Hiss and Tell

Hiss and Tell

by Pam Johnson-Bennett
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Hiss and Tell by Pam Johnson-Bennett

"Pam Johnson-Bennett is the queen of cat behavior!" — Steve Dale, author of My Pet World

The author of Catwise, Think Like a Cat, and Cat vs. Cat, Johnson-Bennett sheds light on the communication breakdowns between cats and their humans. In this offbeat and illuminating book, feline behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, takes you on the wildest house calls of her career. Meet Mambo, the cat who attacks his owner, but only on Sundays, and Bonsai, the cat whose dislike for the new boyfriend becomes very embarrassing. What secret does Freddie know about his owner's new wife? These stories—each of which unfolds like a mystery—will help owners better understand the ever fascinating cat psyche.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140298536
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/28/2001
Edition description: REVISED
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 794,741
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.48(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Pam Johnson-Bennett is one of the most popular and sought-after cat behavior experts in the world. She has a private cat-consulting practice in Nashville, appears on Animal Planet UK and Canada, and lectures on cat behavior at veterinary and animal welfare conferences around the world. She's been featured on CNN, Fox News Channel, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox & Friends, Animal Planet Radio, and many more shows. Print profiles include Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, Woman's World, Newsweek, Prevention, USA Today, Family Circle, Complete Woman, Newsday, Chicago Tribune, USA Weekend, Washington Post, and Parade. She was VP of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and founded the IAABC Cat Division. Pam served on the American Humane Association's Advisory Board on Animal Behavior and Training. She lives in Nashville, TN.

Read an Excerpt


Tiki's Mysterious Mood

It was ten o'clock on Thursday night, and I had just gotten home from a late day of client appointments. My head throbbed, and my empty stomach was grumbling. I was looking forward to taking a hot shower, grabbing a little snack, and then settling into my comfortable bed.

    It was another half-hour of checking my phone messages and returning several calls before I finally made it to the shower. As is usually the case, the telephone rang the moment I had a head full of lathered shampoo. Turning off the water, I stuck my head out of the shower to listen to the message.

    "This is Margaret Taylor," a voice said urgently. "I've called everywhere. I don't know what to do. The animal hospital gave me your number. Please call me. My cat attacked me. I've locked myself in the bedroom. Call me right away." She left her phone number and again pleaded for me to call.

    I hurried out of the shower and over to the answering machine to jot down the number. "No dinner tonight," I said to myself as I dialed the phone.

    "Hello?" said a frightened voice.

    "Hello, this is Pam Johnson-Bennett. Is this Margaret Taylor?" I could tell by her frantic tone that it was.

    "Oh, thank goodness you called. I don't know what to do. Tiki's out in the hall growling," she said under her breath, and then she began to cry. "Please, can you come over?"

    "First of all, are either you or the cat injured?"

    "He bit me pretty hard, but I'm okay," she answered,trying to pull herself together. "I just can't believe it. Why is he acting this way?"

    I asked Margaret Taylor to tell me exactly what happened.

    Tiki, her four-year-old Siamese cat, had just launched a seemingly unprovoked attack on his owner. According to Mrs. Taylor, she was in the living room watching TV, when she heard a noise in the kitchen. Her husband was out of town on business, so she went to investigate. When she turned on the light, she saw Tiki crouched on the floor in the corner. The instant the cat saw her, he let out a screech and lunged at her, wrapping himself around her leg and biting into her calf. Mrs. Taylor screamed and had to forcibly pull Tiki off. He then bolted out of the kitchen.

    Shaking and confused, Mrs. Taylor went to the bathroom to check her wounds. After cleaning one bite wound and several scratches, she looked around the house for Tiki, but couldn't find him anywhere. She decided to phone her husband and tell him what had just happened. Deciding to use the bedroom phone so she could sit on the bed, she stepped into the darkened room and flipped on the light switch. Again she heard that same screeching sound, and suddenly Tiki was charging at her again. Mrs. Taylor managed to pull the cat off her a second time and tossed him out into the hallway. After slamming the door, she ran to the phone to call her neighbor for help.

