A Tale of a Cat and a Bell

At our house, we consider bird watching from our deck an Olympic sport.    We maximize  the conditions at our bird feeders with sunflower seeds, niger thistle, suet bars and poultry scratch.  When the baby wild turkeys arrive, we flood an area so they will have a place to wade and cool off in the heat.  We host a remarkable variety of avian friends.  Imagine our horror when our cat, Emmie Lou, stunned a slow moving house finch by catching it between her jaws.  Efforts were made to save the unfortunate bird, to no avail.

So we decided that Emmie Lou's instincts must be reined in.  We had watched her for months hide in the weeds nearby waiting for the right opportunity.  A few times she leapt at the wild turkeys, but they merely did a cursory sidestep to avoid her sailing by, paws outstretched.  

I went to the pet store and found a pink collar dotted with tiny turquoise stars with a pink bell attached.  There were many similar collars to choose from, so I figured that lots of people use this strategy with their hunting cats.  Our cat happens to be a bit "sensitive" so we knew it would be tricky attaching the collar around her neck.

Steve donned his protective gloves and waited for just the right moment to snap the collar around the unsuspecting feline's neck (although by nature, cats are never truly unsuspecting).  When she took a step, a strange jingling sound followed very close behind her.  The faster she moved the more boisterously the noise resounded in her ears.  In two bounds she was up a flight of stairs.  She would not come near us or even speak to us for two days.

Immediately we realized the error of our ways.  We were interfering with nature by feeding the birds in the first place, then trying to prevent a cat from doing what comes naturally--stalking innocent creatures. It had taken Emmie Lou four years to learn to sit in someone's lap for more than two minutes.  She would allow petting without strafing us on her terms.  This had always been an edgy cat.

The goal changed.  How were we going to get this collar off  if she never approached us again?  Emmie Lou was convinced that she had a jangling ghost sitting on her shoulder.  She no longer strolled as before, but dashed and leapt as though banshees were on her tail.  Our efforts to summon her with our high pitched cat reassuring voices only drove her further afield.  At one point I was prone in the dirt trying to snag her from under the truck.  It didn't work.

The basic tenet of cat psychology is....don't try so hard.  Our well meaning efforts to detach the offending collar had been spurned, so we decided to wait.

Emmie Lou, like all  of us, is a creature of habit.  All things being normal, while Steve and I watch tv in the evening, she visits us insisting that we reach out at arm's length & pet her.  She then allows Steve to scoop her up and will sit in his lap for up to ten minutes until an inner directive causes her to spring down to the floor.  We no longer drink from regular drinking glasses, only bottles, because she is compelled to drink from any open container.  Even placing a book on top is ineffective, as she will push it off and proceed to imbibe.

Forty-eight hours after the crime of putting on the offending bell collar,  Emmie Lou decided she had punished us with her absence long enough.  She couldn't resist my ice water (in a cat enticing open cup), so while she leaned over to drink from it, I quickly unsnapped her collar.  It was so easy, it was anti-climactic.

So that's the lesson of the cat and the bell.  Never again.