Cats. We all know them and some of us love them. They are sweet and affectionate when they want to be and mischievous and sneaky and insatiably curious the rest of the time. If you're a cat owner, you've probably learned over the years that the best way to coexist in the same space as your cat is to let them do whatever they want and just hope they don't do too much damage. The Professor and I have certainly adopted this approach when we adopted Gadget. For the most part, we've given her free reign of the house since she entered our lives. We let her jump onto the dining room table and prowl around the kitchen counters (don't worry--we do clean these surfaces before we prepare or eat food on them), we let her into the bathroom with us (she enjoys sitting in the sink while you do your business) and we let her sleep at our feet or on our heads.
Needless to say, Gadget has grown quite accustomed to her freedom and unchallenged way of life. So it's been quite an upheaval for her to have the rules changed on her since we moved into our new apartment. And the rules have changed quite a bit and for reasons that are mostly for her own good. I've mentioned before our glorious living room and dining room windows. These wonderful windows which let in so much natural light during the day, also open all the way and like most European windows, do not have screens. Which means that while they do let in a great breeze from the street, they are also potential death traps for cats. If you have a cat, you probably know that their favorite spot to hang out is near a window or on a windowsill. They get as near to the window as they can by jumping from the floor straight up into the air to perch delicately on the thinnest of surfaces. Except that we don't have windowsills. If Gadget tried her usual jumping act, she'd be jumping to her death. I'm not exaggerating here. I sadly know a person whose cat died this way. She had left her bedroom window open and the cat jumped after a bird or something and fell five stories. It's a story that makes me cringe. Gadget has already scared the hell out of us when a maintenance man came by and left the bathroom window open not knowing that Gadget would find the fresh air and adventure too irresistible to pass up. We found her a few minutes later precariously perched on the narrowest of ledges just outside the window. So as a safety precaution, we've been careful to lock Gadget in one of the bedrooms whenever we open a window.
We've also begun locking her in the bedroom with us at nighttime for a few reasons. The first reason has to do with conserving heat. Before we go to bed, the Professor and I run our tiny space heater on full-blast so we can sleep peacefully without freezing to death. For the space heater to be effective, the door needs to remain closed or the heat escapes. If you open the door even an inch, you can feel an icy blast coming from the hallway--I'm not kidding. The other reason we lock her up with us has to do with our furniture. We recently bought a sofa that we're quite keen on and we're not willing to have the upholstery shredded to bits. The first night we had the sofa, before it occurred to us to lock her up, Gadget managed to scratch at both arms of the couch and one of the sides. We were rather irritated to find her handiwork the next morning.
So, in an effort to save her life, conserve heat, and preserve our furniture, the Professor and I have begun the painful experiment of trying to domesticate our cat. The reason I say painful is because the brat will not go quietly into the dark night. She meows and meows for hours and claws at the door. When she doesn't think she's being annoying enough, she throws her full eight pounds against the door like she's a detective on Law and Order busting up a drug ring. There is no amount of petting her or pleading with her that will get her to shut up and go to sleep. We've tried ignoring her (louder meowing) and yelling at her. I've even thrown pillows at her. We've tried moving her food and litter box to the second bedroom and locking her in there. All that has accomplished is that now we hear her scratching at and throwing herself against the wall that connects our two rooms. Clearly, no tactic will work with this headstrong and willful little cat.
And yet for some reason, despite a week of only intermittent sleep, we've managed to soldier on. We are determined to do this undoable thing--to housebreak this cat. To get her on OUR schedule instead of vice versa. So why do I feel like she's really the one winning?
(Photo: Dali Atomicus by Philippe Halsman)