    There was no answer, so Mrs. Taylor called her veterinarian. The after-hours recorded message referred her to the local animal emergency hospital. The doctor she then spoke to suggested she call me. By the time she called my number and heard my answering machine, she was in a panic, afraid there would be no one available to help her.

    I told Mrs. Taylor I could be there in half an hour.

    "There's just one thing," she began. "I'm afraid to leave the bedroom, so I won't be able to open the front door. My bedroom is on the first floor, and I'd climb out, but my house keys are in the front hall."


    "Would you mind climbing in the bedroom window?"

    I arrived at the Taylor home twenty minutes after our phone conversation. Before leaving the car, I reached into the glove compartment for my flashlight. The outside of the house was very dark. I wondered if any of the neighbors could see this strange figure inching around the dark house. As I turned the corner, I saw Mrs. Taylor's head peeking out the window. I walked closer and realized that, while she'd told me the truth about her bedroom being on the ground floor, she hadn't mentioned how high the window actually was.

    "Mrs. Taylor," I called up to her, "I don't think I can reach this window without a ladder."

    "My garage is locked," she answered in a loud whisper. "My neighbor never locks hers, though. She's not home, but you can go over there. I'm sure she must have a ladder." And she pointed to the house next door.

    "Why don't I just try one of your other neighbors?" I suggested. Somehow the idea of poking around in somebody's garage at night didn't appeal to me.

    "Are you crazy?" Mrs. Taylor shrieked. "Do you think I want all the neighbors knowing about this? Carol's the only one I trust!" Again she pointed to the house next door-only this time with noticeably less patience.

    So, off I went to search through one stranger's garage for a ladder so I could climb into the window of another stranger's house. Not the way I normally run my business. But then, I don't exactly have a normal business.

    While I was unsuccessful in locating a ladder, I did find a stool. With that, I was able to hoist myself up (not a pretty sight) through the open window.

    Once inside, the first order of business was to check Mrs. Taylor's injuries. The wounds weren't deep, but I advised her to have a doctor check them in the morning, just to be on the safe side.

    "Mrs. Taylor, can you tell me what was going on right before the attack?"

    She insisted that nothing unusual had happened before the incident. "The only difference was that Tiki wasn't on my lap in the living room the way he normally is when I watch TV," she sighed. "He always sleeps on my lap, and he did seem a little grumpy today."

    After getting a little more history on the cat, it was time to meet Tiki and investigate. I explained to Mrs. Taylor that something may have agitated him earlier in the day and that he was probably still very aroused when she startled him in the kitchen.

    "But we've lived here all of Tiki's life. Nothing's changed," she explained, a look of total confusion on her face.

    "Something must have changed," I said while moving toward the bedroom door. "Now, I need you to stay calm so I can go out and see Tiki. I'd prefer you to stay in here."

    "Are you going to try to capture him?" she asked.

    "No, he's too upset. I just want to check on him."

    Putting my hand on the doorknob, I turned and looked back at Mrs. Taylor. She was standing at the foot of her bed, chewing nervously on her nails. I noticed a small TV in the room. "Mrs. Taylor," I said, "turn the TV on and try to relax. You're safe in here." She nodded her head and obediently sat down in front of the TV.

    I quietly opened the door and looked out into the hall. First, I wanted to restore some normalcy to the atmosphere of the house because, right now, both cat and owner were traumatized. Since Mrs. Taylor told me she watched TV every night, I turned on the set in the living room to reestablish that familiar sound for the cat.

    I casually walked around the house, hoping to spot Tiki. As I was about to step into the hall, I caught a fleeting glimpse of black fur flying by into a small bedroom. I walked back to Mrs. Taylor's room with a question.

    She jumped the moment I opened the door, then slowly sank back down onto the bed when she saw I didn't have her cat with me.

    "You did say Tiki is a Siamese, right?" I asked.

    "Oh, yes. Seal-point Siamese. Why?"

    "And you did tell me there are no other pets in the house?" I glanced back toward the hall.

    "Just Tiki. Why are you asking this?"

    "I'll let you know in a minute," I said. "Just keep doing what you're doing."

