Friday, September 22, 2006

Cat Theory

We have a morning ritual in our apartment that I’d rather we didn’t. It goes like this: The cats get hungry about 4:30 AM and some time in the next half hour they begin pestering us about it. I say “us,” but I really mean “Michele,” since the cats see her as the primary food source. “Us” gets involved, though. Jasmine, the princess, is content to run across the bed on her way to licking the window (don’t ask), but Silke, the dork, is more direct: she lays on Michele’s hair and sniffs her ear. Michele twitches, I wake up, we all settle back down and the process repeats. This doesn’t really wake Michele. She’s lived with cats all her life, and she can engage in this combat without completely waking up, and since she’s not all there she doesn’t complete the job. The cat just leans away while Michele jerks, groans, and pushes a feeble forearm at her before drifting off again. I wake up every time, but I also fall asleep pretty quickly, so it’s no big deal, though I’d probably be better rested if we didn’t do this all the time.

Yesterday I woke up at five or so, trying to convince myself I could get back to sleep but knowing I wouldn’t. The sun was still more than an hour from rising, but lights from the nearby parking ramp outlined everything in a hard pale gray. In that cold light I watched Michele trying to squeeze the last half hour of sleep out of the night, and the two cats lying against her, both beginning to get restless. Jasmine lay like a queen at Michele’s feet, her nose slightly raised as she stared out the window, twitching every few seconds. Silke had her cannonball body pressed against the top of Michele’s head, and was sniffing, and getting ready to lower her nose to Michele’s ear again. Since I couldn’t sleep, I altered the scheme a bit.

When nose closed in on ear I snaked my hand out, pressed it against Silke’s face, and flicked my fingers. Suddenly she was six inches farther away from her target than she wanted to be. Farther away than she should be, really, because in a cat’s mind there is no difference between what she wants and what objectively should be. She gave me a look of confusion and disbelief before turning back to Michele’s ear, again meeting my hand halfway. Every time I got the same look: eyes widened, chin tucked back, slight curl to her lip. Disdain and disbelief. This continued for the next half hour. I was having fun frustrating the cat, imagining that at some point she’d get the message—I’m the boss, and you can’t outstubborn me.

The only thing that could stop this idiocy was the alarm, and it did. Michele got up, oblivious to my repeated rescues of her sleep, and left the room, instinctively dodging the frantic cats, who were at this point yowling and zipping back and forth between her feet. When she didn’t go directly to the cat food, instead shuffling into the bathroom to wash her face, both cats froze, mouths hanging open, eyes glazing.

They repeated their performance when I emerged from the bedroom. They sprinted. They capered. I think one of them curvetted. When I walked past to the kitchen to start the coffee, they both sat stunned again. They bitched me out while I made coffee, and I could hear Silke beating on the food can.

This happens every morning, and every afternoon, and every night. They want to eat long before they’re scheduled to, and they’re positive that every time we stand it is our intention to finally do what they want. When we go about other business they can’t believe it.

After we feed them, the cats curl up to sleep, Jasmine in bed and Silke sprawled on the couch, like everything has gone according to plan. Yesterday, as Jasmine trotted into the bedroom and Silke burrowed in the throw pillows, I had a revelation. The self-centeredness, the absolute confidence in their perceptions, the disbelief and disdain, the mindless singlemindedness, the immediate disassociation from events, the laziness. Cats are the George W. Bushes of the animal kingdom.

But cats have an excuse: their brains are smaller than golf balls.

Oh, wait.


Diana said...

You've been to my house a couple of times, and I'm sure you know I have a dog, but I bet you don't know I have a cat. It's because she doesn't come out of the basement.

That's right. My cat has been in the basement since June 1, 2005.

Jason said...

Seems like the first time we were at your house the cat was under the couch when we got there, but she tore ass downstairs shortly thereafter. For all that, I couldn't tell you what your cat looks like, so I may have hallucinated the whole thing.

Erin said...


And that is why I would never be able to live with cats.

You two have just spoiled those kitties rotten.