FLORENCE HOWE

activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press




Florence in Words

Six Months of Mr. Taksi, the Resident Cat

July 5, 2017

Tags: Mr. Taksi

If I’m so pleased by Taksi, why hadn’t I moved earlier to adopt a cat? Three people very close to me are allergic to cats: my daughter, my daughter-in-law, my best friend, Helene. But they’ve understood, especially since he makes me laugh heartily at least once a day, often many times. And he now follows me around the apartment, settling into a nap if that’s what he needs, but waking up and moving with me, should I move.

And yes, he now wants to know what I am eating, and he’s interested in tasting whatever it is, though his palate is fairly limited. But he’s no nag. When I say no, he goes off.

Which brings me to language. Can cats, like dogs, learn verbal signals? I’m trying to answer that question, and I’ll tell you what I know at this six month point. When it’s eating time, Taksi is very excited and he used to stand up and try to knock the plate out of my hand. He’s over three feet when he stands up on his hind legs and he’s strong. So I’ve taught him the following words: “Sit” and “Stay.” And most of the time they work: I can actually get the food almost to the floor before Taksi moves to it. He’s now revised that little action to his sitting on the stepstool that I have at the end of the kitchen. And he’s dragged the place mat, meant to be beneath his food, to the top of the stepstool, where he sits. And it’s clear that he knows “Sit” and “Stay.”

He also knows “no,” especially when enunciated with volume and a special tone. He’ll drop something he’s carrying if I shout “no.” And he also knows the word “out,” issued usually from my bedroom, if he’s banging the venetian blinds to wake me and to amuse himself. He’s learned not to do that, since my response has been to lock him out of the bedroom, beginning with the word “out.”

I’d like to hear from people with cats who think they’ve been teaching their pets verbal cues. And, as a postscript, I’ve been trying to play fetch with Taksi, and I’ve made minimal progress so far. But he loves to play, and favorite toys are balls of paper or tinfoil, cardboard roll inside toilet rolls, anything that will move if batted. And a few times, so far, he’s carried the ball back to me in his mouth, as a dog would.

Mr. Taksi’s Pomeranian Visitors

June 12, 2017

Tags: Mr. Taksi

Today, June 9, is Vickie Pajek’s birthday, and to celebrate, she is bringing her two dogs, Gismo, who is seven, and Coconut, who is nine, for a second visit with Mr. Taksi. Vickie arrived a week or so ago with toys for all, and they had a merry time of it, as some of the pictures that follow will illustrate. As for us, we laughed and laughed, and I was reminded once again of the power of pets to enrich our lives with laughter. So enjoy the photos and if they make you smile, please understand that Taksi offers me at least one amazing belly laugh a day, even though his behavior may begin by exasperating me with its insistence that I pay attention to him. He knows what he wants and is determined that I heed his needs. And dare I ask whether he wants to be visited? He doesn’t go off and hid; nor does he attack his guests. He’s curious, and perhaps even interested. We’ll see what a second visit brings. More to come.

A Surprise from Mr. Taksi

March 10, 2017

Tags: Mr. Taksi

This will be mostly a few photos to illuminate what happened a few days ago when Martina Grant, a masseuse therapist turned up with her dog, Charlie. I thought that Mr. Taksi, my still relatively new cat, would hide in the deepest closet he could find. But I was totally wrong in my assessment, for he wanted to see Charlie, perhaps even to play with him, though Charlie was not (yet?) interested and stayed close to Martina, even deigning to curl up on her lap.

And I must add: this was not the business of a few minutes, but we two humans talked for nearly an hour, during which the two protagonists came closer and closer to each other. Martina was certain that Taksi had been reared with dogs. And as I have said several times, the only information I have is that he was found “on the street.” Enjoy the photos. What should we do next?
Mr. Taksi and Charlie

Mr. Taksi’s World, Number 2

March 4, 2017

Tags: Mr. Taksi

This cat has been living with me since the 2nd of January, and for the first time yesterday, on the 3rd of March, he stepped out into the hall for half a minute. No, he doesn’t seem to me to be longing for the street from which he was rescued by Bide-a-Wee. And he’s still giving me laughs, especially when he dashes into an open closet and refuses to emerge until I’ve closed the door and departed. And of course I do return fairly soon.

