Active Toddlerhood, Kitten Style

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To those who say, “Oh, I can’t even visit an animal shelter. It’s so sad and depressing inside,” I have only one word: Clyde.
On October 20 at Purradise, this 9-week-old gray-and-white tabby boy was having such a ball entertaining himself in the Sunshine Spa, which he had all to himself—including myriad toys, blankets and fleeces, cat trees, and a long, leopard-print kitty-diameter cylinder—that my photographer and I pretty much sat and laughed our way through this “interview.”

Although his profile notes that he is affectionate, frankly he didn’t slow down long enough for us to experience that side of him. Declining my offer of lap time or even staying still enough to be petted, he spent the hour far too busy visiting his toys one by one, deciding which were the most worthy of his attention, than doing more than pleasantly acknowledging us.
For a long time he was beguiled by two colorful wire coils, one chartreuse green and the other bright pink. Clyde engaged with them fully, from batting them with his paws and using his teeth to carry them around the room, to deliberately pushing one or the other under the radiator unit for the simple pleasure of fishing it out, or tossing it behind a plush bed and then “finding” it with exaggerated joy and surprise. (Yes, cats do know how to “pretend.”) It threw him briefly when I fitted the coils together to create one toy from the two, but he quickly recovered his momentum, happily switching to carrying around the conjoined springs in his mouth as if they had always looked like that.

Although well familiar with the sun porch, Clyde also spent some time re-exploring its various surfaces above floor level, just in case any had changed in some interesting way. As for that leopard-print cylinder, which is several feet long: Spurning the traditional kitty method of climbing inside and playing peek-a-boo through its several openings, for him it was a tunnel passage in the Indy 500: already comfortably adept with the procedure, he shot himself straight through it, a feline cannonball. (In my 6-odd years of writing this column, I have never seen a Purradise cat treat these cylinders that way!)
Only occasionally did Clyde slow down, either to drink at length from his water bowl, to refuel himself after his exertions, or to sprawl momentarily on the floor while holding one of his coils close by, to make sure it could not escape him.
Clearly this little boy knows how to keep himself occupied…and how to fend for himself, too. Staffer Cathy told me that he had been found alone in a cemetery, of all places, but far from being spooked, he gets along with dogs and cats and obviously felt completely at ease to have two human strangers in the porch with him while spinning his wheels. Her recommendation: a household with a mature dog or cat that can be not only a playmate but a mentor, even a surrogate parent: a pet that can model for him how to share his abundance of energy with others in positive physical ways.

Given enough brightly colored toys and the an opportunity to trade up sometimes for living warmth, Clyde holds the promise of being a delightful companion, be it as an ever-amusing star player in indoor kitty spectator sports or as an enthusiastic participant in “contact sports”—once he discovers that snuggling can be fun, too.

This series follows the special human-feline bond at Purradise, the Berkshire Humane Society Cat Adoption Center at 301 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington, MA 01230 (413-717-4244), berkshirehumane.org. Open Wed., Fri., & Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; Thurs. 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; and Sun. noon–4 p.m.

Iris Bass, coauthor of the Cat Lover’s Daily Companion, shares her Lee home with five shelter cats.

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