Saturday, November 7, 2015

When Loving Your Cat Leaves You Feeling Woefully Inadequate

Most people who share their lives with a feline, know the feeling of sometimes falling short of the pet parent they wish to be. Even more often, the parent of these furry creatures, in trying to do the best possible thing for his or her friend, gets "the look." If you have a cat, you've seen "the look." "The look" is a withering and scalding mixture of any or all of these: disappointment, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, annoyance, indignance, hatred. Bear in particular is very good at making Momma feel inadequate with "the look," even when she has the well-being of Bear at heart. As with parents of human children, some times it really hurts to do the right thing for the cat. Fortunately, after a period of "mad" time, cats are pretty forgiving. Plus, we never have to worry about our furry friends going to therapists and telling them all our deep dark secrets (and failings) and our frequent (perceived) mistreatment of our fur-babies.

Both of these pictures say (in the context of exposing Bear's hiding spot): "Leave me alone!" and "I hate you!"


When loving Bear (with the best intentions) leaves Momma feeling woefully inadequate (and like a "bad" Momma):

Trips to the vet. "The look" is accompanied by a look of complete abandonment . . . because if Momma REALLY loved Bear, she wouldn't put him a carrier, much less put him in a car, and take him to the place of exquisite feline torture. The entire ride to the vet is punctuated by a dirge of mournful meows. Momma always feels so horribly guilty that she often sticks as many fingers as she can of one hand through the grate so Bear doesn't feel so alone. Then, there's the most obvious sign of his fear - to examine Bear's belly, the vet literally has to pry his tail off it first . . . that makes Momma feel like an ogre for making Bear go to the vet.

Errant hairballs or cat items that are filthy. Nothing irritates a cat more than taking his favorite box, paper bag, or other toy away because of a disgusting furball. Bear does not like boxes - but Kitty threw a fit when she found her favorite box missing . . . even with the hairball: Momma quickly learned how to "wash" a box as best she could. Since Bear carries his toys around - dragging them on the floor - or bringing them to his litter box, water bowl, or Momma's bathroom - they quite often require a bath; when Bear notices one of his items missing, Momma knows she'll have a very irritated cat staring at her until the item is returned. And even upon being reunited with his long-lost love, there are more dirty looks that the item no longer smells like Bear - which he, of course, remedies immediately. Clearly, only evil mommies want their felines to have clean accoutrements.
Bear's favorite bag . . . before an unfortunate hairball incident sent the bag into permanent retirement.

Cleaning. This includes the above, but also extends to vacuuming the carpet, cleaning out the litter box, or washing blankets, cozy cat tree furnishings, and bed sheets. You try your best to ensure your feline has a clean and comfortable environment - but it tends to backfire. Bear becomes extremely offended and agitated that the now clean item or surface is no longer marked as HIS. This often leads to frantic rolling around on the clean surface or using the litter box for the tiniest amount of refuse possible. Additionally, vacuuming presents the problem of terrifying Bear. While he's gotten slightly better, he still refuses to be in the same room as the vacuum and takes advantage of his secret hiding spots. Of course, Bear sees the vacuum as antagonizing, instead of something to help keep him clean (picking up dead fur and debris in the carpet where he rolls around). I'm pretty sure Bear also believes the vacuum doubles as a fur collecting device to "steal" his fur. And when the vacuuming is done . . . Bear rolls around frantically all over the carpet to re-scent and re-fur it properly. Only a horrible mom would remove all fur/scent traces of the cat's existence.

