All cats do stupid things from time to time. Some cats perform tricks.(1) But the Truly Stupid Cat Trick is a thing of awe and wonder. (You wonder how – or why – they do them.)
Let’s examine some cat tricks, of various varieties.(2) First there are…
Dan’s first cat, Matches, would fetch little wadded up pieces of paper, which soon became spitballs, or sometimes bat them back with his paws. It was eerily dog-like, except for the ping-pong.(3)
Matches would also ride in a car like a human or a dog, without going into hysterics and trying to attach himself to the driver’s face.
And he could imitate a bird. In that Dan could put him in a bird cage and hang him from the ceiling. Just like in the car, Matches would quietly and calmly look around, zen-like in his contemplation of the view. But I guess that was really more of a Stupid Human Trick.
Matches knew how to use door knobs. This was useful only to him, since Dan was trying to keep him out of certain rooms.
In addition to paper wads, Matches would fetch other cats. Dan would have Matches and Maggie out in the garden. When it was time to go in, he would say, “Go find Maggie.” Matches, naturally, would pretend he hadn’t heard and was just wandering around. But within a couple of minutes, he would stroll casually to whatever plant Maggie was lounging behind.
Bijou crashed one of my parties by sauntering in, holding a tampon applicator in her mouth, looking for all the world like a tortie Groucho Marx. That was a conversation stopper.
Projectile drooling. ‘Nuff said? Thought so.
Truly Stupid Tricks
It takes a special sort of cat to perform a truly stupid trick. We have known such a cat.
Her name was Shaker, and she was a tuxedo cat of vast and lofty dignity. If you found a shed whisker, put it on her head and went “boop, boop, boop,” she was mortally offended.(4)
One day Dan and I were sitting on the sofa, doing something with toothpicks.(5) I had a small bundle of them in my hand. Shaker jumped on the couch and delicately plucked a single toothpick from the cluster with her teeth, then whipped her head around and flung it across the room. Then she did it again. And again. We never did figure out why.
Dignified cats are inscrutable. But she had us trained. Every now and then we’d get out the box, just to see her fling toothpicks again. And she’d always perform.
(1) Only when they want to, of course.
(2) Yes, I know that’s redundant. So sue me.
(3) When he was done playing, he would drop the repellent spitwad at Dan’s feet and dare him to pick it up and toss it again.
(4) We could actually see her disapproving of us. It only works for dignified cats.
(5) What were we doing with the toothpicks? Making canapės? Probably not. Building a model of the Eiffel Tower? Definitely not. Picking our teeth? Oh – you mean you don’t use a separate pick for every tooth?