Do You Create Your Pet's Behavior? - Christine Kane

gracie3.jpgEver since the Fire Department pulled Gracie down from the tree behind our house as a timid little kitten, she has been determined to squeeze every ounce of life out of life.

It’s not that she’s feral. It’s that she’s fierce. She’s passionate. Everything is a wonder to her. Whatever she does, she does it one hundred percent.

After months of marveling at her tireless celebration of life, my husband and I began to create stories about Gracie.

For instance, we decided that her real name is actually “Lolita Grace” – which added a much needed exotic touch. I said that she had lived in South America for a brief time and had married a Latin tycoon of sorts. (No one knows why or how the marriage ended. She never talks about it.) This story resulted in a longer name. Lolita Grace Gonzales Kane. Then, after she stalked, killed, and brought home a giant piece of pizza, her name officially became Lolita Grace Gonzales Domino Kane.

Our stories about Gracie cracked us up. At that time, she often stayed out all night. This worried me, but I came up with the perfect explanation. I told my husband that Gracie had opened a nightclub along the river where we live. “It’s called Lolita’s by the River,” I said. I described it for him – a ramshackle hut, hammered together with rusty nails and pieces of scrap wood that came down the river. And all animals – be they predator or prey – go to Lolita’s by the River. They set aside their differences beneath the twinkle lights (there are lots of twinkle lights) and they listen to music. Gracie would serve drinks laden with fruits, long swirlie straws, and little paper umbrellas.

Some summer nights, my husband and I would both wake up at 3am and realize that Gracie was still out. I’d say to him “Well, it’s Cajun night at Lolita’s by the River. So, the place probably got pretty rowdy.”

When Gracie hadn’t returned in the morning, I told my husband that she had started another business called “Lolita’s Lattes” and was out serving coffee-drinks to go at a roadside stand.

Gracie also opened a transport service along the river called “Gracie’s Gondolas.”

As much fun as I had creating the imaginary world of my little gypsy cat, it stressed me out that she stayed out all night. My other two cats are home-bodies, mostly sleeping and playing on the deck. They each have their own stories as well. For instance, Atticus (aka Mr. Patticus) is Headmaster of the Patticusian Academy of Relaxation and Comfort [PARC] – and has implemented various coziness initiatives in the house, such as the Patticusian Lean Optimization Program [PLOP] – which allows for him to lean on any convenient person or pillow as he sleeps.

One day, I told my friend Joy that I wanted Gracie to stop staying out all night because it worried me so much. Joy reminded me of the power of our thoughts and words. Even though Joy loved hearing all the stories about Lolita’s, (while Joy was on vacation, Gracie dragged a rickshaw across town and picked up Joy’s cat P’nut and brought her to Lolita’s) she suggested that maybe I should start portraying Gracie as a cat who loves to be around the home.

So, I did just that.

After that conversation, when anyone asked about Lolita’s by the River, I said that Gracie had started an online business because she wants to stay at home more. Lolita’s by the River is still there, of course. But now, she has outsourced all the work so that she can tend to her online business. I also began to imagine Gracie delighting in hanging out at home and on the deck.

Well, guess what?

It worked.

Since I began shifting my thoughts and stories about Gracie, she has stayed out all night only once. (It was Reggae Night and the band didn’t show.) And even when she’s out late, she runs home the minute my husband calls her. She’s also much more affectionate with us and more aware of our presence in her life. This change has been nothing less than remarkable.

Now, am I saying that all you have to do is think different thoughts and your animals will change?

Not at all.

But I am suggesting that when you see your dog as needy or crazy, or when you call your cat weird, or bad, or stupid, or afraid – those messages have power. Our animal companions pick up on our energy and our emotions. It’s so easy to forget that. While you’re becoming more conscious and aware in your life, remember that your animals can change and grow with you. They can also be the best teachers along the way. Gracie taught me the power of imagination!

  • Sue Sullivan

    I love this post, Christine. It’s so creative and fun!

    Recently, I noticed that my cat has become decisive. I didn’t know that was possible. Then I realized, I have become decisive too!

  • ChickiePam

    Just getting around to reading blogs. I’ve been busy working and taking a class….and not giving our 1 yr old dog, new to us as of the new year, enough attention. Sooooo, he has started peeing on the floor and actually bit my 13 yr old daughter on the hand yesterday. She found the puddle of pee and took him by the collar to put him outside. He snarled and bit her. She absolutely freaked out since she was home alone at the time. Luckily, I was between clients and called her to check in just after it happened.

