by Uncle Bear
Divine providence? Fate? Luck? Sheer chance? Call it what you will, my niece and I will
be forever grateful to the individual(s) who discarded a tiny kitten close to our
house. They will not experience the joy we've have watching "Simba," as we named him,
grow from a barely weaned kitten to a handsome and very intelligent adult cat.
Simba's intelligence never ceases to amaze us. He has learned to communicate his wishes
in various ways and do things we love to brag we taught him. However he learned on his
own and he even developed a game.
My niece is attending college and is involved with an Internet radio station, so she
finds herself in front of her computer for large amounts of time. As soon as Simba was
able to scramble up and onto the desk where the monitor sat, he quickly taught himself
to stand patiently beside the screen because soon the lady of the house would set him
in her lap for a gentle rub down.
If my niece was busy or concentrating she might ignore Simba, and after a dutiful
wait, he would put "Plan B" in action. This always consisted of using a paw and, slowly
but surely, pushing an object on the floor. The young kitten discovered car and house
keys on a ring are the best noise makers and attention getters.
Our little one's favorite items to play with are toy mice. We have learned over time
that when walking around the house in the dark, there is always an excellent
possibility we might tread on one or more (toy) mice.
How Simba taught himself to retrieve a tossed toy mouse remains a pleasant mystery to
us. During Simba's designated play time in the morning, he sits by my niece's chair
and waits for her to toss one of his mice to the middle of the floor. When the toy
with its attached string lands, the little cat runs to grab it. As my niece slowly
retrieves the string, Simba carries the toy back to her. One time the toss and
retrieve game was interrupted by a ringing telephone. Ignoring Simba just long enough
to answer the call, my niece looked down and there the toy mouse lay at her feet.
Being curious, she took a different toy mouse, this time without a string attached,
and threw it in the middle of the room. To her amazement and later to mine, each time
Simba picked up the toy and returned it to her feet.
Our little throwaway cat has even developed a game he plays by himself. For some time
if my niece went into the bathroom and Simba wasn't able to accompany her, there
would be frantic cries of distress, scratching on the door, an all-out attempt to
reach the door handle, and a paw thrust under the door waving frantically. Later if
the door was shut and Simba happened to be playing "hockey," should his "puck" go
under the door sill, he taught himself to attempt to retrieve the toy by using his
Simba has now refined his game to the point that when the door is open, he will
purposely swat a toy under the door and then attempt to pull it back using touch only.
If he isn't successful, then and only then will he go around the door, bring the toy
back and start the game again.
Where did Simba come from? Who left him in our yard as a throwaway? We'll never know.
We do know, however, that we've been blessed with a most wonderful addition to our
house. So to you, whoever you, are let us say, "Thanks! Your loss has been our very
Uncle Bear is a writer and researcher in North Carolina. He can be reached through: