THEY SAY YOU CAN’T train a cat. Not true. It’s just that most people aren’t willing to put forth the effort to manipulate a cat’s incentives with the monomania it requires. Nevertheless, you can condition one, if you’re persistent and consistent about it. For example, if you accept that cats have no sense of boundaries, you can condition them to stay off of the kitchen counter … whenever you’re around. The second you go into another room, they’re up there checking it out. But that’s about the best you can expect. So, if you make sure there’s nothing on the counter they can hurt or can hurt them, (and you realize that there are NO limits to a cat’s curiosity — thus the old saw about its killing them), you might keep your roast safe from predation.
Just understand that, by forbidding them access while there are interesting smells going on, you’re maintaining what they call in the law an attractive nuisance.
We’ve been going through this with our cats seriatim since God was a little boy. Of our current batch, Loki is the most tendentious. He hops up ontop of the step-on garbage can, which puts him maybe ten inches below the countertop, over by the dish-drainer, on the other side of the (double-bowl stainless) sink from the food prep area, which is what he’sreally interested in. And he has learned, over his two-plus years (almost three, now, isn’t it?) that, when he moves to step up on the counter, he’s going to get yelled at and the human is going to move toward him, and he’ll get dumped unceremoniously on the floor if he doesn’t get down on his own.
Karma, being the youngest, is the one who gets into the most trouble with us. So it’s not unusual for dinnertime conversation to be interrupted by KARMA! GET OFF THE COUNTER!
And you can almost hear the little beepy-squee like the Plymouth Neon in the old ads:
YES, I’M TALKING TO YOU. GET! DOWN!
And she’ll push it, of course, like any terrible two-year-old. She’ll hang up there until the last possible moment, when you’re JUST out of arm’s reach. When she can no longer avoid being picked up and put on the floor, she’ll jump down on her own.
And, once you’ve settled back into your chair, she’ll come around and try to cute her way out of it. Puts up a paw to tap your finger or your knee.
You’re not really mad at me, are you, Daddy?
And 30 seconds later, both of you have forgotten the whole thing.
We lost a favorite wine glass the other day. I considered it too fragile to scrum with the Fiestaware in the dish drainer, so set it upside-down on a paper towel on the counter to drain after washing. The other morning, Toni discovered it in shards all over the kitchen floor.
Karma loves to knock things off surfaces to see whether or not they’d be fun the play with: drink coasters, the TV remotes, Toni’s pill case, my backscratcher. She has neither any notion of property — all objects are fair game for toys — nor of fragility — thus a crystal wine glass gets the same treatment as a wood-and-cork drink coaster.
When you have a kitten in the house, conditioned or not, you have to accept that losses to this type of play are your fault. If it’s not toy-worthy, keep it out of reach of the toddler. Like entropy, the kitten will inevitably test any system or device to destruction. It’s up to the human to seal objects against the force of nature in that little furry body.
As I was writing that last ‘graph, came a clanking noise from the bedroom. I got up and went to see. It was Karma, perched atop a pair of plastic containers, batting at a bit of dangly jewelry Toni had hanging on the closet door. No matter how careful you are, like water, the kitten will discover the crooks and nannies and flow into them, finding her amusement in the places you least expect — or want.