    I have emailed the dog trainer to come back and work with us so that we can quickly rescue this situation. He is a sweet and very smart dog. But biting will not be tolerated! So hopefully, she can train us so that we can work with him and shift his attitude.

    Yes, Oprah’s dog, Sophie, died at the beginning of the Eckhart Tolle classes. It was either the morning of the first class or the second.

    I just love reading your blogs!

  • Monica

    This is great! I thought my wusband and I were the only people who made up stories about our cats. It started when we were driving from Michigan to Montreal (a loooong drive!) and we were wondering what our cat Penny was doing. We decided she likes playing bridge with her friends! We named them and created personalities for them. Penny always imagined herself a tiger hunter queen, and so her best friend was Irma, another tiger. When James, a shy barn kitten, was added to the cat family, we imagined that Penny had a kitten training school in the basement. We also decided penny could communicate with us long distance using an old-fashioned radio system, which required big headphones and a lot of setup involving slot A and tab B. James is still alive and living with me. The wusband has gone on to be an executive with a less imaginative wife and child.

  • Pat K.

    Unfortunately, yes, I believe it. I very recently lost my duck “Miss Bentley”. Her neck was severely twisted from birth so that she always looked left. When she was 3 days old, I saved her from certain death. She had been trampled and was not breathing. I managed to revive her.

    She was feisty as all getout, even though she could never clean herself with her beak or apply the waterproofing oil that all water fowl have. So, she would periodically come into the house, stay in the bathtub for a “spa day”. I totally loved her, but watching her try and even get around and walk was difficult for us. I guess, difficult for us to imagine living a life so constrained, that I wished she’d find some very quick and painless way to exit life so she would no longer suffer. Well, a few weeks after uttering those words to my husband, she did just that.

    A fellow co-worker had been following the exploits of “Miss Bentley” very closely and we discussed the fact that Miss Bentley must have heard my words, obeyed my wish, and made her exit. I wish I had never spoken those words, but I believe she will have all her deformities fixed in duck heaven. A few short days before her last day on earth, she was lucky enough to lay me one PERFECT egg as a gift. (Ducks with this deformity can die from being egg-bound. That was my major worry.) I thank Miss Bentley for her presence in my life, as short as it was. (Miss Bentley has been featured twice on a nice website called Zooillogix.)

    I shall invent much safer, more fun lives for all my other numerous pets.

    Warmly, Pat

  • Irene

    I laugh a lot, smiled and felt how much I wish I had a cat again. Growing up we had a cat called p’tit pit and a dog name Rex. The two of them were best friend. Rex would lay in the bed with the kittens when she would go for her walks. I think she would visit the father since he was not allowed to visit. Rex would growl at anyone that was not family while in charge of the kittens. Today my allergies does not allow me to have either cat or dog. I love hearing stories about cats and dogs. Thank you Christine for your stories. Thank you everyone for sharing.

  • BarbV

    Hey Christine!
    Here’s JJ’s Blog, Designing Paws:
    He owns as well as having a “Catbook” page on Facebook and several Squidoo pages.

  • Christine Kane

    tisha – I believe that how we see others ALWAYS changes them. just think of the difference between being around someone who believes in you and encourages you – and someone who thinks you aren’t all that bright and might not make it. it uplifts you! so, seeing your kids, your friends, your family as capable, healthy, powerful, bright people can do only good! (and seeing your kid as someone who sleeps through the night with a deep sense of security is worth a try!)

    caren – that’s a great story!

    emily – i believe there are lots of people like us. and your cat stories are funny!

    joy – p’nut should wear her flowered dress with the floppy hat for those photos! (that’s gracie’s favorite outfit of p’nut’s.)

    barbv – leave a link so that everyone can see JJ Big Paws in action and we can all oo and ah at his stature!

    thanks amylia! maybe figgy is creating an online business up there in the attic! and yes, I heard the oprah broadcast. i thought that sophie died over last summer…? or was that another one?

  • amylia

    this is my favorite blog entry of yours. Love it! Your cat and I shared the same last name, at least initially. I wonder what mine will morph into.

