Patrick and I have been minions to our cat Jeter now for a month and a half.
Some people might call us cat parents, but honestly when people call themselves “Mommy” or “Daddy” to their cat, it freaks me out. We made a deal not to say that. We think our cat is smarter than that too. He likely sees us as glorified servants… Or his minions.
Having a cat in some ways is a flash forward to parenthood. Not in entirety. Cats are easier than kids. But, sometimes, especially where Jeter is only around 1, which makes him like a cat teenager, it feels like we are parents to a difficult child.
As I said previously, Jeter is my first ever real pet, minus some fish in elementary school and some freakishly well cared for earthworms. Patrick has had a number of pets, including several cats and a bird.
So, when we got Jeter, I read a bunch around having cats. I set up his food and his litter box in different areas. I made him a box-bed, even though odds are he wouldn’t use it because that is what one website suggested.
Turns out he adjusted more quickly than most cats. He was at home with us in a day.
He is ridiculously friendly. He greets us at the door. He greets strangers at the door.
He isn’t quite a lap cat. He doesn’t just climb up to cuddle. He will sit half on you or near enough to be touching. He loves being patted (just not for too long). In fact, we suspect, based on his ability to fetch and how he likes his affection/attention, he may think he is a dog. He even drinks out of the toilet!
He is quiet. Even when he is being loud. But he has the pathetic noise mastered. And he talks all the time. Just not loudly. We have yet to hear him growl or hiss. We debate whether he just doesn’t know how or if he is never being devious.
He sprawls more than curls. In fact, he can be found in some rather precarious positions.
In fact, he often appears to be dead.
Jeter, like a child, has endless energy (at least during those few hours he is awake). His exploration skills are top notch. On his first day with us, he disappeared and was found in our stackable dryer. A few weeks ago, Patrick couldn’t find him and found him in a closed kitchen cupboard.
The problem is, sometimes we just don’t know what to do with his energy. He uses a great deal of it to climb up on counters and tables and all kinds of places we don’t want him to be. He has gnawed a chunk out of a corner of poorly laid carpet. And he thinks we are his cat buddies and intermittently tries to chew on our legs.
Thankfully, he never uses claws, and doesn’t bite hard enough to break skin. Also, his scratching habit is limited to our fake leather ottoman, the carpet outside our bedroom (because he wants to get in) and at times the couch (the biggest issue of all). It appears he generally only does any of this when we are home. Otherwise, things would be more mangled.
Navigating the world of cat behavior has been rough. Like any new parent (minion), we read all sorts of things on the internet. We yell “Ow” when he chews on us. We push towards him when he chews on us. We ignore him when he chews on us. We chuck him off of surfaces. We redirect him with toys. We pat and praise the pulp out of him for good behavior.
When none of this worked, we invested in dollar store spray bottles. Whoo negative conditioning. It worked on other creatures. He isn’t a big fan. He now knows when he is doing things wrong, but still waits for us to move towards the bottle to stop. And he doesn’t actually hate getting wet. He twitches at the bottle. But he only actually moves if you get him near the head/neck. Lower limbs/body mean nothing.
Then, it was on to positive reinforcement. Cat treats for using his scratching post. Cat treats for not jumping on the counter when we yell at him from the living room. Cat treats for not chewing on us when he sits with us on the couch. Then he realized I keep them in my pockets. And he tried chewing on my pocket… Clever.
Finally, it was becoming even more child like. We started doing time-outs. He gets sent to a room alone for repeated bad behavior. Only for 5 minutes or so. But, he hates being in another room, so it probably works the best.
Really, when it all comes down to it, our cat is kind of like a teenager. He sleeps most of the time, but then goes out of his way to make us a bit crazy. He makes eye contact before doing something bad and seems to get a kick out of our reaction. But, in the end, he still needs us (and I think he likes us).
