Friday, February 17, 2006

The Cat

I can remember my earliest memories of getting our new kitten. The kitten would be a gift to my son and his first “real” indoor pet. I say indoor because we always seemed to have a menagerie of “outdoor” pets. They weren’t really mine of course, but they did show up at our house every day. We had Dolly and Donald, our mallard ducks. They came to our house every year for several years. Then there was Blackie, a red winged blackbird that came to our feeder every morning then sat on my son’s swing set until the school bus dropped him off every afternoon. We also had Red, the cardinal. I created all the names of course but I am not always at the peak of creativity at 5 a.m., which is when my son would like to start the day.

I had visions of our new kitten playing with my son, looking out the window together for birdies, sleeping together in son’s bed at night and basically, becoming his number one friend.

I purchased the cat and drove out to Pennsylvania to pick him up. This was no ordinary cat though. I purchased a Munchkin. For those of you who are not familiar with a Munchkin, it’s a cat with the dwarfism gene which causes them to be much smaller than normal cats (only 4-7 pounds full grown for a male) and their trademark, extremely short legs, only 1 inch tall and it includes their paws. I named him Wiggles.

My son and Wiggles go together like oil and water. My vision of the cat sleeping with my dear son was soon replaced with son giving Wiggles the boot out of his bed with his foot. Wiggs flew across the room and that pretty much ended the new sleeping arrangements.

My next vision of Wiggles and son looking out the window were replaced with the cat dangling from son’s mouth with his long black tail tightly secured in son’s jaws. Apparently, he got too close to my dear boy. My kitty was hanging out of his mouth and desperately waving his little paws trying to get some leverage on the bookshelf so he could get away. Without any legs, it couldn’t happen. It was a scene that was never repeated since Wiggles no longer gets near son’s mouth.

Now, my son does love Wiggles. He especially loves when the cat gets in any kind of trouble and gets reprimanded or worse yet, gets the squirt bottle. This sends son into huge belly laughs which I adore. Wiggles knows it too and plays along to make son laugh.

So I decided to recruit the cat to increase dear son’s utilization of his communication device. The communication device is a simple box with two buttons that you can program. It’s taken years for son to master. I thought perhaps if the cat used one, that son would enjoy it and use his more. I set up the cat’s device with two messages, one of which included the message, “I want to play with my streamer toy”, which was his favorite toy. So I took my cat’s paw and pressed the button. We played with the toy and the reinforcement took after one try. The cat would play and then I would drop the toy and he would race over to the communication device and keep hitting the button with his little paw until I would play with him and the game would start all over again. The cat loved it so much he uses it all the time. The only problem is that he won’t stop. So I had to take it away. Now I can’t have either one of them out because my cat will use it and the son will not. I had to put both of them on top of the armoire so the cat wouldn’t get it. Now, no one uses the communication device.

1 comment:

M. said...

Good lord; that's absolutely hilarious. Behavioural conditioning sets in at the worst of times, doesn't it? Ironically it confirms the research I did when I was an Applied Behaviour Analysis therapist. As I was worried that the methods seemed cruel, I did a lot of reading to see what Autists able to communicate thought of the behavioural conditioning they had received. Overwhelmingly they spoke of being treated like animals... :}

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