Adapting to the rhythms of cats

cathy2Very often, we make concessions for our feline friends that we would never consider making for dogs or even our human family members.

For example, you probably can’t tell, but I am typing this column with my left hand because my cat has fallen asleep on my right arm. I don’t wake her because I am grateful that she is not walking across the keyboard, inserting the letter “G” at the speed of light, or sitting directly in front of the computer, blocking my view. I have adapted: I can now type left-handed with a pinky-forefinger combination. It’s slow going, but it works.

Whenever I read the newspaper my cat moves from her sunny resting place to spread eagle across the open pages. I have adapted: I can read the first part of an article on page two and the last part of an article on page three, retain the information until she shifts, and then read the end and beginning of both stories. I can even turn the page with her under it and read other parts of stories. I think this is a special gift that only cat owners can appreciate.

My cats have strong instincts.  They know the precise moment my alarm is set to wake me—and wake me 30 minutes beforehand with a head butt. They also appear in my lap at the precise moment that I start thinking about getting up from the couch. I have adapted: I wake up 10 minutes before my cat wakes me up, and only think about moving from the couch if I want my cat to join me.

But I also use it to my advantage too. If there is a cat on my lap, I simply can’t get my own drink of water. So my son or husband must wait on me so that we don’t disturb the sleeping kitty.

I don’t think I am alone in adapting to my cats idiosyncrasies. Part of the reason we don’t mind these behaviors is that we are thrilled they are paying attention to us. It’s a lot like how we would treat celebrities or royalty if they decided to visit. You wouldn’t ask the President of the United States to get off your newspaper, would you? No, you would probably let him sit on it until he was ready to move — or until your cat wanted to get on it. “Excuse me Mr. President, but it’s Missy Kitty’s turn.”

When I take a bath, my cat falls asleep on my towel. I get a new towel. When I go to make the bed, my cat is asleep, spread eagle in the center of the bed. The bed goes unmade. When I read a book, my cat steps onto the open pages, as if climbing upon a royal perch to observe her kingdom. I rarely ask my cats to cease and desist because it’s very important for cats to think change, any change, is all their own idea.

On days when I can’t play the role of worshipper, however, here’s how I convince them to gently move.

  • The “See-Saw Move.” Tilt the open book the cat is sitting on to one side to allow her to gracefully slide onto your lap. Then quickly re-position the book directly under your chin.
  • The “Excessive Stroking Method.” This involves knowing the exact number of strokes it takes to convince your cat to get up and leave. For my cat, it’s about 13 strokes. This makes me compliant with her wishes and when she gets what she wants, she walks away.
  • The “Gentle Jiggle.” This is where you shift your body in subtle ways to persuade your cat to think, “gee, this person can’t keep still, I am going some place else.”

As you can see, the goal is to make your cat think it’s her decision to move, thereby relieving you of the guilt of making her move. Of course, when we want our cats to love us, they are no where around. All you have to do is think about getting up and, “poof,” they will appear.

Leonardo Di Vinci once said, “The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” Indeed, they are a work of art and we are merely the canvas they paint on.

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