    My little loverboy, Figgy, is my cat that really did come all the way from Taiwan. We’ve already had many adventures together, including traveling halfway across the world together. He’s started hanging out in the attic a lot and I even moved his litter box in there b/c he loves it so much (the attic is connected to my apt). I’ll have to think of a good story for his whereabout in the attic, but with more time spent in the actual apartment!

    Did you hear on Oprah and Eckhart’s talk tonight that her beloved Sophie died the 2nd class?

  • BarbV

    Our dog Jack decided last week to leap off our slope in our backyard. I have always said that Jack may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but he sure is the prettiest color, he’s a beautiful smooth coated collie. Anyways, my husband has now started to call him “Rocket Dog” which I actually think is kinda cool. We’ll see how Jack likes it.
    Our cat Java Joe (JJ) actually does have an online business, which we called JJ Big Paws which describes him perfectly. His picture is on several sites now and I swear he walks around the house with more of an attitude these days.

  • Joy

    p’nut wants everyone to know she’s available for autographs now that she’s famoous. she’s even considering having some glamour shots made. stay tuned.

  • Emily

    And there was me thinking I was the only person who made up stories about the cats secret lives!
    In our 3 cat family we have a “tree-trunk dancer” with all the tips she got she managed to buy a luxury fur coat. Charlie is a successful business cat woman who has a lot of gold and offshore bank accounts! Last but not least the male of the house has a motorbike hire company which is only open in the summer.

  • Caren

    OK – I have a cat named Peanut Butter, because of a similarly colored spot right on the center of her head. That name can be shortened and lengthened and played with SO much! PB, Peepers, Nutty Girl… Well, the boys thought it was funny when they called her PP – then we all started to do that. There’s the PP girl! (Um – isn’t this making me attractive? Oh, yeah. Nicknames for cats? Totally hot.) A few months ago, she started a habit of looking for places to pee outside the litter box! Oh, it was frustrating. She didn’t have a UTI or crystals or anything physical going on – she just preferred finding a drawer. Or basket of clean clothes. I keep the boxes clean, I couldn’t figure it out. I was losing my mind! Then, I *heard* what we were saying! Oh – we’re *calling her* pee pee! So, I asked the boys to call her something else, anything else. (currently Butter Girl, or Maurice. Get it? Bee Gee.) She stopped peeing everywhere! And started going in the litter box.

    I hadn’t told anyone else about that ’cause frankly, it seemed kinda nutty. I’m so glad you’re nutty, too. πŸ™‚

  • Tisha

    Hey Christine! This is so fascinating! Makes me wonder if it might work with my kiddo when he wakes every night wanting mama to sleep with him…worth a try!

    Hope all is well with you,

  • Christine Kane

    deb — i think it would work on humans. because if it works on YOU, then it works on your projections too. when your energy changes, everyone around you changes as well.

    you’re welcome sheista!

    connie – maybe lolita’s has a franchise in your neighborhood!

    diane – i’m glad to hear you’ve experimented with this stuff too. it’s pretty miraculous.

    colin – this made me laugh out loud. i’ll let her know you support her decision to leave!

    sue – god, i would so love to see film footage of your lab in the neighbors pools! that’s great.

    leah – PLOP is a good thing for the cats. Lean Optimization is all the rage.

  • Christine Kane

    hi mags! yes indeed, lolita’s IS a very cool place to go. That’s why I couldn’t just shut it down! I just loved the whole idea of it! and i like cesar as well. (I’ve caught his show once or twice in hotel rooms.) he does bring a good energy to each situation.

    tammy – I’m so sorry to hear about luigi. (ohmigod, what a CUTE name!) I know how challenging that can be. I’ll tell Gracie to tell everyone at Lolita’s to have a prayerful moment of silence for good ol’ Luigi. I love shih-tzus! (and you’re animals are welcome at lolita’s ANYTIME!)

    m – my cat camille used to do stuff like that! it’s pretty cute!

    elaine – patticus is definitely enlightened and would make a good master teacher of sorts. (I call him sri patticus.) But he’d much rather just sleep. no children’s books for me! (though gracie has inspired so many stories that i thought a good illustrator would have some fun!)

    mark – when you get your next dog, consider calling him “brilliant!” My cat Billie was the most terrified cat I’d ever met. (I found her on the side of the road as a kitten.) I started calling her “Brave Billie.” And I kid you not – it really changed her!

