Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Water Babies

One of the traits that sets Bengals apart from other cats is their attraction to water. I discovered this with Winston right away, because from Day One he thought of his water bowl as a toy, and he did so until the day he died.

When I got Winston, I didn't think I needed to buy a lot of stuff-- just food and litter, mostly-- because I had had a cat for 10 years. I had a lovely little matching bowl set for food and water-- typical ceramic "cat size" bowls, one for food, one for water. I kept them in the far end of the kitchen on a little kitty placemat. Shortly after I got Winston, I came home to find a toy floating in the water bowl. I thought it was an accident and that the water on the floor came from his attempts to get the toy out of the bowl, so I scooped it out, wrung it out and set it to dry on the kitchen sink.

Winston came in and sniffed around the bowl, then left. A few minutes later, he came in carrying another toy in his mouth and dropped it directly into the freshly-filled water bowl and began to smack it around, clearly enjoying the splashes he was making. Shocked, I told him to knock it off, took the toy, and threw it out of the kitchen into the dining room. He ran after it and fetched it back... and dropped it right back into the water bowl. A new game! Awesome!

A few days later, I came home and found a trail of water from the kitchen to the dining room and the water bowl upside down under the dining room table. I knew that this called for additional methods, so I went to the pet store and found a weighted food/water dish designed for large dogs. The thing was made out of some sort of resin with weights incorporated so that it looked like it had been carved from a block of black marble. It looked cool, but the key feature was that it weighed approximately five pounds with most of the weight in the base, so it was virtually impossible for a 6 lb. kitten to tip over or drag. It was, however, possible to splash all of the water out of it for an impressive distance in all directions around the fixed point of the bowl, as both Winston and I soon discovered.

He didn't limit himself to the water dish, either. I came home one day and found him bathing himself. When I scooped him up, I discovered that he was soaking wet up to his armpits. I searched the apartment to find out where he had gotten into the much water and discovered that I had accidentally left the lid to one of the toilets up. Apparently he had a little pool party in my absence! He had managed to splash most of the water out of the bowl all over the bathroom floor, and as I mopped it up, he was still splashing around in it, chasing droplets and the edge of the mop.

He also had to learn a few realities about water, though. Like the fact that if you play in water then get immediately into your litter box that contains clumping cat litter, you end up with a condition that can best be described as "concrete toes," and that despite your howls of protest, your mother will insist on chipping all of the offending material away, removing most of the fur in the process. He walked around with some very sad-looking little pink toes until the fur grew back.

I also learned the hard way to lock him out of the bathroom, again, despite his howls of protest, if I wanted to take a bath. He didn't usually get into the shower with me unless he fell in from the side of the tub (which he did fairly frequently as a kitten, less often as he got older), but he couldn't resist a tub full of water. The first time he got in with me, I had to be very careful to get him out without ending up with scratches in places that I didn't want to have to explain to my doctor!

I used to warn my guests that if they were drinking water, they should not set their cup down on the floor or the furniture. He ignored other liquids, interestingly enough (soda, tea, etc.), but if there was a glass of water he would walk up to it and stick his foot in it. I had to explain him a lot.

I think his favorite thing that I ever brought home was the kitty water fountain. I finally decided to give it a try because he kept splashing the water out of the water bowl, and I figured that he would be hard-pressed to make a BIGGER mess than he already was. Besides, the fountain had a filter on it, which would hopefully cut down on how often I would have to wash the whole thing (with Winston floating his toys and putting his feet in the water dish all of the time, I usually had to wash it 2 or 3 times a day). He LOVED it! Lots of water, some of it bubbling, and when he floated his toys there was enough water for there to be a little current that would spin them! Hours of entertainment!

When I had just him and then him and Cinnamon, I would take them with me when I visited my parents. Mom never got used to the water thing. We'd be in the dining room eating and we'd hear the tell-tale splish-splish-splish that told us that Winston was digging in the water bowl. Mom would tell him to stop it, he would totally ignore her, so she'd get up and go scoop him up and fuss at him while cradling him like a baby. I think on some level she knew that he was manipulating her-- he would splash in the water bowl to get attention, and boy, did it work!

Cinnamon has never shown any particular interest in water, but the new boys certainly do. We usually have one or both of them in the shower with us, sitting on the side of the tub between the shower curtain and the liner. They haven't yet discovered the fun of floating toys in the water fountain, but Razor did start to get into the toilet once when BikerDude left the lid up (fortunately I caught him before he could make too big of a mess). They both like to get in the shower after we're done and splash around in the puddles and get in the sink while the water is running and play with the stream of water.

Like Winston, their lack of fear of water can make discipline challenging, too. Long ago I discovered that water bottles can be effective, but with Winston, they were a game. I'd squirt him, he'd jump down and run away, but then he'd run right back as if to say, "Do it again!" Kaos does this, too. Tweak runs off and beats up another cat. But that's why she wears the "Bad Kitty" tag.

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