When I was heading off to grad school, friends gave me a kitten. What do you say when someone does that? “Thank you” or “I thought we were friends.” They had already named it “Tigger,” otherwise I would have called it “Scat” and hoped that it would learn what that meant.
Tigger immediately put demands on my life. As I said, he was a cat, so I am just being redundant. He thought he could just walk across my kitchen table and knock over any lamp or item in the apartment that got in his way. I did train him (as much as one can train a cat) to stay out of the kitchen while I ate, but I never made any headway on getting him to stop redecorating with everything ending up on the floor. He also scratched at the door to go out or come in. For that, I hung a bell on a string on each side of the door, and he did learn to paw the bell when he wanted to be on the other side. (And cats always want to be on the other side of any door!) With those meager successes, I considered going for a vocation in training cats, but was talked out of such a career choice by my advisor.
Tigger developed a reputation in the school. The students referred to him as Tigger J. Cat (or T. J. for short) and began telling stories about him. For instance, they said T. J. had a job at the local drug store, but the rumor was that there was also some under-the-table business that he did. Inasmuch as I drove a rusted bottom-of-the-line Plymouth Duster, people were sure T. J. Cat had a humongous Harley. The buzz was that the apartment was his and he only let me crash there. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that T. J. had better luck in getting dates than I.
After returning from a weekend away, I found a note saying, “I have been kidnapped. Please pay the ransom.” I knew it was a scam. It wasn’t T. J.’s handwriting. Of course, I wouldn’t pay a ransom and yet, he was returned anyway. Drat!
My advisor came to my apartment once. T. J. pawed at the bell to go out and I got up to open the door. I was quite proud of that lesson in behavior modification. With a big grin on my face, I asked my advisor, “What do you think of that?” He said that he was impressed and wanted to know how long it took the cat to teach me to respond to the bell being rung.
T. J. curried favor with me by bringing me gifts. I regularly found rabbits, birds and mice on my front step. (Oh, how I wish he were around now and would deal with some annoying voles and moles!)
My landlady lived in the house in front of my apartment. Her dog stayed on a chain in the yard. T. J. learned to stay just beyond the full length of the chain, taunting the dog. Oh, how I rooted for that dog.
When I graduated and had to move, I realized I could not take T. J. with me. It would have been so appropriate for him to stay with that apartment and the new tenant would just have to learn to cope with him. However, I decided to give T. J. to the kids across the street. Trust me, I left town before their parents ever discovered what I had done.