Boating Adventures | "How to Accidentally Turn a Cat into a Dog" by Vicki Totten

How it all began - training for walking with a leash

I may have accidentally turned Skipper the Boat Cat into a dog. I found myself thinking this as I headed out for my evening walk, with Skipper lurking behind me. He was walking a good distance behind, crouching down every time I turned around. He apparently thought he was invisible to my inferior human eyes, just like when he jumps onto our roof and hides in the vines or in the large stand of Oleanders in our yard. I may have inferior human eyes, but you don't see me jumping on my roof at night and then rolling around to the edge of it, just to get petted.

I will fearlessly roll to the edge of this roof if you will pet me.

Heading into his jungle hiding place.

Roof climbing aside, the role I played in possibly confusing Skipper about typical cat behaviors began when he was barely two months old. Soon after we rescued him as a kitten, we began teaching him to walk on a leash because he was going back and forth with us to stay on our sailboat. Since he is almost a year old now, he has had plenty of practice being on a leash. So it wasn't unusual for me to take him with me on short walks, such as the one described above. But he has apparently decided he is now old enough to walk with me without a leash. I am basing this on the pitiful meow sounds he now makes whenever we head out for a leashed walk. Well that and the fact that he is constantly turning around to try and steer me back toward the house.

Before he realized I had seen him.

As long as he thinks he is in control, walking with me is ok.

So on this particular evening, since my evening walks were no longer enjoyable when taking Skipper with me, I had decided to quit bringing him. I could see him watching from inside the yard as I closed the gate to head out by myself. Only I wasn't really by myself. At first, he kept his distance and walked off to the side. But once he realized I knew he was there, he began walking next to me – in between jumps onto the tall fence that delineates the Bass Brothers and Navigation District’s land from Water Street. I didn’t go as far as I had intended, because I didn’t want him getting comfortable venturing out so far from the house when not on a leash. But when I turned to head back, he also turned to go back. Apparently as long as he thinks he is in charge, he is fine with those evening walks.

Walking on the streets can be so boring.

Another clue that Skipper may be experiencing some "animal confusion" occurred several weeks ago when a friend was visiting with her little dog Rosie. I watched one evening as my friend repeatedly tossed a ball to Rosie, who each time would retrieve it and bring it back to be thrown again. At first, Skipper watched from the sidelines, seemingly enthralled. But before long, he began also chasing after the ball. The problem was that he never quite figured out what to do with it once he reached it.

I suppose it takes a while to fully turn one animal into another. Or maybe I just need to expand my thinking about which behaviors belong to dogs and which belong to cats.

--- 
Vicki and husband, ceramic artist Stan Irvin, are both retired professors who have discovered the joys of Rockport and living part-time on their 33' sailboat, while exploring new sailing destinations and adventures.



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