Forty Three–Onyx and the Drapes
Eventually Onyx came to terms with the mop and pail. He had a lot to learn about the differences between being a barn cat and being a house cat. Eating, and litterbox use the biggest lessons for him. I never would have imagined there was another being out there who ate more voraciously than Bailey—at least not until Lolly brought Onyx home. That little guy ate like every meal was both his first and last meal on earth. He also ate as if his meal were still alive. He would growl, swat and shake his head at his food dish. When he was done with his food dish, he would try to cover it up like one would do in a litterbox (ironically, he never covered anything up in his litterbox!). Often, after he was done with his dish, he would try to wedge himself into my food dish, and even into Bailey’s food dish.
After some discussion Bailey and I both agreed that the sooner this behavior was corrected, the better. Anytime Onyx tried to wedge his way into Bailey’s food, Bailey would let out a mighty growl and snap. Given that many of Bailey’s sharpest teeth had been removed, Onyx was not in any danger—but hopefully he would be startled enough to honour Bailey’s boundaries. As for me, my time as head pet afforded me the opportunity to master the clawless swat. It was both harmless and powerful. The first time I used it on Onyx, he slid half way across the room—not unlike his many mousie toys.
Onyx was not overly amused by our efforts to domesticate him. Bailey’s growl and toothless snap made him screech and cry. My clawless swat had him hissing and growling as he slid like a curling rock across the Grandma Brown’s gleaming kitchen floors. At night, when Lolly came home from school, he would run straight to her howling and complaining about what had happened to him. Lolly would giggle at his frenetic greeting and just nuzzle and cuddle with him until he as a purring mass of jelly.
Onyx, to our surprise, could hold a bit of a grudge. For a few days after our ‘united front against food theft’, Onyx would lie in wait for Bailey and pounce on her nose as she snuffled her way around the house. As for me, Onyx tried to avenge himself by swatting at my tail while I was in the litterbox. Sure it was annoying, but I ignored the little gaffer. After a time, he gave up his efforts to avenge himself, and moved on to other ventures.
Onyx had some natural talents, and one of them was climbing. Sadly, in our house, there were more things a cat shouldn’t climb than climb: chief among them was Grandma Brown’s new draperies. Onyx was a cat on a mission. The more Grandma Brown reprimanded, the more resolved Onyx got. First, she tried scolding, then she tried scruffing and scolding, and when that didn’t work she scruffed, scolded, and gave Onyx a time out in our litterbox room. None of these things worked. Finally Grandma had to resort to the greatest cat behavior modifier known to humans: water spritzing.
Grandma, who was getting quite frustrated with Onyx, left nothing to chance. She added a couple of drops of citrus oil to her water spritzer bottle (ick!), and got stealthy. She would go to great lengths to ensure it looked as if Onyx was completely unsupervised. She let Bailey and me outside, and then she would turn on the television in the kitchen and pretend to be totally distracted by her daily chores. Onyx was no match for the wily Grandma Brown. She knew he was still harboring a grudge from his last “time out”, and would be looking for a way to ‘get even’ with Grandma Brown.
Now, as head pet, it was my responsibility to council Onyx and encourage him against this kind of behavior. I felt, however, that my council might have better impact once that stubborn little jerk got the taste of the citrus-water spritzer. Bailey, still feeling a little sulky over Onyx’s assault on her was also keen to see Onyx get his come-uppance. It was her idea to find a way to watch from outside the living-room window. Bailey reasoned I could easily climb on the tree by the window and look in without anyone noticing. Bailey, on the other paw, would stand back a few paces and observe from a safer distance. Together, we would both enjoy watching our Grandma Brown put that little scruff into his place! I tell ya, for something that wasn’t food, vindication tasted pretty sweet!
I saw the whole thing. First Onyx slinked into the living-room. He sniffed—he looked, and he sniffed a second time. Feeling emboldened by our absence he crawled on his belly towards the curtains. He seemed unaware that the little bell on his collar jingled the whole time he was ‘stalking’ Grandma Brown’s curtains. That little stinker was three tail lengths up Grandma’s blinds when he got the taste of the spritz! It was great! He blinked, he hissed, and he spit. Then, he fell down to the floor with an inglorious thwunk! Onyx couldn’t believe it. He shook his head in shock before he started to run. The funniest part was he bolted across the room, stopped and looked at Grandma Brown a second time as if to say, “I can’t believe you spritzed me!” I laughed so hard I almost fell out of the tree I was sitting in. As for Bailey, well, her tail wagged so fast it was nary a blur.