  • leah

    oh my, i loved this story! a great reminder to change our thinking around.

    i totally adored the plop initiative. πŸ™‚ my cats are big fans of that one. πŸ™‚

  • sue

    Christine, this is hilarious! I love the stories and the adding to her name with each.
    Our old black lab used to occasionally escape the yard. This was only in the summer and he’d be gone for maybe an hour or so. We’d frantically look for him (he was so hard to find in the dark!) He began coming back soaking wet. And smelling of chlorine. πŸ™‚ He was so pool-hopping!
    He would return happy, cooled off and brimming with adventure. Gotta love em.

    Thanks for the laugh. My kids will love it too.

  • Colin

    I knew the guy she married in South America. Trust me…be glad it’s over.

  • Diane

    Very cute stories! Our neighbors 10 year old lab wandered off Friday and didn’t return until late Saturday evening just as we were putting up “lost dog” signs. We made up a funny story about the girl dog that had lured him away. Our dog is often taunted by squirrels. Months ago my son and I started calmly asking our dog if he was going to let a little squirrel control his emotions. We remind him every day that it is “just a squirrel.” It really has helped!

  • connie

    Love Elaine’s idea of you creating a children’s book! I still enjoy and purchase children’s books. I use my grandchildren as an excuse!

    My husband and I often joked about our 17 year old cat going to the kitty cat club and staying out all night. He did this less as he got older.
    The cats in the neighborhood literally had a hangout, it was hilarious to see their little heads sticking out!

  • sheista

    Thanks, Christine, for the reminder that ALL our words are powerful.

  • Deb

    I have to wonder if this would work on humans. Maybe not so much. But it might be worth trying anyway. Really, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  • Mark

    Hilarious Christine. I love those exotic kitty tales!

    Kind of makes me feel bad, though, for calling my family’s former beagle “dumb as a bag of rocks.” (It ate pennies, for God’s sake. It walked into oncoming traffic!)


    My sis once had an adventurous kitty who stayed out all night. I once heard it get into a Wild Kingdom-style battle with what must have been a cheetah – the screams and howling were so long and fierce. I thought surely kitty was dead after that.

    Yet the next morning, there she was waiting at the door, smiling.

  • Elaine

    P.s ever thought about writing children’s books??

  • Elaine

    Great Story.. and what’s scary is I can actually visualise this latte’s and all!

    What an interesting life Gracie is living! Glad to hear her online business has taken off! Purrfect!

    I wondered if Patticus had written any ‘self-help’ kitty books, DVDs or Cds. May be he’s lined up to do an webseminar event with Oprah after Eckhart Tolle?! as my cat Ashley could benefit from some enlightenment into chilling out and being a little less anxious!


  • m

    One day a neighbour drew me aside at the supermarket and said ‘There is something I have to tell you’. It turns out that Frida the cat had secreted herself in their flat – she’s very inquisitive. Feel asleep in some spot unknown to them and had woken up at 3am in their bedroom made such a racket that they were convinced that they were being robbed. I try and keep her in at night now. She’s also not a very roadworthy colour being all black.

  • Tammy Lenski | conflict zen

    Christine, what a great storyteller you are…I could just see Lolita’s in my mind. My cats could too … probably a bit of jealousy there.

    I do think our pets pick up on our signals. I had a dog many years ago who would always come put his head in my lap when he sensed I was feeling sad. And our cat, Marbles, will put a paw on my or Rod’s arm if she thinks there’s tension in the room.

    Our little shih tzu, Luigi, died this week at age 15, so we’ve been talking a lot about how much he added to our lives and how hard it is to say good-bye. As I read your post, I was reminded that, at least in part, it’s our pets’ ability to pick up on our signals that helps them worm their way into our hearts. They seem to get us.

  • Mags

    I love your stories, Christine! Lolita’s sounds like a very cool place to go, though I’m glad Gracie’s online business is working out for her and you both πŸ™‚

    And there’s so much truth in your point about animals picking up on our energy (including your observation that we often forget this!). I love watching The Dog Whisperer – it’s so apparent how Cesar’s energy and the animals’ owners’ energy creates different outcomes. I’ve learned so much about energy (as it applies to animals and humans) from this programme πŸ™‚