Aside from this, been thinking a bit about recent developments on the feline front. First, brief news update - the former tenants stopped by the other day. I wasn't in at the time, but apparently they said that they adopted Cruiser in as a stray about 6 years ago, but never got him into the house. They took him to the vet once, and based on that they think he's now about 15. I'm told that's pretty old for a cat (none of mine ever made it that far when I was a kid), so that would explain a couple of things, e.g. why he seems a bit unsteady on his feet sometimes, and that his eyesight may be going. He does let me stroke him, but I always have to hold my hand out first, so I'd guess that he identifies me by smell.
Anyway, there seems to be a bit of a territorial dispute at the moment between Bubbles (female cat from two doors away) and Cruiser (male cat, more or less based here). Last night I saw Bubbles hissing at Cruiser, while they were both outside the back door, and then she took a swipe at him. I'm not sure if it connected, but he was then backed up against the wall. I didn't like the look of that - as far as I'm concerned, he has more right to be there, and that's not acceptable behaviour from her. Unfortunately, I don't think he'd be able to win in a fight. So, I decided to lend a bit of moral support. I filled a glass with water, and figured that if I threw it over Bubbles then it would scare her off, while not doing any actual harm. Unfortunately, things didn't go quite according to plan - I had to open the door, and as soon as I did Bubbles shot in. Some of the water landed on her, but most of it hit the patio outside, at which point Cruiser legged it. Dammit! Ah well, at least it got him out of harm's way. I waited for her to finish cleaning herself (figured I'd let her calm down a bit first), then picked her up and put her down outside.
I realise that it can be misleading when you try to apply human psychology to cats. However, I think that Bubbles is acting very much like a spoilt child. She tends to sit outside the back door, and meow loudly until you let her in. I think that by giving in to this, i.e. rewarding this behaviour, we've been reinforcing it. So, she's now misbehaving - once she's in the house, she's very reluctant to leave of her own accord - tends to dig in her claws if you tilt the chair/person she's sitting on. So, I think we need to be a bit firmer with her - basically, stop feeding her, and don't let her in the house anymore. Hopefully, this will stop her feeling like our place is her territory, so she'll then leave Cruiser alone. I don't blame her too much - if we suddenly change the rules, I don't expect her to catch on right away.
Normally, I would handle this situation by saying "Cruiser stays inside, Bubbles stays outside". However, that won't work here, since he won't enter the house. There's an article I read a while back, about how to toilet-train your cat, i.e. get it to use your actual toilet rather than a litter tray. One thing the writer mentions is that she gradually raised the height of the litter tray by sticking boxes underneath. I think a similar approach may work here, if I put a box under the food bowls, to raise them up to the level of the kitchen floor. Then I can put a piece of cardboard (temporarily) across the doorway, so that I can move the bowls horizontally, without it being blatantly obvious whether they're inside/outside. So, that can be my project for the Christmas holidays - no classes, so I'll be around the house all day.
On a related note, I keep thinking of Cruiser when I read College Roomies from Hell. Brief recap of plot points - Dave (the guy who shoots laser beams out of his eyes) has adopted a black cat called Chester. When they both died (briefly) and got resuscitated, their souls got a bit jumbled up, so they now have a psychic bond thingy - they feel each other's extreme emotions. Now, Cruiser and I aren't quite that close :) But I do feel a bit protective of him.