Ever since childhood, I’ve known that canines are very playful, and that they love playing games, with both their canine pals, and with their human friends. But it wasn’t until my adulthood, that I learned felines love to play games, as well.
And my instructor in feline game playing was extremely wise for his tender young age. He was a tiny orange tabby kitten that had materialized on my dog’s backyard grave. And once little Buddy entered my life, it would never be the same.
The first game Buddy taught me was ‘Ambush.’ I was feeding several alley cats at the time, and when they would gather out back for their evening meal, Buddy would become extremely excited, eagerly ready to begin his game.
And he tried out his devilish little game on each and every one of these old alley cats. He would even pick a new ‘victim’ every day. To initiate the game, little Buddy would race outside while they were dining, and very playfully bat one of them about the head with his paws. Then he would race back inside my apartment with quite a devilish grin on his furry little face; and he would immediately hide somewhere.
Buddy’s favorite hiding places were always somewhere high up in the apartment, like the top of a tall bookcase, or the top of my refrigerator. And when one of the alley cats out back took his ‘bait,’ and raced inside looking for him, he would soon pounce!
He often landed squarely on their backs, and of course, he would startle them so severely, they would jump ten feet in the air, and race back outside. And little Buddy would now stand there with a truly devilish grin on his impish face, and look at me as if to say, “I got them again!”
Eventually, all the alley cats figured out Buddy’s hilarious game, and they would no longer follow him inside. But little Buddy was a very determined game player; and now, I quickly became his new ‘victim.’
As I re-entered the apartment one night, little Buddy was already in position, and as I passed beneath the refrigerator, he pounced. And he landed directly on my head! I jumped, of course, and I raced around the room in mock terror, and Buddy was extremely delighted. And I roared with laughter.
Buddy never tired of playing Ambush, and he got quite good at selecting new hiding places. I never knew where he would pounce from next, and I laughed and laughed and laughed.
Buddy also liked to sprawl on my lap taking leisurely cat naps, as I worked at my desk. One night, I happened to be drafting a memo for work, and I was having a very tough time with it. In exasperation, I grabbed the piece of paper I was writing on, crumbled it up, and absent mindedly tossed it across the room.
Little Buddy sprang from my lap in a flash; raced across the room; grabbed that piece of paper in his mouth; and raced back with it. I looked down to discover that he had dropped it at my feet. So I tossed it off again, and he was immediately off again, chasing it down, and eagerly bringing it back to me.
That night of discovery, I bet I tossed that piece of paper 50 times, and little Buddy always brought it right back.
‘Fetch’ quickly became our new game, and Buddy would now fetch and retrieve almost anything that I tossed across the room – wads of paper, tiny rubber balls, cat toys. We both delighted in playing Fetch together for many years.
Hide and Seek
My silly mood one evening prompted this new game, but both Buddy and I soon delighted in playing it.
As I entered the apartment one evening after work, Buddy was sprawled out on the couch, looking up at me as I entered. Feeling silly, I raised my hands high in the air, gave Buddy my silliest ‘funny face,’ and yelled, ‘Boo!’
Buddy immediately raced off somewhere to hide, in mock fear for his life. So I quickly decided to hide myself, in a deep dark closet. And as I sat there waiting, I truly wondered if Buddy would come looking for me.
He did. His cat’s curiosity had quickly gotten the better of him, and he diligently searched everywhere until he found me. And he seemed awfully pleased with himself when he did.
So, of course, I yelled ‘Boo!’ again, and he was off, to now find a hiding place of his own. And he seemed truly crushed, when I eventually found him.
Thus began our new game of Hide and Seek, and now, whenever I would come home from work and not find Buddy waiting for me on the sofa or in the window, I always knew that he had already started the game, and that he was already in some deep dark corner, wondering how long it would take me to find him this time.
Since Buddy was a true Feline Gamester, he loved all three of these games. But over the years, I’ve discovered that not every cat loves every game. Felines can be quite selective, with both their food, and with their games.
One of my current cats named Natasha really loves to play Ambush. She never tires of hiding somewhere, and devilishly pouncing out at me.
Old Fat Louie, rather unbelievably, loves to play Fetch. He must have decided that he does need some exercise.
And my young Tortoise Shell from New Orleans, Miss Flower, absolutely loves playing Hide and Seek. And all it takes to start the game, is me looking at her and yelling, ‘Boo!’ and she’s off in a flash, searching for that perfect hiding place.
I truly miss my dear old Gamemaster Buddy these days, but his feline gaming legacy lives on, and I will be forever in his debt for teaching me that cats love games, too.
©2008, Mr. Ed