    I made my way back down the hall and toward the other bedroom. Tiki appeared at the far end of the hall, looking extremely tense. This was not the animal I had seen a minute ago.

    "Hi, Tiki," I said softly. "I think I know what has you so upset."

    Tiki's eyes followed me as I walked in, but he made no move to follow. I closed the door behind me. Kneeling by the bed, I lifted up the dust ruffle and saw a tiny pair of eyes staring back at me. This answered one mystery. I at least now knew what had set Tiki off. But where had this cat come from? And how could Mrs. Taylor not have known there was a strange animal in her house? I closed the mystery cat in the bedroom and went back to Mrs. Taylor's room.

    "That's impossible," she stated after I informed her of my discovery. "Don't you think I'd notice another cat?"

    "Well, yes, I would think so," I answered, truly puzzled. "But the evidence is sitting right under the bed in the next room."

    Mrs. Taylor assured me there was no way a cat could get in her house, but I told her I was going to do a thorough check anyway. The cat must have gotten in somehow.

    After checking all the doors and windows, I came across a small open window in the basement. That explained how the little visitor got in. Now, how did he get upstairs without detection?

    When I reported the open window to Mrs. Taylor, she put her hands up to her face and said she had been painting a wooden rocking chair in the basement the day before. She had opened the window for fresh air and must have forgotten to close it again.

    "My husband will have a fit when he finds out," she groaned.

    I then asked her how the cat might have gotten upstairs. Did she leave the basement door open when she was painting?

    "No," she said. "But the washer and dryer are downstairs. I always leave the door open when I do laundry so I can hear the buzzer on the dryer."

    "You're lucky Tiki didn't get out through that open window," I said.

    "Tiki never goes downstairs. He's afraid of the basement."

    I went out to my car (via the front door this time) and got a carrying case for the black cat. As I walked down the front steps, my rumbling stomach reminded me of how hungry I was.

    Back in the house, I stuck my head in the bedroom to tell Mrs. Taylor what I was doing. She was still too frightened to leave the room. This suited me just fine, since her fear certainly wasn't making things any easier.

    Tiki was in the kitchen drinking from his water bowl. He looked more relaxed. I think he knew the situation was now under control. I put the carrying case down and walked toward the counter, talking to Tiki the whole time. I had seen a bag of cat food earlier and decided to give Tiki a snack as a distraction. As I filled the bowl, Tiki watched me without moving.

    "You get an extra meal tonight," I said. Tiki waited until I was out of the room and then walked over to the bowl. One indication that an agitated cat has relaxed is when he resumes some of his normal activities, such as eating.

    I approached the bedroom where the black cat was closed in and carefully opened the door-just in case he was planning to make a mad dash. But the cat was nowhere to be seen as I stepped in and quickly closed the door behind me. I knelt down next to the bed and peeked underneath. He was peeking right back at me.

    "Are you hungry?" I asked as I pulled some of Tiki's cat food out of my pocket. I rolled a few pellets along the floor in the cat's direction. Quite hungry, the little visitor gobbled them up without hesitation. I rolled a few more pellets toward him. He then meowed softly, stretched, and walked out from under the bed. Before me sat a small black cat with beautiful green eyes. He was skinny, rather scruffy-looking, and had a torn left ear from some long-ago battle. He let out another quiet meow, and I offered him more food. When he was finished, he trotted over to me and hopped onto my lap. Stroking his back, I felt just how thin and matted he was. I also noticed that he was a she. "You lucked out, little girl," I said as I put her in the carrying case. "We'll find you a good home."

    After depositing the carrying case in the front seat of my car, I walked back into the house and phoned a rescue volunteer I knew. I wanted her to come for the cat so I could work with Mrs. Taylor and Tiki. The volunteer said she'd get the cat from my car right away.

    With the mystery now solved, I opened the door of Mrs. Taylor's bedroom.

    "Let's go in the living room together and sit down," I said soothingly as I guided Mrs. Taylor out of the room. "I'd also like you to casually talk to Tiki while you're in there."

    "Is he in there?" she asked, still worried.

