SCRAPPER - PULLING UP DAISIES
Feline aggression has many causes - poor socialisation, protectiveness of kittens or territory, even food allergy. Sometimes the aggression is redirected towards an inappropriate target, like the unfortunate owner or another cat. A cat may attack its owner if its need to attack prey or another cat is thwarted - like when you rescue a hapless fledgling from a normally inoffensive furball which turns into the Terminator at the sight of a sparrow.
Aggression can be learned and many cats react aggressively to a something which has previously caused pain or distress, with thermometer-wielding vets being favourite targets for a cat which has been stuffed into a cat basket, bounced along in a car, subjected to all sorts of strange sounds and smell in a waiting room and then examined - against its will - by a vet. There mere sight of the cat carrier can turn Felix Jekyll into Pussycat Hyde.
A one-off traumatic event can also lead to redirected aggression - as in the case of Scrapper who is probably Britain's only documented case of daisy-specific aggression.
Personally, I have nothing against lawn-daisies. Some people wage war against them, but I've always thought they added interest to an otherwise uniform expanse of green. Scrapper, however, had different views on the matter. Daisies were agents of darkness and were to be beheaded on sight. The lawn was to be ethnically cleansed of the daisy menace. Like a crusading knight, he patrolled the lawn and kept it daisy free until his death and it was all due to a single traumatic event which made him to redirect all his aggression (and this the cat who didn't have an aggressive bone in his body!) towards seemingly harmless flowers.
It was, of course, the owner's fault that normally mild-mannered Scrapper turned into the bonsai-ed Beast of Bodmin. I caused a single traumatic incident which scarred him for life. It was the 'Great Daisy Garland Event'.
The Great Daisy Garland Event occurred on an otherwise perfect summer's day when I decided it would be nice to take photos of the cats wearing daisy chains. I didn't intend to cause mental anguish. Kitty was more than happy to wear her garland and took to parading up and down the street, showing it off to passers by who stopped to fuss the cute cat with the daisy chain. Scrapper, however, was a big macho mog with the cauliflower ears to prove it. The daisy chain was an affront to his streetwise image. It compromised his tough-but-tender image (tough looking, but soft centred). Within 30 seconds, it had been shredded and, unwilling to bite the hand that fed him, even if those same hands threaded daisy chains, Scrapper embarked on what was to be a lifelong campaign against daisies.
From then on no daisy was safe. Should he encounter a small innocent - no daisy is innocent! - white and yellow bloom flowering harmlessly amid the grass, his only thought was to behead it before someone made him wear it. Never again would he be seen in the company of daisies. Never again would anyone have the opportunity the threaten him with that most brutal of all threats - the daisy garland. He could be seen hunting daisies with the single-mindedness of purpose that other (normal) cats employ against prey of the furred and feathered kind. If anything upset him - substandard food, the vet taking his temperature etc - he went on the offensive; shredding anything that resembled a daisy. Every ounce of aggression in the cat who had once been the scourge of the street (not my street I hasten to add and the attentions of Dr Vet had long since ended his fighting days) was directed towards genus Bellis - the humble daisy.
That one incident triggered a lifelong vendetta; suddenly he was a cat with a cause, a moggy with a mission. I even considered hiring him out as a one cat hit-squad to daisy-hating gardeners, but the only snag was that he only removed the flowers, leaving the rest of the plant intact among the grass. Never once did this mild-mannered moggy scratch or bite me, but if I ever had cause to tell him off, he would find some poor flower to take it out on. There is a saying about taking out your anger on the person down the line from you: "and the office boy kicked the cat", well in this case the aggrieved party went and ate the daisies.
Some mornings he went out on daisy-patrol just for the hell of it. No special prowess was needed when hunting static objects and unlike his "apprentice", the dim-but-nice Aphrodite (who, for reasons known only to herself, specialises in Red Hot Poker leaves and lays out her "kills" on the doormat) he never brought any of his botanical kills indoors (I would have pressed them for him, or used them as garnish on his Felix).
I am nothing if not cunning. As an experiment I planted some daisies in the flower border. Scrapper wasn't fooled. Those namby-pamby double pink daisies were enemies in disguise. All summer they put on a beautiful display of green foliage, but not a single bloom did I see. Their sad decapitated flowers wilted on the lawn, left there by the executioner of daisies.
Sometimes I wondered if he was the reincarnation of some Victorian flower collector who, deprived of the opportunity to collect orchids from rainforests, resorted to collecting specimens closer to home. He pursued his mission with zeal, hunting small white flowers in all weathers. Sometimes, to add insult to injury to those flowers, he would poop on the flat rosette of leaves.
When Scrapper finally moved on to the great cat basket in the sky I decided to bury him under a patch of daisies in the lawn. It was Scrapper who had the final revenge though, those particular daisies never flowered again. Britain's only recorded case of daisy-specific aggression obviously had no intention of pushing up daisies after a lifetime spent pulling up daisies.
The morning after writing the first draft of this, I found that something had neatly removed all of the daisy-like flowers from my feverfew plant in the garden. The flower heads lay in aneat pile at the base of the otherwise undamaged plant. Coincidence? Or was Scrapper still registering his disapproval of anything daisy-related?
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