Every morning, I wake up and use the bathroom, with a black cat accompaniment. Shadow, our aptly named black cat my husband discovered on the side of the road, likes to follow by leading – this means he trots out in front of you and tries to guess which way you are going. When he isn’t sure, he stops right in front of your feet like a very solid, furry wall.
He sits on the sink while I sit on the toilet, and mostly it’s pretty companionable. He can be demanding – he’s trained me to turn on the sink for him so he can drink from the trickle. Or he digs in the sink so I will depress the drain guard and his trickle can become a puddle. If I don’t do these things, he fwaps my face with his tale. Accidentally, I’m sure.
My least favorite game is when he decides that he wants to sit on my lap and chew on my hands. This is a painful game that I don’t find a lot of fun in playing, so lately I’ve just been putting him back on the sink. Today he attacks the crap out of my hands, so I put him on the sink, well away from my hands, so he fwaps me with his tale once, and then looks like he’s going to bite me on my shoulder. I push him off the counter top.
I tell him, as he sits on the other side of the bathroom – out of biting range – looking at me with green eyes full of hurt condemnation, that I am not willing to be bitten this morning. I further remind him that I am larger than he is and that I have opposable thumbs, so he isn’t going to win in a fight and needs to stop trying. I wave my opposable thumbs at him and explain that opposable thumbs will win against biting – simply a matter of size here.
Seeing my lack of remorse, he leaves the whole area. Huffily he walks into the living room and then the kitchen. Then he comes back and acts as if he’s never seen me before. “Oh! There you are, human. Why, I haven’t seen you all day! Please skritch my head. Oh, would you turn on this water tap I’ve never seen before? Oh, thank you.”
This is called “resetting the room” and all of our cats do it. If they get squirted for destroying each other or eating human food they leave the room and when they return, they act as if everything is completely new and fresh. Reset. All memories from a few seconds ago are now null and void as the room resets when a cat is absent.
Will and I read an article a few years back about how it is difficult for humans to remember things as they go through doorways. The more doorways you go through, the more that you will forget what you meant to do. Therefore, you end up tracing your steps back to where you originally had the idea in the first place. We have started talking our ways through doorways (Iced tea, I’m getting iced tea) just to remember what we’re doing.
Cats have no such weakness, but being careful observers of human nature, they have noticed that doorways confuse our memory markers, so if you go through a doorway, the humans will forget whatever kitty transgression has been committed. Thus resetting the room. It doesn’t work, we always remember, but the hopeful look of innocence on cat’s face when they reset the room often does the trick.
We live in a old house, built in the 1930’s after an historical tornado wiped out most of the town I live in, side note: tornado sirens are everywhere! Anyway, my husband and his father (and his father by himself quite a lot, too) took a very old, smelly, and run down house and fixed it up into something livable, however, with old houses, there are quirks, kind of like an old car.
I sometimes joke that our lives are held together with duct tape and hope, which is a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.
My husband made a rough looking cat balcony for the cats. While we live in a residential area and the speed limit on the street is 25, many people go much faster than that so the cats are not allowed outside. We have strays pop up every few years and they have short lives. My younger sister worked as a vet tech and she said that the average life expectancy of an outdoor cat is around 2 years while an indoor cat can easily get into the teens. The cat balcony was a wonderful way for the cats to go outside without being exposed to things that will kill them, and in this area, we have tick born illnesses that can easily kill a cat. (Poncho, you are still missed.)
One of our cats has been dealing with chin acne for a long time now, and both of us hate having to wash his chin. I wash the food and water bowls regularly, wipe down the widows they sit in front of and don’t have anything plastic or metal for them to eat out of and still the acne wouldn’t/won’t go away.
The cat balcony was made of wood and chicken wire and the cats just loved it. However, my two high maintenance cats developed cat acne (catne, as my husband says). Since one of those cats is a black cat, I didn’t really notice, but the orange and white tiger cat, Cecil, developed catne that looked suspiciously like the shape of chicken wire. Therefore, the decision was made to close off the cat balcony.
This was not a popular decision among the cat crew. There was much meowing, trilling, and digging at the windows when this first happened, but they have mostly adjusted. They will get another cat balcony, but the design is still being handled so they can have a cat balcony without metal or plastic. I know that they sell cat balconies, but my husband wouldn’t spend the money on something he could make cheaper.
