Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Obscure musings: cats and learning

So here I am, sitting at my dining room table (I'm working from home today), grinding my teeth in frustration. "Why?" I hear you ask (well, not really, but I'm going to tell you anyway!)

I have two cats: Molly and Daisy. They are litter sisters who have never been apart one day in their lives. Molly is the athlete, Daisy is the poser. Molly is independent and a take control girl. Daisy is a helpless whinger.

Since we are fresh air addicts, even in the depths of winter, the fanlights in the upper storey are open. Molly uses these to get in and out of the house, and she spends a great deal of time outdoors in any weather. Daisy is convinced that "outdoors" is a place that appears when the weather is good and the downstairs windows are open.

Molly negotiates her way behind the heavy wooden louvre blind in our bedroom, hauls herself up and through the fanlight, makes her way along the slatted wooden platform thing (said she articulately. I wish my camera battery wasn't flat!), down onto the garage, the shed, the fence and then to the ground. She comes back the same way. If the downstairs windows are open, even better. Out through the lounge windows and back the same way. Great. She figured all of that out all by herself.

Then there's Daisy. She has not ever ventured behind the wooden blind - I'm not even sure she is aware that the upstairs windows exist. Even if she figured that out, there is little chance that she would be able to follow her sister's example. Daisy doesn't "do" jumping or clambering - so unladylike, you understand. When the weather is fine (like today) and the downstairs windows are open, she heaves her (somewhat overweight) body up and out, and that's when the trouble starts. Within moments, she is yelling on the top of her voice, informing me (and the whole neighbourhood) that there is no way back into the house. That she's lost. Abandoned. Forlorn. Destitute. Alone. So I get up and open the front door for her. Haranguing me roundly, she comes back indoors, only to head straight back to the window and out again. I have tried ignoring her. I have tried sticking my head through the window and calling her, so that she can see how to get back in. I have tried making her favourite sound with the food container to entice her to find a way in. No dice. Occasionally, instead of yowling, she will "knock" on the front door. This involves hooking and releasing the rubber insulation, which genuinely makes a knocking sound... and totally destroys the rubber.

They make me think of the two extremes of learners. One gets on with it, figures it out for herself and makes independent progress. The other whines and whinges until someone does it for them out of pity or the quest for a moment's peace.

She's out there, right now, yelling her head off again. Last time I let her in (about 2 minutes ago), I groaned, "Why can't you learn how to let yourself in, you stupid moggy?" And then I thought about it. She has. Her method works just as well as her sister's. Better maybe.

There's a lesson in there somewhere, but I'm trying hard not to learn it!

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