Feed on

Naughty, but Efficient

It can be terribly difficult to communicate with your own animal but the good news is, the Lord made more than one psychic and I do have a phone.    On the other hand I needed to try my new skills so when Chester presented a problem, I thought I should try them out before I sent up a flare.

My husband gardens.   Every year he plants, among other things,  3 or 4 summer squash plants.  There’s nothing hard about growing zucchini ; it’s an organic self-esteem booster.   The plants require only a splash of water and the occasional indifferent glance but one summer the zucchini became an issue and we were mystified.

The plants have lovely big leaves on sturdy stalks and the whole thing radiates out from the center so you notice when a leaf is missing.   One  day my husband found that one leaf had been neatly clipped from its stem.  He tossed it in compost and went about his business.   A day or two later he found another, again neatly clipped and lying under its own stem.

Time passed.  Almost daily he’d find a leaf and another and then more.   Now and then the perpetrator took a personal day but otherwise he was bold and prolific but not particularly hungry.  The garden started to look thin.

Now, Chester and Maggie garden with my husband every day.    He never wants for company when he’s out in the yard; someone furry is always rolling or yelling or eating grasshoppers in the foreground but in those days it never occurred to us that one of our cats could be gardening for real.   Eventually he caught Chester in the act, and after my husband expressed his outrage he set to work putting chicken wire around the plants.

The trouble with the chicken wire was this:  it was hard to harvest the vegetables without leaving a crack where Chester could squeeze his bulk through, and while the problem was less it did persist.  Philosophical we were not; at times one or another of us would come upon Chester carrying out his self-appointed duties and we’d rail:  “you don’t even know how lucky you are.  Some cats don’t get to go outside.   We give you toys and catnip and cuddling under the covers and what do you do?  You wreck the garden“–and so on.   He had one eye on us as he snipped away;  destructive he was but he’d always been a good listener.

Then I remembered: animals can be bargained with.  First I said how disappointed I was and why stripping our plants was a problem and then I got to the payoff.  I offered up one plant–which he could choose–for Chester to destroy freely.  In return I asked that he spare the others and we would all enjoy the food they provided.  Go ahead and snicker, but he and Maggie do enjoy stir-fry.

For the second time I’d given direction to my headstrong boy.  The rest of the growing season that cat did select and limit his destruction to a single plant.  He snipped and snipped until the devastation was complete but he left the others alone and I ask you, what were the odds?

Leave a Reply