Recently, Cecil was gone for a couple of days. We have two systems of vents in our house, something that was true before we moved in. One set is functional and the other set of vents not so much. The cats will crawl through the vents into the basement, somewhere they can hide from each other and generally be left alone. I spent a day thinking Cecil was just pissed at one of the other cats and hiding in the basement.
The morning of day two of the Missing Cecil, I wake up and go to the bathroom, Joey, also orange and white, was wet and wanted me to pet him dry. When we had the cat balcony open, this was pretty typical Joey behavior. Go outside, get frozen or really wet, come back inside and have the humans pet you until you are warm or warm and dry.
Joey was dripping wet, which was weird for an indoor cat. I surmised that he must have escaped the house at some point. Looking through the basement I found a window broken enough a cat could certainly get out. The windows are tiny and at ground level, so a human couldn’t squeeze through, but it’s no problem for a cat.
Then, I committed a heinous act of kitty cat cruelty – I closed the access to the basement. Because of the old house status, there are some quirks, and one is that we have a hole to the basement in our kitchen. It’s right up against a wall and we have a board covering it so no one accidentally breaks their leg, so I made sure it was shut and I covered the other vent access to the basement.
Will, my husband, went outside and walked around for a good long time, found no Cecil and finally, as he gave up and was going to work, Cecil appears, meowing and trilling as he does. We call him the Muppet Cat because he makes a plethora of adorable noises. This is the cat that has the stress purr – he’s pretty vocal, even when sleeping. Cecil is completely happy and satisfied with himself, as per cat usual, no remorse whatsoever.
We have the window loosely boarded up, but these cats are escape artists, so until we have a cat proofing solution, they are not allowed back in the basement. This has caused several problems.
First of all, there is a kitchen door to the basement, and now I can’t grab a drink or food or clean or anything at all in the kitchen without a swarm of furry sharks trying to trip me as they expectantly wait for me to open the basement door. Our black cat, Shadow, has been making a habit of sitting on the counter, which is not allowed. However, Shadow still hasn’t figured out gravity, so we grade on a curve. Our habit, when he is on the counter is to put him on the other side of the basement door. To return, he has to run all the way through the basement and then climb back out of the vent.
Will’s philosophy here is that maybe it will help run some of the crazy out of the cat. Shadow is our cat that is a little kill crazy. I look at him like someone with ADHD but who also happens to have murder mittens. Even when he goes to sleep it’s as if the kill in him can’t quite let him unless he attacks something. This is the cat that was asleep, woke up to chew and kill a hand and then fall asleep with his mouth open on the hand so we are constantly trying to tire him out to burn off some of “kill.”
Shadow has been getting on counter tops now very brazenly, because he WANTS us to throw him in the basement. I had to rewash an already washed cutting board yesterday as he looked me right in the eye and sat on it. I actually washed the cutting board twice after that, not going to lie.
These cats have our number and they may be craftier than we are.
Anyway, it’s been a few days since the cats haven’t been able to go into the basement and they are not handling it well. Joey, who really is the brains of the cat operation here, as Shadow will actually go get Joey when a door is closed so Joey will open it for him, and as closed doors offend Joey’s very cat self, he opens the door without qualm. Will calls Joey, Joey-Bear, because he’s kind of a fat cat, but also insanely strong. We have many carpeted vertical places for the cats to claw and climb and Joey is only cat that will actually climb down instead of just jumping down and he really looks like a tiny bear when he does this.
Anyway, the Bear Joe spent a day driving me crazy as he would dig at the plastic barricade to the basement, then run into the kitchen to try to move the board off of the hole. Part of the reason we left the kitchen floor hole is to throw laundry down into the basement easily and quickly. Underneath the hole we have a huge laundry bin. Joey managed to move the board, a board with a mountain of Will’s heavy clothing covering it. I put a few more things to weigh down the board, but later that evening after I’d gone to bed, he manages to open it again.
When I wake up, the board has been weighted down by Will, who sometimes is a little more overkilly than I am. When Will’s dad replaced our old windows (you could actually feel the breeze from the wind from the inside, so this replacement saved us a ton on energy bills, Thanks, Bill!) there were iron weights inside the windows that Will kept (he keeps everything). These things acted as counterweights to the window and they are heavy. Will put the entire box of them on the basement board, a 12 pack of my seltzer water, and an unused and unopened 40 lb container of cat litter.
By the time we are done, Joey Bear is going to have crazy strong muscles, because even with all of the weight, he spent most of his day yesterday trying to move the board with no success.
This story doesn’t really have too much of a point, other than spoiled cats can be a real pain in the butt.