We have celebrities writing books on how to raise children. We have politicians writing books on how to raise children. We've had scads of well-meaning, well-intentioned psychologists, psychiatrists, and all manner of degreed individuals write books, tomes, and papers, as well as pontificate on talk shows, about how we should raise children.
So why can't a cat do the same? Yes, a cat. Her name is Sister Kitty, and she really seems to know what she is doing.
Let me explain: My 15-year-old daughter, Katie, and I have volunteered at the Rescue House for the past four years, helping find homes for abandoned house cats. As a result, every Friday night we journey down to a pet store that displays rescued animals that are available for adoption. We feed and play with the kitties, and introduce them to loving people who may wish to adopt one or more.
Recently, our center has been graced by Sister Kitty. This lovely lady comes from a family in which the kittens were named "Momma Kitty," "Aunt Kitty," "Baby Kitty," – I think you detect the pattern here.
Sister Kitty is a large, pristinely white cat draped with a saddle blanket infused with the softest brown tiger stripes. This prim and proper lady will usually sit on a high cat tree, watching the kitten-induced mayhem on the floor below.
On the rare occasions when she thinks that the kittens need disciplining, Sister Kitty jumps onto the floor, bops the offender, and then jumps back up onto her perch, with order having been restored.
My daughter loves to stretch out right down among the kittens, letting them romp and play all over her. Katie has been raised with her own cats. She enjoys her time "test purring" these cats at the center. (Well, you test-drive a car so why not "test purr" a cat?)
She also knows how to behave around them, although sometimes she violates their rules of behavior ... as she did one Friday.
Katie, stretched out on the floor, had kittens leaping back and forth across her. It resembled a cat version of "Gulliver's Travels," in which Katie played Gulliver and the kittens played all the parts of the Lilliputians.
In the middle of cats romping right to left and left to right, Katie suddenly made a noise at them. The sound was part hiss, part hairball cough, but it was enough to startle the kittens into freezing in place.
Katie did not infuse the sound with the tenor of an angry cat, so both of us were a bit perplexed by the frozen kittens. Cisco, the little tiger, sniffed the air and then slowly started backing away.
Cedric, the larger black kitten, stopped his play to balance on Katie's hip. He then jumped down and slunk away as the coughing noise continued.
Mongo made a beeline for the wall of the room farthest from Katie. The kittens immediately began playing again – but as far away from my daughter as they could get.
It was at this moment that Sister Kitty woke up and decided to demonstrate how to raise well-behaved teens.
Of course, they can be disciplined by one's body language. From atop the green-carpeted cat tree, Sister Kitty glared down at Katie.
Katie did not take this as a hint to cease the hissy-giggly-coughing sound. Sister Kitty took umbrage at this. She furrowed her furry brows, evidenced by an increased number of wrinkles on her forehead.
I suggested that Katie cease her sounds. But Katie kept it up. Sister Kitty sat up and moved sideways across the cat tree. She kept Katie constantly in her sights, communicating with her eyes that she wanted Katie to quit.
The cat never made a vocalization during this ballet – jumping onto the cat tree behind Katie (with a loud "thud!" so that the cat tree shook as though it was being felled by a lumberjack) and then jumping from platform to platform until she reached the floor and was sitting in front of Katie.
The cat glowered at the kid. The kid giggled. The cat had had enough. We don't know what Katie was saying in cat language, but we surmise she was saying terrible things about Sister Kitty's moral standards or those of her parents. Whatever it was, it had angered Sister Kitty beyond words.
The cat now sat on the floor in front of the teen. Giving the kid one last chance to repent (which she did not), the cat now disciplined the kid by clobbering Katie on top of her head with her paw.
It must be noted that the cat showed a measure of restraint: She did not use her claws during said clobbering. The kid was surprised but still laughing.
It's a certainty that Katie will never, ever make that hissy-giggly-coughing sound again, proving the efficacy of Sister Kitty's methods of raising well-behaved teens.
We fully expect that Sister Kitty's book detailing her methods will be out in the spring.