11

Clarice Kitten and the Dangerous Noms

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Tom and Kate lived in a nice section of the forest with a group of other cats. There were humans close by, but otherwise the location was perfect. Lots of food and a clear stream. One day, they had a litter of kittens.

They were typical kittens, playful and curious. One kitten in particular, Clarice, was into everything. One day, she ran home, all excited.

Clarice: Guess what! I discovered a different kind of food!

Kate: Really dear? And what is that?

Clarice: I’m not sure. But it’s really yummy!

Kate: Why don’t you show me this food. Maybe I’ll know what it is.

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Clarice led Kate to where she had found the food. It was at the edge of the woods near a house. She pointed to an old log.

Clarice: It came from under there.

Kate: What did it look like?

Clarice: It was small and furry. It had a long tail and sharp teeth.

Since that described the majority of the food Kate had been teaching Clarice to catch, the description wasn’t very helpful.

Kate: I guess I’ll have to see one to let you know. But you need to find one closer to home. This is too close to the humans. They might see you.

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Clarice: What’s wrong with that? Will they hurt me?

Kate: You’re such a beautiful kitten, they might want you to live with them instead of here with us.

Clarice didn’t understand why her mother would care about that. Of course Clarice would never leave her family. Then she heard a strange sound. Her mother became fully alert.

Human: Oh look. The pretty kitty came back! And she brought a friend! Wait right there and I’ll bring you a treat.

Kate was horrified. She had been right. Clarice had gone too close to the humans, and now the woman had seen both of them. Before she could tell Clarice to run, the woman was back.

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Woman: Here kitty, kitty. You must be hungry. Look at the tasty noms I brought you.

Kate was offended. How dare that woman imply that she let her kittens go hungry. But Clarice was fascinated.

Clarice: Mama, what’s a nom? Maybe it’s one of the animals I caught earlier. Let’s go see.

Kate: Clarice! Run!

Kate raced back into the woods. Clarice was confused, but ran after her. When they reached home, Kate finally stopped to explain.

Kate: Clarice, you can’t ever go back there. Noms are what humans call the food they use to try to catch cats.

Clarice: Why would they want to catch cats?

Kate: I’m not sure, but we’ve lost a few neighbors that way. And they particularly like kittens.

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Clarice went to bed soon after the conversation. She had nightmares about humans chasing her. In the morning, she vowed to never go near the humans again.

But soon her curiosity got the better of her and she went to the edge of the forest. After a couple of days, the woman saw her again. The next day, there was a bowl of food just out of the forest. Clarice tried it. It was delicious. She ran home.

Clarice: Mama! Mama! I knew you were wrong!

Kate: Clarice! What are you talking about?

Clarice: The human! She left food out and it was delicious. And she didn’t come near me.

Kate: I told you not to go near the humans.

Clarice: It’s OK. She won’t hurt me.

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A few days later, Kate heard a terrible yowling and crying. She ran to the edge of the woods in time to see the human pick up a cage with Clarice in it. She watched in horror as Clarice was carried into the house. All night, the cats could hear Clarice crying.

In the morning, Kate watched as the human carried Clarice’s cage and put it in some kind of machine. The human got in too, and they disappeared. Kate sat there for hours wondering where they had taken her kitten.

Finally, the machine returned. Kate was relieved to find out that the woman had brought Clarice back. Clarice was still crying, but she sounded tired. Kate ran back to the other cats, determined to find a way to rescue her kitten.

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Kate: They still have Clarice. We have to save her.

Tom: How are we supposed to do that?

Kate: I don’t know. But we have to do something. Let’s ask Frank. He knows a lot about humans. He can help us.

Kate and Tom found Tom, and Kate explained what has happened to Clarice. Frank listened with a worried expression.

Frank: That’s terrible. You know, the humans think they know more than we do about what is best for our kittens. Let’s go see what we can do.

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To be continued…

(Ed. note – Cat Forum with Alberto from Feline Opines was supposed to run next week. However, Clarice’s story turned out to be longer than we expected. Not to worry. Alberto will get his full say in two weeks – August 19)

all pictures courtesy of Google Images

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9

Horatio Hedgehog, Intrepid Explorer

A couple of days before Christmas, my husband came into the study with my present, a 2-month-old hedgehog. I had a hedgehog a couple of years ago, but Jean-Luc has passed on to the great hedge. So my family thought it was time for a successor.  Jean-Luc had been a sweetheart. He was very even-tempered and would sleep in my sweater or shirt on my arm. I could give him tummy rubs and pet his chin. I thought he was a typical hedgehog. Having been the human for several cats, I should have known that there is no such thing as typical.

The new guy’s name is Horatio, Lord Nelson, but I like to call him Sir Grumpy. The first few times I took him out of his cage, he got into extreme protective mode, and I could barely pick him up without gloves. He’d huff and chuff and do his very best to intimidate me. It was kind of amusing when you consider that he weighs about a pound (he’s an African pygmy hedgehog, not the larger variety you find in Europe). I would speak softly and try to get him to relax. No chance. He wasn’t happy, and I was not going to change his mind.

I don’t really see the point in having a pet that I can’t cuddle with, so I was not happy with Horatio. My husband said I wasn’t spending enough time with him. Who wants to spend time with something that spends all its time making threatening noises and pretending to be a hand grenade waiting to go off? But obviously, a new tactic was needed.

So I decided to try a few minutes every night rather than going for an hour or so. Progress! He actually let his quills soften to the point I could pet him. And he stopped pooping every time I had him on my lap. Major bonus.

But then I missed a couple of nights.  Apparently Horatio has a little clock or calendar in his cage. When I went to get him out, he was back to his old self, grouching around. So he was adapting to having a human! But he wanted a human on his terms – whatever those were.

Horatio does not like to be woken up. Hedgehogs are nocturnal, but we have to keep a blanket on his cage right now. It’s too cold for him without a heater and we need the blanket to keep the heat in. As far as I can tell, he has decided that nighttime is when the television turns off until he gets tired in the morning (sometime around 4a). Which is actually pretty good, except the only time I can get him out without waking him is before work. Since I start work at either 6a or 4a, depending on the day, it would mean I have to get up really early to play with him. Then I would be really grouchy.

A couple of days ago, I was home sick and got up early. I had an idea and put some pillows around to create a sort of “run” for him. He loved it. The first thing he tried to do was get out (of course). When that didn’t work, he spent quite a while happily wandering around, sniffing everything. The cats were fascinated, but smart enough to stay away from the quills.

Horatio finally figured out how to escape, so I put him back in his cage. He was not a happy hog. He huffed and he puffed and he scratched at the newspaper on the bottom of his cage. He’d get on his wheel for a couple of minutes then get off and stomp around some more.

I am trying to make him a more sturdy playground. He loves to climb, so I have to make sure there’s no way for him to climb out. He has sharp teeth, but a terrible overbite, so I don’t think that’s a major issue. I wonder if there is some sort of Architectural Digest for hedgehogs? Or maybe a hedgehog whisperer to tell me what he’s thinking?

For the moment, I’ve given up the hope of having another snuggly hedgehog. Right now, I’m just hoping to get him to the point that he doesn’t make me think of Cujo every time I pick him up. One thing at a time. Eventually he’ll discover what he was missing in turning down all those tummy rubs. In the meantime, I’m keeping the gloves handy.