Cat People

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.

If it's funnier to imagine that this Sir Winston was trying to bite my face, I won't stop you.

If it’s funnier to imagine that this Sir Winston was trying to bite my face, I won’t stop you.

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.

I'm not even embarrassed that I said 'furbaby'. ...Well. I'm only a little bit embarrassed.

As a result of this, Winston is very spoiled and I can’t discipline him for the life of me.

Recent Catastrophes

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.

photo
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.

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23 comments

  1. Anne

    We have three fur-children who use different techniques to control their parents, and we similarly let them get away with most/all of them. We know it’s getting out of hand when two wild(er) cats start coming in through the flap, feeding themselves on anything and everything they find (one was even caught face down at the bottom of the kitchen bin) and we encourage them as well. Oops.

  2. blooper0223

    As I type this, my own overseer is watching to make sure I don’t say anything bad about him, enforcing this by laying across my arms. The spray bottle is one that works for me. Behaviorists tend to say you shouldn’t let the cat see you spray them, but apparently they’re dealing with monumentally dumb cats rather than the evil geniuses we live with. After a while, all I had to do was pick up the bottle and Luke would straighten up, at least until I left the room.
    All right, and apparently he’s upset that I would let people know of his acquiescence, as he just released a silent but deadly. Excuse me while I find my gas mask …

  3. Aiming for Simplicity

    My daughter & I giggled our way through this, we have three fur-babies and they are likewise want to eat my head during the evening and attack my feet during the night. They also like the game of “thundering down the hallway in the middle of the night”. Thanks for a great laugh, Meg.

  4. Lauren Keating

    Love your humorous style of writing. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud on my ferry ride commute to work. What a great post. As a fellow cat owner, I know the struggles lol. This was so entertaining!

  5. Anna

    Cats are adorable and even with discipline, it seems they truly have minds of their own. (Speaking as a cat owner. An exasperated one but can very well relate to this particular funny and awesome post.) Winston sounds like an interesting cat! :) Maybe all those nibbling on your head and pouncing on your feet are games for him. Never mind if it’s at an ungodly hour. I guess he just wants quality time with you. Lol.

  6. carbonkitten

    Reminds me of a rogue bunny we had growing up. Every chance she got to escape her cage at night, she’d settle into my pillow and chew on my hair. Maybe it was good nesting material, or she couldn’t get enough of the flavor of my conditioner, I don’t know. Oh, critters!

  7. Tammy in PDX

    Hilarious! Your bad boy reminds me of my own…the (oh so sadly named) Pickle. The years have calmed my guy down, and no doubt more time will help with your rogue kitty.

  8. Steph

    So funny! My Leeloo Dallas Multi-Pass is struggling a bit with manners right now too. I recently read that when your cat looks at you, you should note whether or not they blink. If they blink slowly, they are acknowledging you as an equal. If they stare without blinking at all, they consider you prey. But, since Winston is trying to eat your head, you may not need to investigate the staring thing.

  9. maurnas

    What about those clicker things? I don’t have pets, forgive my ignorance. But I have a crazy cat lady friend and she swaers by them for training.

  10. True Mendicant

    Very funny post and I can certainly empathize: When I moved in with my girlfriend last year, I had to adjust to living with FIVE cats in the house. I like cats, but wrangling five of them is, shall we say, occasionally stressful? Yes, that sounds polite enough.

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