By Rita Riera
The Cat in the Flat
There are a lot of reasons to get a cat. Loneliness, a desire to nurture, a desire for companionship. Perhaps you want a dog but your life doesn’t allow for the commitment. Maybe it’s a combination of all three. Perhaps you’re broody and want to practise nurturing something before you sign your life away to a baby. Or maybe you can’t have children and a cat is a fluffy, scratchy compromise.
The terms under which you bring a cat into your ranks are based on mutual respect. Unlike a dog who you can train to obey certain cues and only do things you permit, a cat has reciprocal terms. They’ll only shit in designated areas provided you supply them with the right sand. They’ll not scratch the furniture, if you get them a post on which they can vent their feline rage. Cats are like flatmates. The arrangement is one of initial convenience and over time the acquaintance can blossom into friendship. Even love. For most of us, a cat is a fairly agreeable tenant. They come and go as they please, and leave you alone most of the time. If they’re particularly sociable they’ll check in with you now and then and give you a cute purr in exchange for a cursory backstroke or ear scratch. At least that’s how the usual cat human dynamic appears to operate.
My cat is different. I know to the uncat loving masses it appears as though everybody says their cat is different, but mine really isn’t operating on the terms described above. It’s over familiar, its appetite for love and affection is high as is its propensity toward hijinks. The imbalance has put us at odds and we’re working through our troubles.
My cat is fond of his scratch post, but also enjoys to spread his attention across my flat’s furnishings. He’ll scratch my bed, my couch, my chair, my clothes, my carpet up to and including my door. As he scratches away at my possessions, I also feel he scratches away at my soul. To tackle this problem I originally decided to get some water pistols from poundland, thinking a cat’s natural aversion to water would discourage him from ripping at Ikea’s finest. I would squirt him every time he scratched at my landlord’s suite. Unfortunately this backfired and ‘pussy squirt’ is now his favourite game. So I’ve screwed (pretty expensive) plastic onto everything. Like many of my attempts to oneup my cat: he was powerless for a short while, before he got his ‘probleminsightsolution’ in order and realised he could be just as effective scratching the backrest. Touche cat.
The sleep deprivation.
Nothing appears to piss my cat off more than me sleeping all the way through the night. His favourite time to wake me is 4:30 but also likes to spread this out throughout the night with various loud mews and furtive door scratching. My approach to this was originally to buy ear plugs. It worked for a couple of nights, but seeing his antics weren’t bothering me he resorted to scratching at my feet and walking on my face. I replaced my open door policy for a closed door one and placed a sort of clothes maiden in front of my door which would be difficult gauntlet to traverse if he wanted to scratch my door. Quite impressively, he climbed a
sort of shelf near my door and scratched from his new vantage point. I blocked off these shelves, but by this time he had already figured out how to defeat the gauntlet and was scratching at my door merrily into the night. Sleep deprivation was getting high and so I had to resort to harsher tactics. I bought a plastic mat from Amazon which emits a mild electric shock if touched (don’t come to my house PETA) and put it in front of the door. At first, this worked a charm. It would emit a soft beeeep every time the cat touched it and it only took a couple of zaps before he was done for the night. For a while things we’re good. But recently he has grown resistant to the shocks and willing to endure them for a chance to see me angrily, stumbling and grumbling out of my room at 4:30. Now, in a seeming act of petty catlike vengeance he’s resorted to ripping up the carpet near my door. I guess I had it coming.
Obviously, I don’t hate my cat. Like all the best people, his capacity for love shines through him and sometimes manifests in strange and often hilarious ways. I wouldn’t change my wee sidekick, but I will continue trying to improve my strategies to defeat him. The end goal being that he won’t be able to keep me up at night or destroy my furniture. He may be winning for now, but I’m smarter than him. After all, he’s just a cat right?