I’ve been conditioning our cat. From the first day we had her, I did this little thing in which I’d tap on a glass to make it ring a few times before feeding her, with the idea that if ever she escaped outside we’d just ring the dinner bell and she’d come running. Only it’s kind of backfired. She now expects dinner and a show.
Now every morning when I get up (and every evening when I get home), she follows me around — actually, she leads me around. I step into the hallway, she runs around my feet, then darts towards the kitchen…and if I go the other way, she looks disappointed, follows me for a bit, with occasional diversions in the direction I was supposed to go. My purpose at these times is entirely about walking towards the kitchen and her food bowl.
When I do arrive at the proper destination, she sits before her bowl. She looks at me. She looks at the bowl. She looks at me some more. It doesn’t matter if there’s plenty of food in the bowl — like this morning, when she’d barely touched her food overnight, there was still the all-important ritual to be performed, and if I didn’t do it, she’d pursue me until I did. So I do. I take her full bowl, I dump it into the bag of cat food, I scoop up some ‘fresh’ food into it, I ring the bell, I deliver it to her. She takes a few bites, and then she strolls away and ignores me for a while.
I know exactly what she’s thinking. “Dance, monkey, dance. Entertain me now.” Also, “You thought you could condition me? I shall show you who pulls the strings.”