I woke up last night to fangs clamping down on my skull. It’s rarely a pleasant surprise to discover that something in the dark is trying to eat you headfirst, but I was more annoyed than frightened–it was the fourth time this had happened since midnight. I mumbled something incoherent and pushed my attacker away, then fell back asleep almost instantly. The fanged menace slunk back into a shadowy corner of the room to watch me sleep, emerging every so often to pounce on my feet under the blanket. The fifth or sixth time I felt something grab onto my ankle through the comforter, I gave up on sleep. I sat up and stared blearily into the monster’s yellow eyes.
“Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Purrchill,” I said, “I do not bite your feet while you’re sleeping. Kindly return the favor.”
“Mraow,” he said, and tried to bite my eyebrow.
I adopted Winston from a shelter in January. I picked him because I liked his style (tall white socks paired with a tuxedo? Edgy.) and because I thought the way he put his teeth around my hand when I tried to pet him was adorable. In retrospect, I see that he was, in fact, biting me. I still think it was cute.
Our relationship was a little touch-and-go at first. It took him a few days to come out from behind my couch, and a few more before I could make eye contact without scaring him back there again. For the first several weeks, each time I petted him I came away with a deep scratch or bite mark on one of my extremities. My hands were so torn up that everyone I met pulled out of handshakes as soon as they could and I never made it through a meeting without someone gasping and asking what happened.
“You should see the other guy,” I said. “He’s so cute!”
I must have passed some kind of kitty test, though, because now Winston wants to be wherever I am. He waits outside the shower while I’m in it. He follows me from room to room while I’m cleaning the house. Right now, he’s helping me write this post by sitting on the first draft. Thanks, buddy.
For my part, I talk about him so much that people assume he’s my boyfriend (“Winston was going crazy last night! He wouldn’t sleep and just ran around the house jabbering, then jumped face-first into a wall to catch a bug,” I told a friend one day at the bank. A teller who had overheard leaned over and said, “You need to break up with that guy, honey. I guarantee he’s on drugs.”). I ask him dozens of questions he’ll never answer. I turn the gazillion photos I’ve taken of him into beautiful unicorn pictures when we’re apart.
As a result of this, Winston is very spoiled and I can’t discipline him for the life of me.
1. The hat. Not long after I brought Winston home, he meticulously pulled apart one of the pom-pons on my favorite hat and spread the grisly remains around the house, where they continue to appear in odd places and make me sad.
2. The curtains. I like the curtains in my living room. I like the way they cover the window. Winston likes them, too, but he likes how easy they are to climb and destroy.
3. The toilet paper and the paper towels. Someone, and I’m not naming any names, thinks it’s hilarious to pull toilet paper off the roll and watch it pile up on the floor. Someone else also thinks it’s funny and lets him get away with it.
4. The head-biting. This one is new and very, very sneaky. He’ll act sweet and affectionate, but as soon as he has a clear shot at the crown of my head, CHOMP. That’s not even a logical place to bite someone. There’s not much skin to really get ahold of up there.
“Winston,” I begin sternly after every one of these incidents.
“Meow?” he says innocently, and I know he’s playing me but then he looks up at me with those giant black pupils and presses his face against my leg, purring, and I can’t do it.
Cat Discipline Techniques
1. The spray-bottle or squirt gun. I haven’t tried this one yet because the only squirt gun I own is a Super Soaker and I don’t want to permanently traumatize Winston.
2. Physical intimidation. Not only do I not agree with this technique, I don’t think it will work. Winston has seen me get out of the shower. He knows I don’t have the muscles to back this one up.
3. Scolding. Someone tried scolding Winston last week and he went into recluse mode for three days, hiding behind the toilet and sitting sadly under beds. I can’t do that again. We only have one toilet.
4. Disappointment. I’ve tried my best to guilt trip him. “Winston,” I say sadly, shaking my head. “I expected so much better of you.” Then I wonder aloud if another cat would be better behaved. This technique appears to have no effect on Sir Purrchill.
I’m really trying to be a good cat owner. I set boundaries, enforce bedtime, and I don’t make excuses for his shenanigans. I’ve even stumbled on a new disciplinary technique: idle threats.
Every time he does something he knows he’s not supposed to do, I look him dead in the eye and tell him what a handsome hat he’d make. He blinks slowly at me and narrows his eyes like he’s trying to tell if I’m joking or not.
But you know what? He doesn’t repeat the behavior.
I’m the Mad Catter.