Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Keeping Everybody Happy
Cats, big cats, house cats, engage in a finite number of activities. In order of time spent these are: sleeping, playing or practicing hunting, hunting, day dreaming, talking, and eating. I think everything they do falls into one of those categories. The amount of time spent on some of the activities might vary a bit with each cat, but sleeping is definitely at the top of the list. Cats sleep an average of eighteen hours a day, not all at once, of course, but about eighteen hours total. Sometimes, your cat's sleeping times coincide with your own, sometimes not. Sometimes the not sleeping times occur in the very early hours of the morning, say 5:30 a.m., for example. When this occurs, you might be tempted to discipline your cat to discourage this early morning activity. It won't work.
Quint starts his day as soon as there is enough light to see the birds in the trees and the neighborhood cats and dogs on the street and in the yard. This is much earlier than either Carol or I are willing to wake up. There are only four windows in our house available that allow Quint to get a decent view of the outside environment. One of those windows is in our bedroom, right next to the bed. There is a bookshelf there where he can sit and watch the birds and squirrels in the back yard. On that bookshelf there is also an alarm clock which Carol sometimes uses to help her wake up in time to get to work. The alarm clock we used to have on that bookshelf had a button on the top that would let you turn on the radio for a time and then it would automatically shut the radio off. That button was in just the right location for a cat paw to press when that cat was sitting on the bookshelf trying to see the birds and squirrels in the backyard in the early hours of the morning. The radio sounds didn't seem to bother Quint at all, but they did wake up Carol and I every time Quint managed to step on the button. Lucky for us, that clock radio stopped working and had to be replaced. The new one isn't so easily stepped on by Quint, so that problem has been solved.
The thing about that window that is true for nearly all windows, is f the cat can see out the window, everyone else, including people, can see inside the room. Now this is only a problem for the humans, and only when they are in some state of undress which only occurs for short periods of time in the morning and late evening. Still, it had been our habit to keep the blinds closed on that window from early evening until morning, after we were up and dressed. This window blind closure period did not fit Quint's bird watching schedule at all, at least in the morning. After he discovered the joys of bird watching from this window, he would hop up on the bookshelf at dawn and attempt to open the blinds himself. This makes a very strange sound, not loud, but strange enough that it would wake us up. We tried telling him to go away and come back later. We tried spraying him with water to discourage this behavior. We tried pushing him off onto the floor. None of these were at all effective.
I realized that we were trying to discourage him from a behavior that is natural for cats. He was hunting, well not exactly, but certainly an indoor cat's attempt at hunting behavior. One morning, I suggested to Carol that perhaps, after we were done with dressing and undressing for the day, she would consider raising the blind about eighteen inches. That way Quint could see outside and not have to bother us with his attempts to open the blinds. We tried that the very next day. It worked. It was the perfect solution. Quint gets to watch the early morning activities in the back yard and we get to sleep. Domestic bliss has been restored. All it took was our realization that he was just doing what comes naturally to a cat, and make a small adjustment in our routine to accommodate that behavior.