Clever Hans, the horse who outwitted Germany09/05/2014
By Kerry Ridgway
When I decided to adopt a tortoiseshell called Zsa Zsa from SADS or Save a Dog Scheme (who rescue cats too), I was warned of the “Tortitude” or Tortoiseshell attitude. I was advised she was not a lap cat, didn’t get along with other cats, had already had kittens, where I wondered if she had disposed of the father, and had spent a couple of months at the shelter as she could not find a family to adopt her.
However, when she fell off a ledge to meet me from behind her glass cage, her multi coloured black inky looking face, turned upside down, fangs protruding, it seemed Zsa Zsa might not be as snobby as I expected.
True to the concept of difficult to understand, I had no idea for her desire for cane, such that my laundry baskets would be used for scratching fodder, while a scratching post was in the room. My fake olive display became part of cat hockey and Zsa-Zsa began to employ more warbling and cat clucking than a chicken making a speech. Hence why I called her ” Chooky”.
Other nicknames borne out of no logic or bland obviousness, include, “Kitty piper“….perhaps something to do with mice and the Pied Piper? ” Zsa Zsa ding dong” – tags jingling; “Ginger knob – she has a ginger point on the end of her tail; “Puss” -need I explain?
Meals came with some kind of snobby penchant towards the lowest common denominator, with Dine cat food lovingly eaten off the floor, its dry remnants strewn across slate, snubbed bacon going dry and crusty, and half eaten bits of rib eye lying in a porcelain bowl; sort of a cross between slum dwelling with silverware.
Not a lap cat?! She revealed herself as a face cat; my face down or lying right down next to her and “bang” – she’d burrow into my face with hers, as intensely as someone excavating for a buried winning lotto ticket.
To make up for a lack of lap sitting, it would lick my hands, my forehead, and purred with more vibration than a Samsung mobile. So affectionate but unsuspecting, she would raise her back and lift her tail, at which point I’d turn away and recompose myself.
Understanding Zsa Zsa’s logic for all things inferior, she began to reside in a disused box, replete with a worn out gold sateen sheet, containing a lace off a hand-me-down jumper, while wearing a fake diamonte collar. Adding a pink bling heart tag that read: Purrrfect, Zsa Zsa resembled a feline version of Paris Hilton amidst a kerbside clean up.
Zsa-Zsa apparently was found trapped at Malvern and had given birth to a litter of kittens, at a tiny two kilograms, and by the time she was fifteen months old. I’ve never understood how she’d fit them in or get them out. Mmmm? An overpacked suitcase? In any case, I found out Zsa-Zsa was a good mum. I’d believe that.
Despite her tortie air and seeming aloofness she became friends with other cats she randomly found in the garden, though after hissing, putting her ears back and growling; is harmless in play, never fully extending her claws or biting hard and ending with a lick. She forever twirls, rolls on the ground, squawks, and now follows me, with an “air-air” from across the road as I head off to work sometimes.
I now connect to Zsa-Zsa so well that I ask neighbours to be careful when rubbish collection begins – in terms of her physical safety I know she’ll be okay , it’s just that potentially, there might be some of her stuff in there. Though I do feel strange that I have a bond with a cat who makes me feel guilty for leaving her behind to earn a living.
Zsa Zsa has trouble understanding that mumma’s independence reaps dries and cans of Whiskas. But really, whether it’s rabbit innards or Whitebait, Zsa Zsa has a way of making things seem quaint, cute.