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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Mystery of the Hurty Paw

As you may recall, we have two cats - Canadian Barn Cats to be precise - who are now approximately six years old, well-travelled and middle-aged (for cats) and in consequence of that, one would think that they fall firmly under the rules of the adage "You cant teach old dogs new tricks" in other words, you would think their behaviours would be well established by now. Unfortunately, as Callisandra Vella, Queen of the Urban Jungle, would undoubtedly point out, the cats - that is, her and Toshack Tiddly Om-Pom-Pom - are not dogs. Hence, when during a memorable evening with Joey and Anna, Toshack turned up with a hurty paw after another nocturnal excursion, a mystery was hatched.

On presentation of the hurty paw, and accompanying limp, Toshack's paw was examined, forensically. With the sick feeling that accompanies examination of any serious injury (and I have a degree of experience in the area) I sat him down in a quiet spot and gingerly inspected the limb in question. I felt his leg bones carefully, half-expecting the horrible rubberiness and swelling that signifies fracture. Nothing. Then I looked carefully for signs of punture - a small piece of glass, perhaps. Nothing. Then a comb through his fur, and along the muscles of his leg, from the shoulder down, pressing gently to see if any tender areas could be identified by his reaction. Nothing.

The next day, by chance, he had a vets appointment for his regular shots. Before the shots were dispensed, the vet was informed of the circumstance. She too conducted a thorough examination, and apart from declaring that he had "large elbows", found nothing. However, she did advise something that no cat owner wants to hear:

"You should keep him inside for a week. See how he gets on."

I took the cat home with a feeling of dread, a feeling that was fully justified at four am the next morning when I was awakened by a gentle paw on my nose. So it went for a week, and all went to plan. The limp got better and we were interrupted in our slumbers to the point of sleep deprivation by a very bored, too-closely-humanised cat. We let him out at the end of the week, but two days later, the cat came back, limping. This time it was a different paw.

It was clear we had a serious mystery on our hands, and if the vet could'nt solve it, then like all humans these days, we of course turned to our new God. The internet. Thankfully, the net was exceedingly helpful - cancer, arthritis, brain tumour, liver disease, dislocation, skin condition, high blood pressure - all were suggested, and despite the certain knowledge that the internet also features web-pages on alien abductions, Bosnian Pyramids and Intelligent Design, at least some of these possibilities were considered by virtue of shoe-horning and squeezing the cat's symptoms so they vaguely matched a description of brain tumour symptoms provided by that world renowned feline expert "Kitty Lover" from Yahoo Answers.

We eventually found the answer by spending far too much time watching Toshack's behaviour (time that should have been spent renovating) and the answer was simple, and not provided on any of the internet forums I had visited. Toshack, as you may recall, hates next door's cat, Max, with a passion he reserves for black cats (we did consider reporting him to the Equal Opportunities Commission). A new behaviour caused by this hatred is that when Max appears at a window, Tosh has taken to hurling himself at that window in a rage, flailing at the glass with the strength that only an 18lb Canadian Barn Cat can muster. The consequence of this gloveless boxing match is that Tosh bruises his claws to the point where they are bleeding and bruised, hence the limp. Unlike humans though, Toshack does not spend time researching his injuries, or reflecting on his actions, or even looking for answers as to why his paw is hurty. If Max appears at a different window two minutes later, the behaviour is repeated. Stupid cat ! you may think, and I would agree. What kind of creature would be so stupid as to endlessly repeat actions that were both pointless and caused harm to themselves?

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