What is it about pets? Why do so many of us have them. Why do we need them? And, with cats, why do we allow ourselves to become their staff?
I've written before about my cat Fred. Quite frankly, he's a pain in the butt. While he's not our dominant cat (that battle was fought and won by timid little Chester), somehow he seems to be the one that's "on stage" most of the day.
Fred's day often starts early -- like 2 a.m. A restless sleeper, he'll get up (he sleeps with us--at the bottom of the bed, on his own little afghan and pillow (he likes to rest his weary head on it, and I think he prefers the Scotty dog pillowcase)), check out the cat food bowls to see if it's worth a snack, have a drink, and then come back into the bedroom to MAKE SURE EVERYONE ELSE IS AWAKE!!! He does this by either scratching on the closet doors (despite the fact I've repeatedly told him there is NOTHING in the closet a cat needs to investigate), and usually to squeak.
That's what we call Fred-Speak. I've never had such a talkative cat. It's not so much squeaking as griping. "Ra-ra-ra-ra-RAAAA" and other such rants and noises. Of course, as he's talking, he also paces around the bed, which makes Betsy (who hogs the covers by playing rock in the middle of the bed so I can't pull them over my butt) nervous. She doesn't like boy cats, although she spends at least two-thirds of her life sleeping next to them in one part of the house or another.
In order to get Fred to shut up, I have to pick him up and we need some serious "cuddling" time. Once he relaxes, I put him back on his afghan and hope he'll go back to sleep. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. I don't have any kids, but I often feel like a new mother trying to soothe her crying child.
Once Fred gets the rest of us up, it's time for breakfast. It used to be that the girls took turns licking the lid on the cat food cans. Recently Fred discovered that this is a prelude to a meal, and he now barges in, sniffs, judges whether the food is worthy, and if it is, will deign to lick the lid. And if it doesn't meet with his approval -- he'll walk! (He'd prefer to eat Tuna and Sauce 24/7.) Once the bowls are on their placemats (cats are pigs, have you ever noticed that? Instead of the lovely clean bowls we provide them with, they'd prefer to take the food out, put it on the floor and eat it there. More often than not, they prefer the floor to the mat. Grrrr!), usually three of the four walk away in disgust. Of course they all come back, but not to their own bowls. Fred prefers to eat the food I put down for Betsy. After all, girl food MUST be better than boy food. It's like a square dance or something with everyone switching bowls. (BTW, that's Fred (on the right) and Chester bird watching on the dining room table, where they definitely are NOT SUPPOSED TO BE.)
After a leisurely breakfast (and maybe a wrestling match with Chester), Fred likes to retire to
one of the chairs in my husband's home office, where he'll take his first nap of the day. Rain or shine, from about 7 a.m. until noon, Fred will be there--at least part of the time. At some point, he'll join Betsy and Chester on their kitty cushions under the 200 watt light bulb. (Winter/Summer cats want to be WARM. And God forbid Phillips stops manufacturing those 200 watt incandescent cat warmers. I do believe there'd be hell to pay.)
Of course, every time I get up from my office chair to hit the kitchen for another cup of tea, or head to the laundry room to put another load in the washer or dryer, Fred jumps down from the desk and follows me like a puppy. He also likes to guard me while I'm in the bathroom. (What he's guarding me from, I have no idea.)
Fred has recently learned a new trick. He thinks it's the most stupendous thing in the world to close doors. Unfortunately, he isn't quite smart enough to OPEN doors (even if they've got a crack a paw could go through.) Consequently, we now have rubber doorstops under most of the doors, otherwise, he'll be locked in a room for hours on end, because he's also not smart enough to call out and let us know he's shut in. (No, he saves all that talking for the middle of the night.)
Late in the afternoon, hubby and I observe happy hour -- even if the most potent thing we drink is club soda. The cats have their own happy hour, where treats are received. Happy hour commences about 5:30; cats start getting antsy about 4 p.m and let us know that SOON IT WILL BE HAPPY HOUR AND WE WANT OUR COOKIES. Fred takes this opportunity to stalk around my office, telling me that not only is he hungry, but he'd also like to go out into our enclosed porch (they're all "indoor" cats). He'll jump up on my club chair (making sure to scratch the leather) walk around the back and squeak, Squeak, SQUEAK!!! until I get up and let him out. And then he'll stand at the door demanding to be let in--because he doesn't like to be alone--or cold.
Just before and sometimes during happy hour, Fred gets twitchy. He's got the kitty equivalent of OCD. His skin ripples and he starts to race around the house staging his own Kitty 500. The only thing that will calm him down is if I pet him. Now, according to everything we've read about kitty OCD, this is the WORST thing that you can do for a twitchy cat. Our vet recommended phenobarbital which didn't do a damn bit of good. Nope, Fred would rather be petted (and preferably picked up, have his ears rubbed, and repeatedly kissed).
Next up: people dinner. Fred doesn't beg. (Thank goodness for small favors.) But he does like to spend the dinner half hour with his Mum and Dad. Most nights he'll be sitting at my side, looking regal.
After dinner, should we decide to watch a DVD, Fred likes to be with us. Sometimes he'll sit on my lap, but more often than not there's already a cat there, so he'll patiently lie in from of the TV, with the best view in the house.
Just before bedtime, it's time to feed cats once again, and we repeat the same procedure as breakfast. Hubby and I head for bed, and usually before the light goes out, Betsy joins us. Then Fred (so she can growl at him), then Chester. And all is peaceful until 2 a.m. -- when Fred's day starts all over again.
Why on Earth would anyone put up with Fred's antics? Well, because I love him. If anything happened to him, I would be devastated.
My friend Anne just lost her boy, Spike. I never got to meet Spike, but I often heard about him when Anne would write (this was before we got into e-mail). He was quite a handsom boy. In February, he was diagnosed with a tumor in his chest. Anne (a former vet tech now nurse) made her boy comfortable, but Saturday, just days before his 16th birthday, Spike crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Anne, and her husband made a tribute video for Spike, which you can find here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPn9eITgOZM WARNING: Have tissue box handy. I cried a bucket of tears for Anne and for Spike. Thanks to the video, I now feel like I was lucky enough to meet Spike.
There's a reason we have pets. It's called love.