Cats like to have order in their lives. They establish routines that are meaningful to them and they expect the rest of us to honor them as well. To keep their routines running smoothly they assign tasks to each of us and expect us to execute these jobs on demand. For instance, Pat and I have jobs that were assigned to us by our cat, Isabella. We can both feed her and take her for walks outside and share in some of the other mundane responsibilities but we do have our primary chores. Pat is responsible for combing Izzie 2 or 3 times a day and is also the designated player in games like Hide and Seek and Chase. I’ll discuss these items another time. Right now, I’d like to tell you about my job as “tucker-inner” and how that developed and how it works today.
Izzie was more than 5 years old when we got her. Before she came to us, she had been living in a in a pet motel which is basically just a bunch of cages. She only weighed 2 pounds. We figured that after being in that place for 3 months without love or stimulation she was no longer cared about eating and would soon pass away. As you can imagine, her psyche was in bad shape when she came to us.
We didn’t know where Izzie was going to sleep and until she became familiar with the house, she didn’t either. We made it a habit, every night, to find her and know where she was sleeping so we wouldn’t step on her in the dark. When we found her, she would usually raise her head so we would scratch her ears and rub the bridge of her nose and tell her “good night.” Quite often, Pat would be busy doing chores so I was the one petting her at bed-time. If I wasn’t paying attention she would meow or attract my attention some way and let me know it was time for bed.
To be a good cat person, you have to be alert because their signals are usually pretty subtle. Cats normally become scared if you look them in the eye so they avoid staring at you. They only look directly at you if they want something.
It has become my responsibility to see that Izzie is “tucked in” every night. She has established the routine that we pretty much adhere to. During the period of Daylight Savings Time, Izzie goes to bed about 8:30 in the evening. After we “fall back” to Pacific Standard Time, she goes at 7:30. She starts the routine by going to the kitchen for a light snack. Then, after a drink of water, she sets in the kitchen doorway and looks out into the living room while she washes up. Next, there is a trip to the litter box to take care of business and then a return to the living room where she sits back on her haunches and stares at me. I have to be on the ball and recognize that she is telling me it is her bed time. If I ignore her because I’m interested in the TV or something, she’ll wait for a while and then go on to bed.
If I’m alert, I’ll get “the look” and jump up and start toward her. As soon as she sees me coming she’ll turn around and start down the hall for whatever sleeping place she has chosen. She will usually walk 5 or 6 feet and then look back over her shoulder to see if I’m coming. She normally does this a couple of times until we get to our destination. (She probably thinks that having limited intelligence, I’ll wander off and get lost.)
When we arrive at the designated sleeping place, she stops and looks up at me. Then, I scratch her ears and forehead and rub the bridge of her nose. Then, she turns 180 degrees and takes a step so she is in position to have her back stroked. After 3 or 4 strokes, she reverses and we do the ears and nose again. Usually we repeat this 3 times and then she lies down. At this point, I pet her a couple more times and say “good night”. She’s tucked in.
This sounds complicated, doesn’t it? It’s what Izzie has worked out over the years and I just do whatever makes her happy.
December 20, 2014