 a.m., our cat Moe pads upstairs or hops down from the comfy spot he's found wrapped around one of the children's head. Then he comes to my bed and meows to be let outside.

It's a special meow, apparently one only I can hear because no one else in the house responds. Neat trick, eh?

"Meow, meow, meow. Hey, hey, hey. I want out, I want out. Hey."

Sometimes I test him by ignoring him or throwing an alarm clock at him. But he's persistent. He'll knead his claws into the side of the bed - ooo, imagine that sound at 4 a.m.! - or sometimes he'll hop up on the bed and bat me in the forehead with his paw.

Eventually, I reward him by getting up and letting him outside. "Letting," "hurling," what's the difference?

Then I go back to bed and lie awake for the next hour or so thinking about the cat and many, many other things that run through your head as you lie awake at 4 a.m., like the chorus from "Stayin' Alive" over and over and over again.

Moe has also learned how to let himself in. This involves jumping on the door's window screen and clinging there meowing until someone opens the door. It's just like Garfield, except more anatomically correct and disturbing.

I like to keep the cat on his toes so we've removed the screens on the windows. Actually, we had to remove them because they were being torn to shreds. Anyway, now when Moe wants in, he jumps and flings himself against the glass. It's hours of fun for the whole family.

We've also trained Moe to walk our dog Rosie. Well, it's not so much "walk" as "sprint."

Moe tactfully walks into Rosie's line of vision. They both freeze - sort of like "on your mark" - then they make a couple of revving sounds - "get set" - and then, "go," they take off around and around the house, up the stairs and - here's the obstacle course portion of the training - under and sometimes on the kitchen table.

Moe has other tricks too. For example, he can empty his own litter box. This must be so because, even though he goes down to the basement where said box is located, there is never anything in it. Somehow, the cat (who has no opposable thumbs as far as I can see) is scooping out and disposing of his leavings. Incredible! I wish I could say the same of whatever cat is using our backyard garden.

Yes, this is one smart cat. I can even have a conversation with him. For example, he likes to stand at the top of the basement stairs and meow plaintively. It's primitive but I understand he's saying, "Food?" I'll open the basement door and look down to his food bowl, which is usually full.

"You have food, dummy."

"Food? Food?"

"Go see," I coax with a gentle kick.

"Food? Food?"

"For God's sake!" and then I walk down the stairs. He follows closely, weaving himself in between my feet as I walk. I don't always trip. "Food?"

I reach down and give the overflowing food bowl a little jiggle. "See? Food."

He's just being cautious, that's all. Making sure no one's planted, say, dog food in his cat food. Satisfied that there is, in fact, decent untainted food, he stops meowing and chows down. Smart cat.

His best trick, however, is making parasites appear out of thin air. Wow! Where did THAT come from! We celebrate this trick with extensive washing of bed linen and a trip to the vet.

All in all, a pretty special animal. And the things I could tell you about the dog and the hamster. Yup, it turns out there's only one dumb animal in the house.

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