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Tough Cookies or Marshmallows?

Best Friends Animal Society
Best Friends Network

July 8, 2008

Last time Kate and I saw Paprika, she was giving Corinne Mitchell a bit of a hard time. Sure, Paprika would allow pets, but not without a good deal of “negotiation” (the sort of thrust and parry for which one might like a sturdy pair of welding gloves--indeed, in the early days of Miss Sherry’s Finishing School, feeding time for this little pistol warranted body armor). That was Memorial Day weekend.

Six weeks later, though, we were able to reach into Paprika’s cage and scratch her head and back. She rolled over for us, and we witnessed firsthand her YouTube-famous “elevator butt” behavior (all of which seemed very impressive until we saw Terri Gonzales and Barbara Williamson with Paprika on their laps--clearly, we are still amateurs).

Most anybody would have given up on Paprika long ago. Even the most charitable among us would have placed Paprika in a feral colony. But that was before Miss Sherry’s. The work that’s been done at the finishing school has given cats such as Paprika the opportunity for an entirely new life. What’s more, it’s challenged much of the conventional wisdom about these so-called feral cats.

Paprika isn’t the only one of these tough cookies to have melted, though. Fonzie, too, is getting lap time these days. While we were there, Terri’s daughter CC had this one-time bad boy behaving like a house cat (and providing possible evidence of a “cat whisperer” gene in the process).

Astro, who Barbara calls an “alpha female,” is coming around, too. She even “made biscuits” for us! And Curtis has made great progress And Delphi. And Aurora. Sylvester and Joker… The list goes on and on.

Charisma has a crush on Erik, for goodness sake! Maybe he’ll help her to settle down and pay more attention to her hair for a change. It wouldn’t be the first time one of these cats benefited from the example of a “model student.”

• • •

Watching people work with the cats--and seeing the results—it’s clear that there is a great deal of learning going on here. And, like all good schools, the students aren’t the only ones learning. The teachers are learning from the cats, and from one another. Techniques are being developed, processes documented, and results celebrated.

It seems to me there’s a new body of knowledge being developed at Miss Sherry’s. This is real-world research going on—research that may help change the way people think about “feral” cats. Which sounds pretty heady, I know. Since when does research involve feather wands, baby food, and “treat trays”? Come on.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t be the first time that a handful of people in Angel Canyon changed the world.


Best Friends Animal Society

The Great Kitty Rescue

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© 2008 peter j. wolf