The fluffy brown cat pictured to the right is my Maine Coon, Yum Yum. Many moons ago, while living in Birmingham, Yum Yum went through a phase where she would push her Tupperware container of cat food all over the apartment. Some days I would come home and find the food on the other end of the apartment, under my bed, or cornered between the wall and toilet. After several weeks of this behavior I had enough and started keeping her food in a high cupboard.
Fast forward to present day – now we live in Lexington with three other weaselly cats. It has taken Yum Yum a long time, but she has finally adjusted to her new cat family and bonds with them while begging for a third feeding, tearing up important paperwork or clawing our new dining room chairs. All these new habits have overshadowed her previous food container relocation habit and I started leaving the containers out.
Several weekends ago I passed by the feeding area and found my brown cat laying in a most dejected fashion with her nose pressed against the food container labeled “Yum Yum & Newton.” “Really Yum Yum. Can you read? This is just pathetic,” I said and picked the soggy lump of cat up for a little extra cuddle time.
A few days later I came home from work and Bird announced, “Your Yum Yum spent all day pushing the food containers around. It was ridiculous.”
“Really? Pushing the food containers around….” It took a few minutes but I eventually remembered the Birmingham habit. “You know, she went through this phase in Birmingham. I would find the food container in the strangest places.”
We chuckled and went about our evening.
The next day I came home and Bird announced, “Your Yum Yum kept trying to break into the Maine Coon food today. She was biting and clawing all over the container.”
“I don’t believe you.” I said. I refused to admit that my little cat could be developing another bad habit. She was on the brink of assuming the title of “Baddest Cat in the Herd” – a dangerous position when a pet owner feels that there might be one too many cats in the house. “And even if she was trying she won’t succeed. Those containers are impossible to open. I have a hard time with them.”
Last weekend we went out of town and our trusty cat sitters watched the herd. Before leaving I thought it wise to send a quick e-mail alerting them to two developments: 1.) a lightening bolt in the microwave that morning and 2.) Yum Yum’s recent food container relocation program.
“Be on the lookout for Yum Yum moving the food containers to another room. We went through this phase in Birmingham. I would come home from work and her food container had migrated across the apartment… It’s impressive what my thumb-less cat can accomplish,” I wrote.
I then advised them that if she was moving them an annoying amount, to put them in the closet.
This week we received our “cat behavior report” which included general praise, remarks on our cats noteworthy size (size people, not fat!) and then on Yum Yum’s impressive performance breaking into the food container. Evidently the cat sitters came by and found all four cats gathered around the container of Maine Coon food, happily gorging themselves like one big happy piggy cat family.
I was dumbfounded as Bird recounted this tale of naughtiness over dinner. “How on earth did she get them open? Those containers are impossible! Does she have secret thumbs?”
Since then I have watched my cat with a new respect and wonder, “What will she do next?” Yum Yum has always shown impressive intelligence along with an uncanny ability to manipulate people into caving to her demands. She has reacted with growls and spits to people who have later proven most unscrupulous. She has perfected the art of opening drawers, cupboards and even doors. And sometimes her responses to conversation are so dead-on that both Bird and I look at each other, bewildered, and ask her, “Do you understand us?” She will blink her opal colored eyes, swivel her ears and then saunter out of the room as if to say, “You humans are so daft.”