Cat wars

The worst one was over food, and it lasted for seventeen months. Brewsky would start crying two hours before each of his three daily meals and keep it up almost nonstop (Peggy thinks he's starving despite his 14-pound (6.4 kg) weight and insists on feeding him three times a day). Naturally, I enjoyed chasing him through the house with a towel in one hand and a squirt bottle in the other while yelling profanities, but it was clearly too much of a good thing. Near the end of this period, Brewsky ended one such chase by rolling onto his back and squirming slowly from side-to-side the way he does when he wants to be petted. I was confounded and disarmed by this behavior, so I got down on the floor and petted him with the thought that he had just better not mistake my softness for defeat. As it turned out, the defeat was his. He might still cry a few times for his food, but when I look him in the eye and say, "No, it's too early," he takes my word for it. So ended the food war. The laundry room war had a different outcome.

We lock him in the laundry room each night so he won't wake us up by yowling like a demon, running through the house like a rhinoceros, and scavenging in the kitchen like a hyena. I prefer to keep the laundry room door shut the rest of the time too, and this means that I don't want him going in there until bedtime because I don't want to be forever having to let him back out. He resists my determination with conviction, at least partly because the laundry room contains doors to the garage and the patio, and he has an interest in each, but especially the garage where the bulk of the cat food and the dog food is stored. Another thing he likes about the garage is that it gives him access to the attic (just try getting him out of there when he's not hungry). He's so successful at getting into the laundry room, concealing himself, and then getting into the garage or onto the patio when the door is momentarily open, that mine and Peggy's combined efforts to keep him out amount to very little. I have concluded that he is capable of psychokinesis, and having gone that far into woo-woo land, I'm practically to the supernatural, and might be leaving any day now to become a prophet in the Judean desert after having found salvation through my cat. Surely, this doesn't happen very often and could put a lot of preachers out of business if it did. 

Peggy had her own food war with Brewsky. It wasn't as bad as mine because I feed him most of the time. However, she generally puts him to bed at night, and she got into the habit of giving him a midnight snack to assuage her guilt for locking him up. He so looked forward to his snack that he took to biting her calves to hurry it along. Peggy has a hard time discipling pets because she thinks it's "mean." This results in them treating her like an equal, and in her and me getting into an occasional fight over her perception that I'm sometimes too mean. Anyway, her propensity toward "kindness" resulted in Brewsky's nightly bites getting progressively harder until one night he nailed her good. I lay in bed laughing as I listened to her chasing him through the house with threats and profanity. When she afterwards came to me for comfort, I accused her of being mean to her "dear, sweet, starving kitty who loves you dearly and never meant you any harm." This made her mad at me too, but he hasn't bitten her since, at least not until today. She came home this morning with the smell of a strange dog on her legs, and Brewsky sunk his teeth into one of her calves. I must confess that he once bit me too, but it was only once. He will sometimes grab my finger gently with his teeth when he's getting tired of being petted but doesn't want to get up, and I'll stop immediately, but it's even rare when this happens. He and I have come to a position of respect for one another's limits, so we don't run into problems much anymore. As much as it makes sense, I show him the same courtesies that I would show another person, although I think he probably deserves them more. 

When I finally put away the towel and the squirt bottle, I had the thought that if had I ever been as stern with a dog as I have been with that little cat, then I would have to agree with Peggy that it was overkill because it would have ruined a dog. I have often come down hard on Brewsky only to see him do the very same thing right before my eyes three minutes later, and every three minutes thereafter until we were both worn out. If there's a dog with that degree of stubbornness, I'm glad I haven't run into him, but if a person can't feel some respect for such determination in cat, he probably shouldn't have one. The problem with a dog being that way, though, would be that you couldn't take him anywhere, and he would probably be destructive at home. 

Yet, for all my sternness, Brewsky was never afraid of me except when I was actually chasing him. This was the opposite of how I thought a cat would behave, having imagined that they were skittish creatures that you had to tiptoe around and handle delicately. He is skittish in that he startles easily, but he's hardly delicate. I can pet him firmly, flip him onto his back and rub his belly, hold him under his front legs like a sack of potatoes, lift him above my head so that he's brushing the ceiling, and even roughhouse to a small extent. I don't know how people tolerate all these neurotic cats that have a flair for the dramatic if not the downright vicious, including the ones that are so timid that they hide everytime there's a knock on the door. If Brewsky is awake, he'll go to see who's at the door (he would open it if he could). Otherwise, he'll continue sleeping even if they sit down beside him. Now, that's a good cat. You've got to admit it. 

I don't know how much credit I deserve for the way he turned out, but I think it was a case of him liking what I will call manly roughness and of me wanting just such a cat. I've had a lifetime of dogs, and it would be hard to give up some doggy characteristics, and with Brewsky I don't have to. I handle him no less delicately than I would a dog his size. I do hope he will become lap friendly over time, and I would guess that he will because he seems to be leaning a little in that direction. For example, Peggy can hold him in her lap each night and brush his fur, and he has gotten to where he likes to lie in bed with us, as long as it's her bed. She thinks it's cute for him to like in my twin bed with me while I'm reading, so she'll often put him there, but he won't stay (maybe he's homophobic), and she seems exasperated by this. I don't really care if he stays or not, which is just as well because he would have to be shackled, and I can't imagine anything more pathetic than shackling my cat to pet him. I haven't mentioned this possibility to Brewsky, but I have laughed about it to myself.  

Sometimes, he seems more like a considerate roommate than a cat due to his seeming intuition about how to get along with people. What he does is basically this: he gives them almost nothing, and they go bonkers over him anyway (unless they don't like cats). I wish I could pull that off because I often think that being liked is just too much work due to the faults of the people I want to be liked by (meaning all of them). I often suspect that most people are on the fringe of insanity. Then I look at Brewsky and he looks at me, and we both realize that we're pretty sane, at least.

Photo courtesy of Jeff De Boer.