When you have kids, you also have animals. On occasion the kids are the animals. So we had cats and dogs, and gerbils, and turtles, and hamsters, and fish. At one time a carpet in the basement had fleas so bad you could feel them jump onto your legs when you stood still. To get rid of fleas requires killing all the mothers. Then you must plan your next attack based upon the gestation period from the life cycle of fleas. After killing the mothers, you have to wait till the eggs hatched into new babies, then spray again before the babies became mothers. We never did figure out exactly how long it took a newly hatched flea to become a mother. Compounding this ignorance, we rarely read the labels on cans of vermin spray, most of which don’t kill fleas. As a result, we had fleas for a long time.
While the kids were supposed to be responsible for the pets things, they often were not. There were dozens of kinds of kitty litter boxes to help manage a cat that needs to go at all hours of the day or night. We specially liked those with automatic sifters, lifting the aromatic morsels away from the unmolested kitty litter, leaving the good stuff to be recycled. It never worked very well. We bought kitty litter in 100 pound bags, it seemed, every week. On occasion the litter box would become so enamored with morsels that our fastidious cat refused to use the facility. Frankly we understood the problem, but that didn’t help the cat.
After the kids moved away, they left their pets in our care. Finally we were down to a single Siamese named Samantha. She was nicely housebroken, and had a litter box for backup. We tended her litter box about as well as the kids when they were at home. Samantha still didn’t like it. She did a great job covering her work when she used it. In her enthusiasm to cover her work, she often scratched many paw-fulls of litter and older morsels out onto the floor around the box. After several days, there was often more stuff outside than inside the box. The expression think outside of the box was original with Samantha. She went beyond simply thinking to actually throwing outside the box. It was novel, but not very pretty.
One evening we retired to our bedroom just off the hallway, confident that everything was locked and secure in the house. After sleeping for a spell, we were awakened by faint, yet familiar noises. The kids were all gone, and none were expected home. Yet an unmistakable noise was coming from the bathroom just off the hallway. It was the characteristic tinkle, tinkle, tinkle of stuff sprinkling into the toilet. We were scared to death. How brazen of a burglar to enter the house, and use the toilet, we thought. For a moment we were petrified.
There was only a faint nightlight in the bathroom, leaving the hallway mostly dark. Finally in an act of courage, I slid quietly out of bed and crept over to the hallway door. The tinkling had stopped, and as I peered down the hallway, I saw the small shadow of Samantha leaving the bathroom. She had obviously relieved herself directly into the toilet, and after finishing the job, dismounted, and left the room. Our emotions moved from acute fear to shock and surprise. How wonderful, we thought. Was her kitty litter box full of fresh morsels, driving her to find alternative repositories, or was she modeling the other folks she had watched in the house?
Whatever the cause, we were excited about the possibility of converting her into using the toilet permanently. We could eliminate the smelly litter box, with all its collected morsels, the routine of sifting and replenishing the litter as needed, and cleaning up the mess outside the box. We would not need to purchase the 100-pound bags of litter any more, or find fresh places in the yard to broadcast her leavings. If we could convert her to using the toilet for all her jobs, we could eliminate the litter box altogether. We were startled that she had used the toilet at all, yet the evidence was clear.
We examined the toilet carefully to be sure we were not mistaken. With the tinkle hitting directly into the water, she must have placed her furry bottom quite precisely. As a four-legged critter, she was undoubtedly standing directly over the seat, facing forward, much as she had done with her litter box. At the proper moment she aimed perfectly, producing the characteristic tinkle familiar to us all. Quite surprisingly, the seat was perfectly dry in spite of her four-legged stance. In our generosity, we excused her failure to flush, leaving only the pungent odor of kitty behind.
Then we checked out the cat. She was clean and dry, and happy with her accomplishment. We petted her and reinforced her saying:
Good job, Samantha. Whenever you need to go to the bathroom, we will leave the light on and the door open just for you.
We had visions of going on vacation, and leaving her in the house without worrying about the litter box. The seat must be left down, of course, as required by all the ladies. We did everything we could think of to encourage her to continue this practice.
Our efforts were about as effective as they were killing fleas. Nothing we did was successful in getting Samantha back onto the toilet. Finally we decided exactly what Samantha was thinking. She had seen innumerable people perform at the toilet over the years, and in her confusion from seeing some sit and some stand, she decided, in her wisdom, to develop her own unique style, – standing almost upright where others sit, – when they sit. She was not only thinking, and scratching, she was performing outside the box.
After several months we came to accept that Samantha was challenged by what she had observed. There were those who sit, and those who stand, yet they were clearly doing the same thing. Rising to the challenge, she developed her own style, proved she could do it herself, and lost the urge. She had never done it before, and she never did it again. To our great disappointment, this was Samantha’s one-night stand. Unlike the other girls, she did it standing, another example of her thinking outside of the box.
On reflection, it is currently in vogue for academic and business types to suggest that others should think outside the box. By so doing, they divest themselves of traditional and habitual ways of thinking, and generate novel and creative new solutions to the quandaries they face. Personally, I never considered such vague suggestions as inspirational as the academics. For me, outside the box is not that great, as I had a cat that did it for several years. After one very successful one-night stand, she never found it necessary to do it again.
Samanthas piercing stare like Olivers (above)
Picture compliments of Suyaki Siamese Cats of Miami.