But what I’ve been doing lately is trying to teach Taksi a few of what dog people call “commands.” Can cats learn to “sit” and “stay”? Do they understand “no,” or is it only the tone with which one shouts “no” that penetrates a cat’s brain? Here’s my first report, and I will also send along more photos, which is what appeals most, I am told. My daughter tells me also that my great-grand daughters (ages six and eight) are not satisfied with the photos. They want a video!! Imagine that. I’m not sure I can produce a video. At least not without some instruction….

So here is my report on language and Taksi. He certainly knows “No,” especially when I shout it at him multiple times as he is tearing the couch or one of my rugs to pieces. And does he make sense of the fact that when he uses either of his two scratching posts I am silent. I am certain it’s hard for him to understand that one rug in one room is all his to tear up, but two others in two other rooms are not to be scratched at. So I have made little progress in the area of scratching.

But around food I feel something is happening. He gets very excited and since he is tall and can stand and knock the dish out of my hand as I am trying to give it to him, I’ve taken to saying “sit” many times until he actually does sit down, yes, on his place mat, and then I’ve gone on to the word “stay.” And I see a shift in his eye and he seems, I want to believe, to understand what I am asking him to do. And he holds his position for at least three or four seconds, so far.

I know there are many cat lovers out there. Have you taught your cats some behavior based on language?

Mr. Taksi's World

February 17, 2017

Tags: depression, Mr. Taksi

If you’ve ever had a cat, you know what I mean when I say that cats live in a world of their own. My apartment is on the 24th floor, and there is precious little going on outside my windows. But not to Mr. Taksi. His favorite spot is the especially wide windowsill in the living room. And he makes getting to that spot a challenge to be conquered every day in a new manner. I’ll try to illuminate with a picture or two, but only those who know cats will be able to envision how delicately Mr. Taksi has to step among succulents so as to avoid knocking them from their stems.

There is no single way to get to the place where he can spread out, and getting there is half the fun. I’d have to run a video for you to see how it happens, but there are other things to talk about in what I am calling Mr. Taksi’s World. There is the question of closets: I have an abundance of them, and they open either with sliding doors or with ordinary doors. Some of them are large enough for a cat to get lost in. And Taksi has been locked in almost every one of those closets, since among his skills is an ability to slip through a door even when I think I am watching for him.

And then there is the question of eating. Mr. Taksi won’t accept that I have offered him a place mat on which I would place his food in a beautiful Japanese bowl. Not on his life. He treats the place mat as his resting place, even when it’s crammed into the corner of the kitchen where he’s fed. He demonstrates twice a day that he must sit on the place mat, no matter my wishes.

Finally, a word about depression for those who know that virus. It’s not gone, but it’s not grabbed me as before. For this cat makes me laugh out loud, and if you’re laughing, it’s hard to be depressed at the same moment. He makes me laugh by turning everything he can into a toy: favorites include the ends of pens, crinkly paper squeezed into a ball, an old sock rolled into a ball; in short, anything that can be batted around the apartment from wooden floors to carpets and back again. He’s knocked some things under the couch and the fridge, where they are inaccessible, but he hasn’t forgotten them. Searching for them, he comes up with his white front paws turned charcoal. And my hollering “no, no, no” dissuades him only temporarily. To be continued….

Select Works

"Everyone concerned about global feminism, women’s contributions, and humanity’s future will be enhanced and enchanted by A Life in Motion.”—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume I and Volume II
Lecture delivered by Florence Howe on January 8, 2011, at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention
“It is impossible to imagine women’s studies without Florence Howe. Myths of Coeducation shows her vision and courage, insight and dauntlessness.”–Catharine R. Stimpson, Rutgers University
A revised and expanded edition of the classic groundbreaking anthology of 20th-century American women's poetry, representing more than 100 poets from Amy Lowell to Anne Sexton to Rita Dove.

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