It was only a couple of days after I brought my new cat home from the animal shelter that I began to realize the level of his intelligence. Even though his orange-and-white head (one side orange, the other side white) was too small for his huge body and he had an extremely long tail, he had attracted me with his beautiful coppery coloring, big green eyes, and very affectionate manner. But as I said, it was becoming clear that not only was my new cat big, beautiful, and affectionate, but he was smart, too.
It had been difficult to gauge his size by peering into the cat cage at the shelter. When the shelter volunteer opened the cage and the cat rubbed his cheek ecstatically against my hand, I was hooked. I hadn't even asked that he be taken out of the cage before I signed the adoption papers.
When he walked out of his carrier and into my living room that first day, he seemed as big as a small dog. It struck me that I had just the right collar for him. I had purchased a thin, blue dog collar for a friend who said she wanted a miniature poodle but then decided against it.
I attached my cat's tags to the collar and buckled it around his neck.
He gave the collar a fair test: exactly two days. After that, I came home to find him stretched out in the hall so that I couldn't miss seeing him when I walked in. He looked up at me, with the unbuckled collar laid out full-length next to him. It mystified me. How had he unbuckled the collar?
I thought he was just being temperamental, so I buckled it back on.
The collar was for his safety, I explained. "If you get lost, the tags will identify you as my cat," I said. He looked at me unblinkingly. "Maoww," he replied, and seemed resigned.
The next night, I came home to again find him lying full-length on the floor, sleeping, with the unbuckled collar stretched out beside him. Obviously I was supposed to be receiving a message. He was not a fan of collars. I, however, was not that easily beaten. I again buckled the collar back on (after a slight skirmish) and told him in no uncertain terms that he was to keep the collar on and that we would have no more of this silly behavior.
The next evening, I came home after a long day. The collar episodes were forgotten. I opened the door to the house, and there lay my cat stretched out, sleeping peacefully. He was collarless. And not only was he collarless, the collar was nowhere to be seen and, as it turned out, nowhere to be found. I even checked his litter pan, thinking that perhaps he might be making some kind of statement. But it wasn't there.
I went back into the living room and began to pet him. The thought struck me that I should go out that night and purchase a proper cat collar for him. I realized at the pet store that the cat collars, although not shorter in length than the dog collar I had used, had much smaller buckles. Maybe he didn't like the dog collar because of the buckle. Or maybe he knew it was a dog collar?
I DECIDED not to take any chances. I found a soft, velvety, leopard-print cat collar that could not possibly be mistaken for a dog collar. I purchased new tags and placed the collar around his neck. Since that time, I have assumed he approves of the new collar, because the only time it is removed is by mutual agreement, when he is brushed.
It was about a year later, during spring cleaning, when I came upon the discarded dog collar. It was hidden behind a decorative screen, tags intact. I looked at my cat, who was following me around as I cleaned. He gave me a sideways glance and casually exited the room. The dog collar went the way of other things being thrown out that day.
I can take a subtle hint.