Keeping the cat indoors. The fastest way to make Bear mad is to interrupt his grass buffet and make him go inside. The only time Bear hisses is when Momma is trying to corral him inside (I give him a chance to go inside himself before picking him up and taking him inside). Quite often, this extends into a full body attack. When Momma doesn't let Bear out to begin with, he often sits by the front door moaning mournfully like he just won't survive without going outside NOW (no carpet remains by Momma's front door . . . courtesy of Bear trying to dig himself out). Bear seems aware of the dangers of being outdoors (he's afraid of birds, squirrels, buzzing insects, when he hears other people or animals within a certain radius), but when they aren't present, he has no problem being Mr. Tough Pants and making Momma feel like an ogre for not letting him spend as much time as he wants outside. Luckily, Momma's front porch is protected and enclosed, but she still worries. How insulting that Momma wants to protect Bear from the elements, predators, and other outdoor dangers! And yes, when it rains or is cold outside - making it unpleasant for kitty expeditions - that's Momma's fault just as surely as her keeping Bear inside.

Food. Cats are master manipulators when it comes to food. Bear can convince me that he is starving, even though I feed him and know I filled his bowl an hour ago. Anything less than half a bowl, is empty and clear evidence of mistreatment, per cat rules. Also, the starving act is used to get food other than kibble (treats, wet food). As Bear weighs almost 15 pounds, Momma really tries to limit treats and yet feels bad when she has to say no to Bear's expectant face. Or even worse: his endless running from his food bowl to the pantry and back again, hoping they will magically appear. Obviously, a "good" Momma should know kibble isn't "real" food . . . no matter how much time and research she spent selecting the offending victuals.

Hygiene. If you are ever curious what a dying cat looks and sounds like, try clipping its claws or brushing its teeth. Bear was born with a proclivity toward dental problems (he lost his first tooth when he was one) - and so brushing his teeth is mandatory - at least to stop the progression and save as many teeth as possible. Of course, he does not appreciate this and makes sure Momma is aware that she's slowly killing him (at least in his mind). And on the days he decides violence is the answer . . . Momma seriously considers just letting him lose his teeth; alas, Momma always chooses to sacrifice her health for Bear's. I suppose clipping a cat's claws isn't really for its health, and is more for injury (to the human) prevention and furniture rescue. Bear fights Momma pretty close to the death on this one. Also, while Kitty hated being brushed (to cut down on hairballs) - it had to be done while she was distracted with food - Bear loves being brushed and turns into a purring ragdoll. You win some, you lose some: Momma's evil for the teeth and claws, and (sometimes, depending on Bear's mood) okay, for the extra loves in the form of brushing. If Momma really loved Bear, she would leave his teeth and claws alone. Obviously.

Rescuing the feline from accidents. Cats don't need rescuing . . . except for when they really do. Bear's cat tree has three perches - to make them more comfortable, one is covered in a blanket, another by towels, and the third with a cat bed. More than once, I've had to move the cat bed back on the perch (with the cat sleeping in the bed), so that Bear doesn't fall off the back. This creates quite a batting and meowing fit; Bear doesn't seem to appreciate my saving him from falling backwards off the top perch (along with the cat bed). At one time, Bear liked to stick his paw in the toaster - mainly to get me to jump up and come running at his command. Since I unplugged the toaster when not using it, he longingly looks at the toaster and gives me dirty looks that one of his favorite games has been discontinued. Oh, perhaps I should mention that my idea of unplugging the toaster came after Bear got his paw stuck in the toaster and I got there just in time to catch the cat and the toaster before they hit the ground. Yet the whole incident was Momma's fault. Bear also climbs in my walk-in closet. Not so bad - until he scales the piles of folded clothes on my shelves - the folded clothes not being very stable. More than once, I've caught him falling off the top of a pile of clothes, and managed to catch him before he managed an exquisite belly flop on the floor of the closet (of course, Momma is left with a pile of clean clothes on the floor of the closet too - but the cat is safe!). Another good example is when Bear got the handle of a plastic bag caught around his body (he was nosing around in the bag and a noise scared him, so he jumped back quickly - causing the contents to fly one direction - and the cat - with the handle around his body - in the other). For at least 15 minutes he wouldn't let me get close enough to remove the bag. And it was my fault. Obviously. Isn't everything?


