37: The Amazing Cat Trick

37: The Amazing Cat Trick

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat

The Amazing Cat Trick

Fun fact: When giving treats to your cat, make sure they’re not chocolate, which can be toxic to cats, causing high blood pressure, heart problems or seizures.

When I was twelve years old, we had a cat that wandered in and out of our house. When Topsy, a gray striped Tabby, chose to stay inside, he had food, safety, and companionship. Outside, he explored, hunted and roamed the countryside, sometimes mysteriously disappearing for days. Coming and going as he desired, he had the best of both worlds.

One day, I said to him, “Topsy, you are going to learn tricks.” I made this announcement after spotting a mail-order offer on the back of my cereal box featuring a booklet explaining how to teach your cat tricks. I ordered it.

During the time I waited to receive the booklet in the mail, I imagined the fantastic stunts Topsy would soon perform. I had big plans for him. I pictured my cat jumping through a ring of fire like a tiger in the circus. I went and found my old hula hoop so I’d be ready.

When the booklet arrived, it advised me to start with a simple trick: shaking hands. Following the directions, I said, “Shake hands,” lifting Topsy’s paw and feeding him a snack simultaneously. I repeated this procedure many times, sometimes waiting for Topsy to return from one of his jaunts before continuing. Topsy finally mastered the trick. Whenever I said, “Shake hands,” he lifted his paw. I was proud of him.

Topsy had learned his trick so well that he no longer waited for me to say, “Shake hands.” Instead, he constantly raised his paw and touched me, staring hopefully, as if to say, “Come on, where’s my snack?” Petting him as a reward didn’t work. Neither did ignoring him. He continued shaking hands. He must have believed I always carried around bits of yummy food and had suddenly decided not to share.

Then one day, when I was wearing stockings, Topsy shook hands with my ankles. His claws snagged my stockings, damaging them. I had created a “stocking ripper” cat.

Not long after, something far worse happened.

When I saw the expression on my mother’s face, I knew she had terrible news. “Topsy’s dead,” she said. “He’s been run over.”

“No,” I cried, rushing outside to see for myself.

In front of our house, Topsy’s crushed body lay on the road. Nothing much was left of his remains. Perhaps he’d been hit by a truck or run over more than once. My insides felt like they’d been dragged along with him.

My mother scooped up fur scraps and bloody bones. She placed them in a shoebox and buried it. We sobbed and hugged each other. Topsy was gone forever. He’d never shake hands with us again. We had lost a beloved member of our family. I cried myself to sleep.

A few days after Topsy’s death, I was standing outside when something touched my leg. At first, I thought I’d imagined it. Again, I felt the same sensation. It sent chills through my body. Had Topsy’s ghost returned to haunt me?

I looked down. A paw rested on my ankle.

“Oh, my God!” There was good old Topsy, alive and well, and expecting a reward for shaking hands. Well, he certainly deserved one. After all, he’d performed the most amazing trick of all. He’d come back from the dead!

Clearly, my mother had buried someone else’s cat. Whose gray striped Tabby was it? I never found out. I wish I could have told the owner what had happened to his pet, but that wasn’t possible.

Meanwhile, I focused my attention on Topsy. He received compliments, cuddles, caresses and extra treats. He purred contentedly, probably thinking it was about time he was appreciated. I began teaching him to jump through my hula hoop. I didn’t know how much more time he and I would have together, but I was going to make the most of it.

~Laura Boldin-Fournier

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