The story of how kitten Mojo came into our lives was told in an earlier post. From a scrawny, one-week old, abandoned kitten who needed to be fed by syringe, he has grown into a 14 pound monster who is more dog than cat. As a cat, he has many strange behaviors; as a dog, he leaves much to be desired.
Mojo goes from kitten to cat
Mojo has always been feisty. He probably would not have survived otherwise. It is likely that he is from feral stock and was born knowing how to kick and claw his way through life.
When Mojo was only barely a handful of kitten, I began introducing him to the resident critters. His first home was a plastic box with a soft towel to snuggle in, a microwave heating pad (made special for neonate animals) to help him maintain body temperature, and a stuffed animal to simulate kitten siblings. The box sat on the kitchen counter near the kitten milk supplies and was topped with a metal grate to pre-empt any bad ideas from our dogs and cats. The dogs would gather round every two hours during feedings, and I’d let them take a sniff to get them used to the kitten’s scent. The dogs also learned that this new bit of fluff was MINE and nothing had better happen to him. The cats, Butters and Dewy, would quietly creep up to the box, peer in, and hiss. They were likewise informed that I was the owner of this little intruder and we were all going to get along someday.
As he grew, Mojo was transferred to a dog crate with a litter box and toys. The cats would walk by, stare through the bars, and hiss. The dogs would snuffle and let the kitten grab at their noses as they made fruitless attempts to reach the kitten food. The kitten was brought out a few times a day to run around in a room behind a closed door, so he could begin coordinating all his growing cat parts. Mojo soon learned how to pounce, leap, and climb. When we were convinced he was up to it, we began letting one dog at a time into the room to watch the play and nose the kitten. The cats remained unenthusiastic about the kitten and didn’t see the need to participate in any supervised play. Eventually, the door remained open during Mojo’s excursions. The dogs would visit. George the Cocker Spaniel was accepting of the kitten and became less and less interested. Zackie-O the Plott Hound started to mother Mojo and began tutoring him in misbehavior (see video below). The cats would walk by, check to see what the kitten was doing, and stand outside the room just long enough to hiss.
Mojo joins the cats
Mojo eventually outgrew the dog crate and his ever-expanding energy level demanded greater freedom. This was about when his feral roots began to show. Between being raised by a dog and having feral ancestry, Mojo was fearless as he made his way among the hissing cats. Butters and Dewy are both around 15 pounds and Mojo must have been only one-third of that when he muscled his way into the cat domain in our partially finished basement. I can only think he avoided a territorial squabble by confusing the older cats with his odd behavior.
To this day, Mojo performs dog play-bows to entice dog, human, or cat to play with him and he opens his mouth to mimic an excited dog pant when he’s happy and enthusiastic. But the tail wagging is a thing of mystery. Maybe there is something subtle that I’m missing, but it seems he uses the tail wag in both the traditional cat way (tail movement indicates irritation) and dog way (tail movement indicates happy excitement). Woe be to you if you misinterpret what Mojo means with his tail movement. [N.B. I have watched his ears for clarification. Mojo is either mercurial in his temperament and switches rapidly between playful and pissed, or I didn’t read the tail right from the start and he adds an exclamation point with the ears right before he strikes.]
Mojo resists most training
Once Mojo reached a state of independence, Zackie-O let him go his own way and gave him less attention. Puppy Angus (see picture at beginning) became Mojo’s special friend. Angus is currently 80ish pounds, has enormous feet, and forearms like Popeye the Sailor Man. Mojo likes to wrestle with him. I let them go at it until someone either yelps or yowls. They both learn interspecies manners this way and I intervene before anyone causes me vet bills.
We keep a semblance of order in the house because Butters and Dewy are the quintessential cats, completely uninterested in what humans or dogs do, and also because dogs in the house learn obedience commands. While Butters and Dewy need no additional training, Zackie-O earned her Canine Good Citizen (CGC) years ago, and Angus is working toward his. Both dogs are pretty good at coming when called, crating, sitting, lying down, getting on and off things, and staying on command. Zackie-O knows “give,” “leave it,” and “drop it;” Angus knows “give,” “leave it,” and is working on “drop it.” Both dogs have good door manners and know not to drag us on our bellies when we walk them. But because they are both trained as trailing dogs to find lost people, we don’t enforce the perfect loose lead, stay-at-my-side walking. They learn “easy” to slow them if they get the idea that today is the day they will drag the human on his/her belly.
Mojo has learned to come when called, to fetch (neither of the dogs do that) and a limited form of “leave it.” But he’s learned no commands for sit, down, off, stay, stop making me bleed, or get in your crate. He is high drive, so it is unfortunate that CARCA doesn’t really exist, because locating and digging people out of avalanches might help take the edge off. Unlike the dogs, Mojo tries to shoot out any open door leading to the outside. By hiding under Angus, he did succeed in escaping unnoticed once. Fortunately, the weather was hideous and cold. When I heard a cat meowing with the timber that tells me he really, really wants something, I thought a cat was upstairs and unwilling to run the dog gauntlet to make it to the basement. As I opened the backdoor to let the dogs out and give the unhappy cat a chance to migrate, I found Mojo outside, screaming to be let in. You would think that this would have taught him a lesson, but a few days later he met us at the side door as we brought the dogs back from a walk. Leaping from the dryer, he shot through the door and galloped down the driveway. We caught him before he made it too far.
So, I think I’ve made my case that Mojo is pretty much the worst dog ever. I have given up hope that he will some day pass his CGC. Despite his inclination toward engaging in a little bit of the old ultra violence, I can’t train him in protection because that requires extensive obedience training. I do hold out hope that he will naturally protect the house when we are out, simply because it would amuse him to put someone’s head through a cat blender. I pity the thief who thinks the dogs are the worst threat in this house.
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