Riker tries to turn on a tap

River the cat tries to turn on a tap.

Riker the cat tries to turn on a tap.

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In the end he didn’t succeed but he gave it a good try. He is fascinated by running water.

My 1-year-old cat Riker is (in my admittedly biased perspective) one of the most intelligent cats I’ve ever had in my life. He’s a rescue cat, saved from a litter about to be euthanised, and the last of the litter to find a home. He was days away from being sent to death row, again, when through a series of fortunate events I was able to adopt him. Soon after we got him we found that he had a series of inexplicable health problems with his lungs and eyes, probably from the less than ideal conditions faced by his mother when she was pregnant. In most of Australia, if not all, neglecting to desex and register pet cats is illegal but unfortunately in practice a lot of people don’t heed these laws. Cats breed terribly quickly and are dangerous to native wildlife. Not only that, but many kittens are unnecessarily born and euthanised simply because there aren’t enough homes to go around. And in the case of the lucky ones who do find a home sometimes the early experiences of their life set them up for lifelong health and personality problems. While our other cat Odin was fortunate enough to be taken in by a rescue shelter and socialised at a very young age, Riker sadly seems to have struggled through early life, which has left him in absolute fear of most people, easily stressed, and wildly emotional. From what we hear he did not come from a particularly safe or caring home (it boggles my mind that people will have pets and yet not bother to provide them with adequate care).

Through a lot of vet visits we’ve managed to get things under control, though, and apart from the mystery lung issue which left the vets scratching their heads and consulting with all kinds of specialists, he is living a happy and content life as a member of our family.

He has also grown into a massive-sized cat. We are pretty sure his recent ancestors include Siberian Forest Cats, or something similar. So far we’ve taught him to respond to several words (like “food,” “outside” and one of his favourites, “mousey,” for ‘would you like to play with your toy mouse?’) and we’ve even caught him attempting to imitate us talking (he makes a noise that sounds eerily like “hello,” and only uses it when he’s searching for us). Above all that he is a lovely natured cat, and we’d be happy with him even if he didn’t seem to have a scary intelligence that makes it feel like having a toddler all over again. He does have his strangely aggressive moments – we are certain that he underwent some traumas early on in life, based on what we’ve been told of his original home. But every time I look at him I am grateful that he came into our lives. I can’t imagine life without him, even if he is the most high-maintenance cat I think I’ve ever met!

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