By Diane Ako
Are cats smart? I'm still trying to figure this question out. They certainly march to the beat of their own drummer.
We have a tabby cat, Ocho, whose name is a tribute to KHNL. I rescued her from the old KHNL parking lot, where she was a stray kitten in 2003.
When I had a baby, Ocho was very jealous and expressed it by peeing on my expensive sofa. Twice.
I washed and aired out and sunned the cushions for weeks in the hot Hawaiian sun. Humans can't smell it, but Ocho can still detect the urine scent, so she eventually would pee there again.
We decided to confine her to the lanai. We got a big wooden house for her to hide in and made sure the balcony, which is not small, would be nice for her. There is lots of wildlife outside for her to look at or catch. We also spend as much time outside as we can, keeping her company.
She finally figured out how to open the sliding door. The door frame is not flat; it has a notch where she can put her paw and slide it open. Three years of watching this cause and effect clicked in her cat brain.
The screen door lock is broken. We started trying to remember to close the glass door, which is too heavy for her to push.
This went on for a month. At first, she was sneaking it only after we left the house. Then, she got bolder, to the point where she was doing it in front of us. One Sunday, Claus and I were having breakfast outside when she started to let herself inside.
"No!" he yelled, and she darted away. He gets very annoyed because when she opens the door (particularly when we're away for hours), it lets in mosquitoes.
Worse, a dove flew in the other weekend. I could see Claus' blood simmering. Olivia and I think it's partly funny, but he fumes.
You know how it is when you're super busy. You say you'll get to it... eventually... but nothing ever happens overnight. At least not in this household, especially since we had a kid.
So this was the last straw. This moved the screen-door-fixing project up to #1 on that day.
After breakfast, he came in with his tool kit. To get him to do this requires an Act of Congress, so you know he was really irritated.
He was tinkering. Then muttering. Muttering is a bad sign.
I looked at the problem and suggested a simpler solution for the interim: "Just tape a cardboard piece to the bottom corner, so she can't fit her paw in and slide it," I said. "It's ugly, but it'll work until we either get a new door or you fix the lock."
He did it, and it works.
The cardboard came from a box of stuff donated to me. He ripped the flap off and it happened to say AKO on it.
Later that afternoon, Olivia had a neighbor friend over. Kira asked why there's cardboard on the door.
Olivia explained the cat problem. "My daddy put a sign up so the cat won't come in," she concluded.
Olivia cannot read yet, so she sees writing and assumes it must say Stay Out.
A cat who will read AND comply? Now that is a smart cat!