Odd physical conditions. When I first felt Bear's tumor, I couldn't help myself rubbing the area over and over again and comparing it with the opposite side. While I tried to disguise my growing panic with normal petting, Bear was not fooled and did not put up with me trying to feel the spot that didn't feel right (tumor). This also goes for Bear's acne and his tooth issues. I try to manage any problems related to these issues, which some times requires me poking around a bit. And no, Bear does not like that either (especially washing his chin to manage/prevent breakouts). If you haven't figured it out yet, Momma Kat is just evil . . . and "mistreats" Bear horribly.

Taking away the spoils. Bear is a little thief - he'll steal anything of Momma's that he can get his paws on. And usually he parades around with pride at his newest acquisition. My favorite incident occurred shortly after I adopted him. Since Kitty had never been interested in the counters, I wasn't used to considering that food left out might be fair game. After cooking a package of chicken breasts, I left them out to cool before freezing. I was in the next room when I heard a loud "THUNK,"  but told myself I was just hearing things. Until Bear came running in to the room that I was in, with the largest chicken breast in his mouth. I still feel bad for taking it away - he seemed so proud of himself and excited to show Momma his new find. I took it away because I didn't want to promote counter cruising (for the times the stove is on among others) and I couldn't imagine him eating the entire thing. He's stolen lots of food from Momma (and licked the rest) in the intervening years . . . despite her vigilance and knowledge of what Bear is capable of. Of course, the "spoils" also include drawstring pants, bras, camera straps, cords (or anything resembling a string), stuffed animals, toothbrushes, pens - pretty much anything he can get his paws on (and some things Momma unintentionally issues a challenge to get just by using or leaving them out). He's so proud of his pilfered items! Again, I'm a horrible Momma for not letting Bear have his way with his spoils.
What is this a picture of? Bear trying the steal the camera strap (and attached camera) while Momma took a picture of him. The first time he stole Momma's camera, she turned around to grab the camera because the scene was so cute . . . but of course, the camera was no longer where Momma left it. Welcome to Momma's life: anything left out is fair game . . . anything not firmly attached to something else is fair game (though he was quite adept at popping the keys off Momma's laptop) . . . pretty much ANYTHING is fair game . . . and taking away Bear's new toy will always provoke a combination attack/indignant attitude that would make the thickest-skinned person feel bad for interrupting Bear's fun time.

Bear also has no problems going into the pantry and taking the toys Momma stores in there (because they require supervision) by force.


Love and play. When Bear wants attention (love or play), he wants it right now! Whether Momma's in the shower, asleep, or otherwise engaged, Bear does not take no for an answer. And he knows just how to make Momma feel horrible for not giving it to him right away. Most of the time, he'll find something to destroy or a way to make a mess (knocking shelves of stuff above the toilet into the toilet). Occasionally, he'll sit on the table next to where I'm working and just stare (he also does this leading up to his daily wet food treat). If the cat ain't happy, there ain't peace in this house! In the case of sleeping, the cat's determination precludes any chance of the human continuing to sleep. When head butts and using Momma as a jungle gym don't work, Bear sticks his wet nose in her ear, then bites and licks her ear . . . and if that doesn't work, he finds stuff to knock in the toilet or carries all of his toys (painstakingly and individually) and deposits them in Momma's bed. His newest tactic (his repertoire constantly expands) involves putting his nose right up to Momma's nose, and staring at her until she wakes up. And no . . . after the consequential heart attack, she can't go back to sleep (even when Bear's done being petted after four seconds). Bear 1,095; Momma 0.


Space and possession. Every space in Momma's home is Bear's. Not Momma's - Bear's. Few things agitate Bear more than expecting him to share the couch, chair, or bed when he's stretched out taking up the entire space. And don't even THINK about trying to make him move. Unless you have an extra finger . . . or arm that you don't really need anymore. And some days - there is no winning: try to share - get attacked, try to go somewhere else - get attacked. I'm pretty sure this is just one huge prevarication on the cat's part - he's sitting exacting where he knows you want to sit - yet somehow manages to make YOU feel bad for wanting to do so.

