The locksmith eyed this birdfeeder and mentioned it might attract more bears than birds...oops.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cats That Go Bump in the Night

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here." Alice didn't think that proved it at all; however, she went on "And how do you know that you're mad?" "To begin with,' said the Cat, "a dog's not mad. You grant that?" "I suppose so," said Alice. "Well, then," the Cat went on, "you see, a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad."
Lewis Carroll

I wasn't allowed to have a cat when I was a child. Mama didn't like cats. She'd had one when she was a girl and, well, it had kittens. I can't repeat what happened, because I've heard the story once too often and it's traumatizing at best.
 But, it colored her attitude about cats and fully convinced her that if our sizes were switched, we'd be carried off in those razor sharp teeth to be consumed as a tender-on-the-outside, crunchy-on-the-inside snack.

We were dog people, fully to the core, but there was a part of me that wanted to know cats, to hold a kitty and squeeze its little paw to make the claws stretch out.
 But whenever a friend, with an armful of soft, lazy cat, would say, "Here's my kitty, Boots. Pet her", I'd trustingly reach to touch the silken fur and every single time there would be a lightening-fast blur of claws. After about the fifth time, I began to expect deviant behavior and a fear of cats was borne.

Cats couldn't be trusted and my mama was apparently right.

That was a lifetime ago and I now have two cats, Abby and Dark Kitty. I'll let you figure out which is which. Unlike most folks, I've had to learn about cat behavior late in life. And I must say, I'm still trying my best to give them the benefit of the doubt. While I don't necessarily agree with mama's assessment that given a size-swap, I'd be eaten, I'm pretty sure I'd be batted around and left out in the cold hallway at night, like a forgotten chewed, catnip-filled toy. And probably with bite marks.

The thing I'm realizing is that cats are unpredictable. They seem sweet and loving, arching the back with a purr and caressing your leg with a cheek but, anarchy can be one second away. 

Why just last month, I switched out the litter box, thinking I had out-smarted Dark Kitty, who was aiming her tee-tee just over the lid.

( It's quite the feat, a bit like a shot-put competition, only tee-tee.)

 I was lounging on the bed, calculating beta co-efficients, while mindlessly petting Abby, who had just returned from a stroll. I still recall how my hand was following the curve of her back and I wondered out loud, "Why is Abby arching her back?"

 I looked away from my book just in time to see her doo-dooing right next to my leg!

 Doo-dooing!  (And I'm quite sure she miscalculated the drop and was disappointed to see it missed my thigh.) 

There was no misunderstanding on my part, no ma'am. This was a premeditated, first-degree intentional doo-doo and it was in direct response to my changing out the litter box.

 And here lies the difference between cats and dogs. If a dog had done this, my response would be to jump up, shout, "WHAT in the SAM HILL did you just do!?", then chase the dog who would be running, tail-tucked, corner it, and say in a deep voice, "Be ASHAMED!!" 

But one can't respond like that to a cat. You would just be digging yourself a deeper hole and there would be much worse, creative punishment coming your way. 

More than once, I've heard a friend say the family cat had peed on fresh laundry, in direct response to something its owner had gone on a business trip.

 Can you imagine?

 A dog greets you returning home at the door in a frenzied romp of wiggling licks and relieved whines of gratitude..."HE'S HOME!" 

A cat just pees in your briefcase. 

So my response to the doo-doo attack? I quickly sat up and said, "Abby....oh poor kitty, I'm sooo sorry. Sweet, come here, let me pet you. You're feeling unloved..meow, meow...kitty, kitty." 


Am I disgusted at myself? Yes.

But it's the compromise I must make to live with a cat. My husband claims he would have beat the ever-lovin' *&#@ out of her and I commented it'd be a whole year before she would have spoken to him again. "So what would be different?" he asked. He's right. Years ago, Dark Kitty scratched his arms in a violent attempt to return to her sunny window.  They'd had a come-to-Jesus meeting that resulted in a solid year of her refusing to acknowledge his existence.

I admired her ability to be steadfast and true to her convictions.

And then there's nighttime. I mentioned the early-formed fear of cats and honestly, it did take me a couple of years of owning two before it fully eased away. However, when it's half past midnight and one of my cats walks up the length of my body and gets its face one inch from my face, I struggle with staying calm.

 Have you ever noticed how when the light is just right their ears look like a witch hat? And not just one, but two!

During the cold, dark nights, Abby waits for me to turn on my side. She sees it as a potential under-the-cover cuddle-hole and walks along the edge of the bed towards my face. She'll sit and stare, waiting for the intimidation to wake me up. If I play possum too long,, she'll reach out her paw and gently touch my face, (and yes,the intimidation does wake me...every time.)  This seems innocent enough, but just last week, after having a little spot nitro'ed off my face by the dermatologist, she touched my cheek right on that little sore. Realizing she may have just returned from the litter box, and remembering that late, great unpleasantness on the bed, I had to get up to wash my face and liberally apply neosporin.

If I take too long to lift up the covers, she'll extend a sharp claw to hook the edge of the blanket. At first, this seemed clever on her part, but she once caught my lip (unintentional I'm sure...or at least I'm pretty sure).  Now when she attempts to hook the edge of the covers, I move my hand to shield my face, just in case.

I guess my assessment of cats being unpredictable is incorrect. They aren't just unpredictable. Just the contrary. They are predictably unpredictable. You can count on it. 

Watch this video. It's a great example of the wonderful world of cats and why I sleep with my hand on my jugular vein.


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