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Cat Tales: Smarty-Pants Beebe

As I look at the title for this article I wonder where the term “Smarty-Pants” comes from.

After all, pants certainly have no brains.

I look up the term on the internet and find that it started in the 1860s and meant someone who was just too smart for their own good.

This leads me to wonder why I have chosen this word to reference my cat, Beebe.

Beebe is called a tuxedo cat but he doesn’t actually wear pants. His fur merely resembles the look of a tuxedo.

Smarty-boots was adopted back then as an alternate term for smarty-pants; Beebe does have white paws that look like boots, but again they aren’t actually boots.

As far as smart goes, sometimes I think Beebe is very smart and at other times, I wonder if he has a brain in his head.

Let me explain.

Cats have claws and it is part of their nature to want to sharpen those claws; in the process, they can shred furniture, curtains and paper unless they are taught from an early age that this is not acceptable behavior in a household.

From his babyhood, Beebe was trained via water pistols and harsh ‘no’s that he was not to do this. He was given a scratcher and placed on it whenever he transgressed.

When he performed his clawing on the scratcher he was praised and applauded.

As he grew up, he appeared to have learned this lesson.

When he forgot occasionally, I needed only to raise my voice and he’d run for his scratcher. I felt that this showed that he was not only trainable but smart – a real smarty-pants.

As time has gone on, I am beginning to wonder about this ‘being smart’ assessment.

The reason behind my doubts is Beebe has translated the scratcher into an automatic ‘get out of jail free’ card.

If he unrolls toilet paper all over the house and I object, he runs for his scratcher and waits for the praise to start.

If he knocks something off a shelf and breaks it, he runs for the scratcher.

It has gotten to the point if he thinks he’s not getting enough attention, he’ll sit on the scratcher waiting for my response to kick in.

On gloomy days when I’ve been known to be a little grumpy, he won’t get off the scratcher.

It is about five inches wide and a foot and a half long. Beebe is way more than five inches wide (Sorry, Beebe, but you are obese) and when he sprawls out on it to survive this day, you can’t even see what he’s lying on.

He expects me to praise him and watches me intently.

This shows he isn’t really smart. He’s gotten the cause-and-effect wrong.

I have tried to explain this to him to no avail.

The worst part of all this is, I immediately clap my hands and shout “good kitty” at him no matter why he has landed on his scratcher.

I am an enabler to his ‘unsmart’ behavior.

I wonder if I should enroll him in some kind of therapy.

I grab the phone book and search the yellow pages, but I’m not sure what kind of therapist I should look for.

Knowing this is a mistake, I call out to Nurse Judy, my smarty-pants alter ego, for help.

Nurse Judy listens to my entire story wearing an annoying smirk the whole time.

When I finally get to the point of asking her who I should call, she starts to laugh.

“Let’s cut to the chase,” she says. “What you really want decided is whether Beebe is smart or not and who can sort that out for you. Right?”

“That’s right,” I say.

“Well, I can save you the cost of a therapist,” she says. “I can do it right now.”

I look at her bewildered. “What is your verdict?” I ask.

She gives me a big grin. “Beebe is the most intelligent cat I’ve ever known,” she says, “and you are the dumbest human I’ve ever known.”

“What do you mean?” I gasp.

“Beebe has trained you better than any psychologist could. All he has to do is go to his scratcher and he gets the exact response he wants. Yes, your cat is a smarty pants. “

I think about this. My cat is smart. My cat is too smart for his own good. I named the article correctly.

I decide not to pursue the dumb human comment in an argument – after all, what does Nurse Judy really know anyhow?

Judy Conlin