Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Me

For years and years, I have had this plan that would add to our knowledge of the natural world, give me a meaningful job, and make a ton of money. I have talked it up all over the place, to all kinds of people, trying to get someone interested in giving me a grant.
To study cats. Yep, the common felis domesticus, the American House Cat. In the tradition of my predecessors, I would pack my lunch, notebook and pencil, put on the appropriate clothing (which I figure might well be pajamas) and track the subjects to their lairs. In this case, for lairs, read my home. Cause we always have cats. They find us. Once 13 found us. This was when I was pregnant and we already had 2 cats, and these two strays showed up (and yes we fed them… how could you not? Those hungry little faces!). Of course, due to our karma at that time, both cats were female and pregnant. Which is the short version of this story. And don’t fret, I found good homes for all those kittens.
Oops, there goes that sidetrack thing.
At any rate, I would quietly and cautiously infiltrate their territory (our bed, our couch, our lawn chairs, our back yard, etc.), and carefully observe them. I would record all their furry little actions, or, let’s face it here, inactions, because cats sleep up to 16 hours a day. I would creep closer and closer over time, so they would accept me. Okay, so maybe I might cheat a little with a can of tuna, because my cats can hear a manual can opener from 5 rooms away. I can not tell you how many times I have had to lower a can of black beans or diced green chiles down to a little kitty nose, to prove that indeed, I am NOT opening a can of tuna.
Once they accepted me, I would mimic their ways, to fully understand their existence. Ah, you begin to see the beauty here, don’t you? Eat. Nap. Stretch. Shift positions and nap some more. Stroll out to the kitchen to see if there is any food, and have a little snack. Stand at the back slider and watch birds for a while. Back to napping. And repeat.
Is this not the greatest idea ever?!!! I have been waiting years for those MacArthur Grant people to contact me. You know, the folks who award genius grants, like a GAZILLION dollars to unsuspecting, but deserving recipients. Just in case any scouts for the MacArthur awards happen upon this blog, I will provide a sample of my case studies.
(p.s. the names have been changed to protect the identity of the felines involved).

FIELD NOTES
January 18, 2010

6:30 a.m. Furbutt, the sullen female gray tiger jumps on the bed of the sleeping humans. Paws the face of the female human. Human mumbles, “It’s a holiday, we are sleeping in! Go away”. Furbutt ignores this and continues to stalk across the down comforter, managing to make holes in the duvet with her claws. Meanwhile Mr. Mittens, a black and white male, stands on the footboard of the bed meowing plaintively. Shamu, the morbidly obese white female, lolls in the doorway, blocking all egress to the kitchen and foodstuffs. This behavior continues interminably, I mean for about 5 minutes, until male human gets up. At this subtle cue, all felines rush to kitchen, Furbutt and Mr. Mittens bouncing off Shamu en route.

6:39 a.m. Male human starts coffee, while fending off Mr. Mittens, who is twining about his legs. Furbutt and Shamu wait by food dishes. Male human scoops up cup of expensive prescription diet cat food and metes out appropriate amount to each cat.

6:43 a.m. Female human stumbles into kitchen. Furbutt and Shamu have vanished into main living area to lick their extremities, but Mr. Mittens remains by empty food dish, meowing plaintively. Female human scoops up diet cat food and places slightly more than appropriate amount in his bowl, because she has not had coffee yet.

7:05 a.m. All three felines have retired to their current favored spots. Furbutt assumes sphinx position on the top of the couch. Shamu waddles under a chair and lays on her back. Mr. Mittens takes up a stance by the sliding door, waiting for a homo sapiens to let him outside. Even thought there is a cat door about 30 feet away!!! Mr. Mittens has shown a distinct preference for entering and egressing through doors that are operated by humans.

7:11 a.m. Mr. Mittens enters main lolling area, pausing to swat Shamu as he passes by her chair. Pecking order has been re-enforced. Mr. Mittens curls up on top of loveseat.

7:20 a.m. No change.

7:45 a.m. No change.

8:50 a.m. No change.

9:00 a.m. Observer cautiously enters room, gently lowering self (in jammies), into large easy chair within visual distance of all subjects. Places coffee mug, notebook and snack on end table. Shamu stirs. Observer freezes till Shamu stretches paws and falls back asleep. Observer carefully and slowly picks up t.v remote and clicks on movie channel. This is to distract subjects, so they will not notice observer observing them. Works like charm. Still no change in subjects. Observer settles in for hours of exacting scientific documentation in this groundbreaking study.

11:30 a.m. No change

So, what do you think? Hello? MacArthur people? I’m waiting.

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One Response to “Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Me”

  1. Mel Twaroski Says:

    Hi, I’m a colleague of Mr. GG in the southeast. I loved this particular post. Instead of the grant route, I’ve been telling my husband that we need to market ourselves as the “Cat Whisperers” and make zillions of dollars. Of course, the only thing I have succeeded in training one of our 3 cats – the 15+ pound Siamese – to do using Dog Whisperer techniques is NOT to walk on and sleep on top of my chest at night – – which has greatly improved the quality of my life (well, at least my sleeping life).

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