Feline Particularities. If the cat likes snuggling one way - you better get in position or he'll make you feel like the worst person on the planet and turn up his nose to snuggling with you (usually from the back of the couch - staring down at the offending position). If you have a bookmark or something that interferes with said snuggling time, it must moved. And the human must sit still for the cat to walk in circles on your chest - meanwhile stabbing your internal organs and whacking you in the face with his tail - until he finds the exact way he wants to lay. And no, this can't be done in less than three minutes. Interrupt - and you get "the look" in addition to the cat starting over. Also, don't expect this preferred snuggling position to stay the same - you might even get the feeling the cat switches it around, just to mess with you. 

Other particular incidents that elicit the "death look" from the cat that shrinks the human down to size and makes the human feel guilty? Glancing at the cat in the litter box. Accidentally catching the cat licking his butt. Watching the "crazies:" which is kind of funny, because watching a cat with the crazies only makes him crazier and more paranoid. And yes, the cat requires you let him stare at you at all times. Usually for food. But sometimes, just because he thinks he'll miss something while you use the bathroom. And there is always the chance of something yummy on the counter - even if the cat's efforts in the past haven't yielded any results. Preventing the cat from checking out the counter, the bathroom, or any other space he sees fit to peruse is cruel.
If you have a cat, you know there are certain times and places that you are NOT allowed to pet the cat. Doing so provokes anger and frustration from the cat - even if the reason you are doing it is because the cat is so darn cute doing whatever he is doing. Momma is not allowed to pet Bear while he's on his cat tree - unless you want to annoy him. Momma's also not allowed to pet him when we're playing. No doubt you've seen the cute butt shake when a cat is about to pounce . . . or the way the cat is SO cute when he plays . . . but if you try to pet the cat out of fondness for his cuteness, your hand will likely become his next chew toy. Sure, you think you're showing the cat your love . . . but the cat doesn't agree.

Destructive tendencies. Not allowing the cat to destroy things is tantamount to clipping a bird's wings. Don't do it; not only will it not work, but you'll likely face more damage and misbehavior than if you'd just let the cat do what he wants. Unfortunately, you might prevent him from tearing up carpet in one part of the house, but you'll find everything from the shelves above the toilet knocked into the toilet, a hairball on your favorite blanket, AND that important paperwork you left out shredded past recognition before you can even say, "No! Bear! No!" The cat's determination and focus leads to the weak human giving in with frustration, and also learning never to challenge the cat's destructive tendencies again. Funny thing though: the cat's scratching posts remain pristine - everything else in the house? Not so much. And that deposit you paid? Gone . . . after one day. The carpet, the blinds (the cat requires an easy access hole to the window so he'll chew off the ends of the slats to get his hole) . . . consider the deposit non-refundable. Also, you deeply and truly insult the cat by not letting him destroy you; those fangs and claws are there for a reason . . . and he intends to use them . . . on you . . . for no particular reason . . . other than he can.

If one really wants to feel evil, try keeping the cat from "helping" you make the bed. Momma's surrendered to the fact that her blankets and sheets will always have holes because only a horrible Momma would not let him "get" the blanket monster.


Conclusion:
In sum, anything you do, that the cat does not like (even if there's absolutely no good reason for him to be upset): stop it. Just give him his room, whatever he wants, and leave him to be his fickle, cantankerous, feline self. Of course,  you can't really win, because half of the cat's pleasure comes from the battle itself. So if you choose this hands off approach, I highly suggest you move your breakables and everything else off your counters and tables (I speak from experience). 

And if we're being completely honest . . . what does and doesn't bother the cat often changes . . . and the extent of the reaction varies . . . just often enough that you wonder if he's just trying to mess with you . . . though, like people, cats have minds (and moods) of their own. And no, I don't suggest telling your cat he has a mood or attitude problem . . . because, to the cat, the human will ALWAYS be the problem . . . poor, poor kitty for having to share his home with you!

Did I miss any? How do your cats make you feel woefully inadequate despite being sure you are doing your best for them?

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