Holed-up indoors during the monsoon season, Target and Guido turn their interests to home-decorating.

IF you take a look at our living room, you’ll notice some changes. We’ve got a new cushion cover, and there’s a mini rug by the stairs. This is not our doing: Guido and Target have been busy.

When people talk about animals shaping their environment, they usually talk of beavers building dams and ants creating nests complete with farms. Few people would put cats in that category but that’s because they haven’t seen Guido and Target at work.

Normally, Target and Guido confine themselves to managing their cardboard boxes. Target favours the one downstairs. It used to hold water bottles and is now being slowly shredded to bits from loving, clawing attention.

Guido has a small blue box upstairs that he inherited from Au, our senior cat who passed away last year. When Au sat in it, he would draw the flaps closed, leaving just his small stubby tail sticking out to show it was occupied, but Guido is a big boy so when he’s in his box, his whole bottom spreads out.

However, since the monsoon season started, they’re inside a lot so the cats are paying more attention to their more general home comforts. As they’ve plenty of energy, they’ve turned interior decorator.

Guido is responsible for our new cushion cover. In the normal way, our junior cat has his own spot on the sofa. In the same way, Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory has his corner, Guido has commandeered the corner spot with the large soft cushion as his particular domain.

Guido picked this place because it places him in perfect position for keeping an eye on the kitchen, front door, the stairs and of course the living room. He was totally happy with it until he came home one afternoon, chased in by a rainstorm and discovered I’d removed the cushion cover to wash it.

Guido inspected the cushion’s naked soft centre, jumped on top and decided it was blissful yielding perfection. Cats don’t talk in the same way we do but that doesn’t mean they have trouble getting their message across. When I tried to put the cover back on, our fuzzy face frowned, sighed, and finally scrabbled at the zip with his paw.

“Want me to take this off?” I asked.

“Meow!” Guido replied.

I took it off, he hopped on with loud purrs and I knew I had my orders.

Cats are very sensible and only look at the things that matter, so Guido was delighted that his comfort was catered to. As far as he was concerned, it was case closed.

Me, I have the classic human failing of considering what things look like. I didn’t want a scabby-looking cushion sitting on the sofa so I decided to give Guido my Thai elephant scarf. It has a silky feel to it and it’s very pretty, with brown and red stripes that set ginger fur off perfectly.

I draped it over the cushion and waited anxiously to see what Guido would say. He sniffed it over, chewed the fringe thoughtfully, and curled up on it. From his deep purrs, I knew it had been deemed acceptable, which is why today we have a new cushion that’s comfy and attractive, pleasing cat and human alike.

The addition of the small rug was Target’s work. Usually Target confines himself to very simple pronouncements over what works and what doesn’t. What I’m referring to here is his masterful paw.

When Target jumps up on my desk and finds a bunch of papers there, he may decide to decorate some edges with his fangs, as he did with a recent stack of receipts intended for the accountants, or he may simply sweep the lot to the floor.

Target takes the same approach to anything that mars what he considers his space: If it’s in his way, he disposes of it with a whap of the paw. It’s classic cat thinking: Target knows what he wants, and he’s not shy about doing what it takes.

With the rug, though, Target had to put in some effort, mostly because of us dumb humans not getting the point.

I bought the rug because it reminded me of tartan and because I wanted something at the front door but when our floors flooded in the monsoon rain, we chucked it on the stairs while we mopped. It ended up at the bottom of the steps, and Target had a fun time rolling around on it.

We didn’t notice Target had adopted it as his very own, so when everything was dry, we foolishly moved the rug back to the door. When we saw him tugging at it, dragging it across the living room, we knew what to do. The rug got a new place – with Target sitting on top of it like a small furry idol.

To some people, it may seem odd to have pets turning to home decorating but to me it seems perfectly reasonable. If you think about it, we all arrange our environment to suit our idiosyncrasies: Like moving a chair, clock or lamp from one side of the room to the other when you stay in a hotel.

Everyone has their own idea of comfort, and cats are no different so I have no problem with them making their own adjustments here and there. Mind you, sometimes I wish they would take to tidying up but then I remind myself of how Target deals with problems and I’m very grateful he doesn’t help out.

If I want to smash stuff, I can do that myself.

Find Ellen, Target and Guido at https://www.facebook.com/ewhyte

Furniture for your kitty 

We live in a quiet deadend street, so our cats are able to go out and play. However, if you have indoors kitties, there are some furniture items that may be of interest to your furry faces.

Cat condos and cat towers are specially designed to let your cat climb, crawl and hide. A typical tower has a sisal-covered pole for scratching, and several platforms that your cat can climb up to and then lounge on.

Really good ones come with cubbyholes in which your pet can hide and peer out at the world like a pirate, a hammock for open-air lounging, and a dangling rope with balls that can be whapped. The whole thing is usually upholstered in soft material that gives your cat a comfy seat.

Cats will lounge on your bed, sofa and cupboards, because that’s what cats do naturally but cat condos allow pets to have their own private space and are useful for directing clawing kitties to “proper” spots to scratch.

Cat tunnels are very simple structures made from fabric and plastic tubing. They are usually foldable, and can be set up to be straight, bendy and everything in between. Luxury ones have scratch sections covered in sisal and pop-up spots so your pet can pretend to be a gopher.

The appeal of a cat tunnel is that cats love to play hide and seek. Also, they love the idea of darting in and out of hiding.

Finally, there is the cardboard box, the king of cat furniture. A good box is slightly bigger than the cat and has all its flaps intact. Set it on its side so your pet can sit inside it, scratch it, and pull the flaps in and out. As it’s soft, it’s also excellent for kitties who love to claw.

Adopt me

TIMBUN is a little sweetheart of a kitten who adores sitting on laps and being told stories. She’s an ideal companion for anyone, from a singleton to a family with kids. Timbun is five months old, female and healthy. Interested adopters please contact the SPCA Penang (04-281 6559 / e-mail spcapenang@gmail.com).