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How to Train Your Cat to Use a Doormat!

Is Harry the Ginger Prince smart or stupid?

By Brendan DonaghyPublished about a month ago 3 min read
Harry and Gus, just chillin' (author's image)

Our cat Harry was twelve weeks old when we got him from Cats Protection Belfast Adoption Centre in July last year. He was part of 'the Scottish litter', so-called because the kittens had all been given Scottish names. Our kitten started life as Hamish, but we decided that Harry was more appropriate for the Ginger Prince!

From day one, he’s been different from our last cat, Myrtle. She was a diva, and we loved her for that, but Harry is more chilled. He isn’t spooked by other people, and he doesn’t object to being lifted or carried. Life is less of a drama with him.

When it was time for Harry to venture outside, we were worried that Gus, the big long-haired male cat from next door, would bully him.

Guess what, they’re best mates! If Harry is out and Gus walks into view, I know that Harry won’t be far behind. Mostly it’s Harry doing the following. Gus likes to lead, and he expects Harry to keep up.

Yesterday I watched Gus walk across the garden and disappear through the hole in the corner fence. Harry was following behind as usual but got distracted for a minute or so. Next thing, Gus stuck his head and shoulders back through the fence to find out why his buddy hadn’t followed him!

They spend a good deal of time chasing and ambushing each other. Sometimes their play-fights can seem a bit real, but there’s none of the noise that accompanies a genuine catfight.

Big fight! Big fight! (author's image)

They also appear to take turns to instigate these bouts, so I can only guess they enjoy the rough and tumble. At other times, they just sit quietly together on the patio like two old men watching the sun go down.

Smart or Stupid?

The jury’s still out on this one. On the one hand, Harry hasn’t learnt to open doors yet. I don’t mean doors that are fully closed. I’m not expecting him to jump up and manoeuvre the door handle into position. I mean doors that are slightly ajar.

Myrtle used to hook her paw between the door and the frame and pull it open. I’ve seen Harry attempt this move. He managed to get his paw into the gap okay, but at the same time, he rested his other paw (and his weight) on the door itself, pushing it closed and trapping his hooking paw in the process. Stupid, much?

Now, he just sits looking at the door until someone arrives and opens it for him.


On the other hand, Harry has shown evidence of being a trainable cat. These last few months have been extremely wet here. I got fed up with Harry coming back soaked and leaving a muddy trail behind him as he walked up the kitchen.

I started pushing him onto the back doormat and drying him with a paper towel. If I’d tried that with Myrtle, I’d have been left counting fingers. Harry just rolled on his side and purred.

Now, when I see him appearing at the back door, I kick the doormat a few feet into the kitchen. Harry walks in and flops down on it, waiting to be dried.

Yeah, very impressive, but a really clever cat would lie along the mat rather than across it!

Bird Catcher

Just as I was finishing this article, I heard a commotion in the garden, the sound of birds going buck daft. Seconds later, Harry came around the corner carrying what looked like a small Thrush in his mouth. This is the first thing he’s ever caught.

He put the bird down behind a planter while he turned to chase off the others which were attacking him.

I’m always torn in these situations. Nature is nature so I generally don’t interfere. As I watched, however, Harry came perilously close to catching one of the parent birds. I thought it best to bring him in to avoid further casualties.

Now, I have a half-dead bird hiding under a bush in the garden, parent birds going back and forth to check on it, and a cat desperate to get out to finish what it started.

Mama Thrush checking on junior (author's image)

Harry checking on Mama Thrush (author's image)

I really hope Harry isn’t going to be a successful hunter. Too much drama!


About the Creator

Brendan Donaghy

'Anyone can be confident with a full head of hair. But a confident bald man - there's your diamond in the rough.' Larry David

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