“Have you seen the cat toy?” I asked my housemate.
“I think it’s on the other side of the sofa.”
I grumbled and fetched the toy in question – a plastic rod with a bunch of feathers attached to one end – and handed it to our friend G. “Ok. This is Lurk’s favourite toy. But no one knows how to play with it correctly. Good luck.”
G, a veteran cat owner and cat toy operator, quickly gained another house kitty’s attention by swinging and flittering the toy through the air, calling Lurk’s name.
“He used to come running when that toy was being used,” I explained, “but the little bell inside it has fallen off.” Outside of that small problem, the toy is nearly as pristine as it was when I bought it three or four years ago. Because as much as Lurk loves the toy, he generally won’t play with it.
Because everyone plays with it wrong.
Finally, he deigned to make an appearance in the room, carefully checking in with my housemate and me for scritches before he slowly approached G and sat just within toy’s reach.
She bounced it on the floor. She swooshed it over his head. She did all of the things that had inspired the previous cat to swat at the feathers.
All she got for her trouble was the ‘you are a dumbass’ look from my cat.
Which is what we all get.
“Try rubbing it on his face. Sometimes he likes that.”
She did, and he looked happy for a moment…then it was back to sitting and pouting and staring at the useless monkey.
G persisted, eventually inspiring 15 seconds of play out of Lurk. This is the most reaction time anyone ever gets, and it’s falsely encouraging. The joy, the swatting, the ‘oh look he can play like a regular non-neurotic crazy-making cat!’…only to end abruptly as he returns to sitting and staring with ‘UR DOING IT WRONG’ written all over his face.
“I am being totally dissed by your cat!”
“I know. I’m so sorry. But NOW YOU SEE.”
He eventually sadly skulked away, radiating dejection. Had we left the toy on the floor, he would have come back, mewed, and half-heartedly swatted at it. Because he really wants to play. I just – after 14 years of living with this cat – have no idea how he defines ‘play.’
(Unless his intent really is to just make it very clear that, in the end, we are all stoopid munkees.)
(It’s a good thing he’s so damn cute.)