    "No," I said. "But wherever he is, I want the comforting sound of your voice to be available to him. He'll come out when he's ready."

    "What'll I say?"

    "Just talk to me about Tiki. Tell me about his good qualities. Talk about some of the wonderful memories you have," I instructed, hoping that remembering pleasant things would relax her. As a result, her voice would take on a more soothing quality, and this would benefit Tiki.

    "Are you sure he won't attack me?" she asked, glancing toward the hall.

    I had watched Tiki move around the house and was reasonably certain that Mrs. Taylor was in no danger. However, I did instruct her to keep the door of the extra bedroom closed until she could do a thorough cleaning to remove the scent of the black cat.

    We discussed how the stray cat must have darted up the stairs, creating quite a scare for Tiki, who was faced with a little intruder in his domain. The attack on Mrs. Taylor occurred as a result of Tiki becoming startled when he was already in a highly agitated state. This behavior is known as redirected aggression.

    We continued our conversation. I wanted Tiki to see that all was back to normal. It took a while, but Mrs. Taylor began to relax and, at one point, she even laughed at the chain of events that had occurred. Stifling a giggle, she informed me that I did, by the way, look pretty silly climbing through her bedroom window. Little did I know that entering clients' homes by means other than the usual front door would be something I'd do many times in my career.

    Within a few minutes, Tiki sauntered into the living room and sat down a foot or two away from us. I told Mrs. Taylor to keep on talking; she was to let Tiki be the one to make the first move. It didn't take long before he jumped into her lap, curled up, and fell asleep.

    Mrs. Taylor was given specific behavior-modification exercises to use with Tiki for a while. I explained that, even though he seemed to be back to normal, Tiki might still display some behavioral changes as a result of his traumatic experience. I wanted Mrs. Taylor to know exactly how to deal with Tiki, whatever he might need. I also asked if he was up-to-date on his vaccinations (which he was), since he'd had a close encounter with this visitor.

    "What will happen to that black cat?" Mrs. Taylor asked as she walked me to the front door.

    "She'll be checked over and tested for FELV/FIV," I said. "Then we'll get her spayed and placed in a foster home until she's adopted."

    "Wait here," she said, then suddenly disappeared down the hall. A few minutes later she reappeared. "Put this toward that cat's future." She held out a handful of twenty-dollar bills.

    When I got to my car, I looked at the money she'd given me. In addition to the check for my services, she had donated two hundred dollars toward her one-time houseguest.

    As I started the car, I suddenly remembered that the stool was still sitting under the window. I was worried that Mrs. Taylor might have forgotten about it, and I knew she wouldn't want to explain to anyone why the stool was there. So I turned off the car, went around the back of the house, and returned the stool to her neighbor's garage.

    During the drive home, I phoned the volunteer to check on the black cat. She reported that the cat was doing fine in the isolation room (a separate room for an incoming cat who hadn't been seen by the vet). The cat had eaten, used her litter box, and stretched out on the chair for a nap. Good, I thought. Now I can finally go home.

    My follow-up calls to Mrs. Taylor over the next few weeks provided the good news that Tiki was doing wonderfully. I am happy to say that he has never displayed aggressive behavior since that night.

    The future for the black cat turned out to be very bright. She got a good report from the vet, received vaccinations, and was spayed soon after. We found a wonderful home for her, and she now lives with two other cats. Missy, as her new family named her, turned out to be a beauty with a sleek, shiny coat to complement those gorgeous green eyes.

    By the way, Mrs. Taylor informed me that her husband has since installed screens on the basement windows.

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Hiss and Tell 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much. I let my sister read this cause her cat is different in a special way. But who knew that cats react in ways just to let you know who the real boss. Plus it gives you advise in the back of the book and what to look for.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I only read the one chapter they showed here, but the storie was great!!! I am hoping to buy this book soon!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This who-dun-it book's detective style is first-class all the way. I found myself trying to guess at the endings as I read through each story. There are lots of funny ones with surprising endings. This author does a wonderful job of keeping you on the edge of your seat as you try to solve each mystery. I hope Pam Johnson-Bennett's working on the sequel to this right now.