And his behavior, for the most part, has improved exponentially. He doesn’t jump up on surfaces nearly as much. And he has stopped randomly chewing on us, most of the time. Except when we fight over the Christmas tree or him wanting to sleep with us at night. And he really doesn’t eat guests.
As I say this, he is tearing around the house like a banshee!
Despite attempting to buy him cat toys, his favorite item is still yarn I gave him on his first day. And it still makes Patrick a little paranoid because he had a cat die from choking on yarn. The thing is, it is a big wad that is all knotted. And Jeter isn’t exactly one to eat stupid things.
This yarn, however is our tool to get him out of places he shouldn’t be and redirect him from attacking other things around the house… Like our Christmas tree.
I knit a lot, though. This makes him a bit crazy. But, it also encourages him to cuddle with us.
He is afraid of the vacuum cleaner, fascinated with the potential world outside our apartment and rather obsessed with the printer. One of his first time outs, he jumped up on the printer, slid over the other side and got stuck behind the shelf the printer sits on. Another time, we heard the printer going and found him sitting on it… Making 99 copies of nothing. And watching the paper come out. He comes flying when he hears the printer start. Probably because he loves paper about as much as his string.
Yes, paper. We became concerned about his whole paper fascination and looked it up online (again, like crazy parents). It is normal cat behavior to like mangling paper or plastic. They usually do it when they are bored. Jeter is either bored a lot or just really likes paper. He shreds any paper (he prefers that it not be the glossy thick stuff) into tiny bits. These tiny bits inhabit every corner of my house, which drives me completely crazy! He tries to steal our mail. When I was working on my presentation this week, he would sneak up on me and my heaps to try to steal a page of journal article. On the plus side, he is encouraging us to make sure all of our important documents are in a safe place. He did, however eat half of a movie coupon Patrick had. Thankfully, the bar code is still intact. Should be interesting to redeem nonetheless.
In cat parenting, we have learned valuable communication lessons.. There were a few days where Patrick thought I was feeding Jeter in the morning when I got up to go to work. I thought he was feeding him after he took me to work. Patrick couldn’t figure out why the cat was going crazy and trying to eat everything. Turns out, he was just starving.
Although we know almost nothing about his past, we have learned he knows to come running for the sound of his food or treat bags.
We treated him to his first cat nip the other night. This was more of a bizarre social experiment, as we didn’t know how he would react, but hoped that it might have some sort of calming effect. It did, in a way. It kept him contained to licking, attacking and rolling around one area like a fool. Mission accomplished!
Problem was, the cat nip smell coming from the drawer he already knows contains his treats led him to go on a mission to learn to open said drawer. We aren’t sure if we didn’t close it all the way or what happened exactly, but somehow, the cat got in, chewed a bunch of holes in the cat nip bag and sprinkled it all over the living room carpet. And then removed not one, but both bags of cat treats (one full, one half empty) and chewed holes in those and ate what I considered to be the equivalent of his body weight in treats. Thankfully, he has enough common sense not to eat until he pukes. Needless to say, he didn’t eat much of anything else that day.
Our crowning minionship moment came last week when Jeter started coughing. In my opinion, it was a croupy sounding cough. He coughed and coughed and looked miserable. Patrick Googled “how to treat a choking cat.” We cornered him and I got nominated to have a look in his throat (because 4 years of med school gives me so much useful knowledge in this area). Apparently the movement of being snatched combined with the forceful coughing helped him to get out whatever he had because after a few pitiful yowls, he seemed fine. We played a bit and went to bed. And Jeter came with us. Because Patrick didn’t want him to be alone in case something happened. The only thing that happened was that Jeter hogged my side of the bed, then in the middle of the night decided to chew on Patrick’s toes. He was then relinquished back to his hallway and out of our room.
It seems that our minionship has helped us to adjust to the ups and downs of parenting. There are days where I am convinced he hates me and days he is just plain spiteful and others he can be quite lovely. I play more now than I did before. And we get a number of good laughs.
I actually like having him around more than I thought I would. Funny how life works sometimes.