According to the Bronze Age Bag of Bosh, God gave man dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, the cattle, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. But the bible doesn’t mention cats.
Technically, cats don’t creepeth, they stalketh and pounceth. And then they curl up in a sunny spot to napeth. At any rate, cats have a different opinion on the subject. Cats were worshipped by the Egyptians…and in their minds they still should be.
Now, people who aren’t cat lovers — let’s call them dog owners — think cats are antisocial and unloving. Were if that were true.
The fact is that most of my cats have been needy attention hogs. And neuroticism reigns supreme. That could mostly be a reflection of my personality, but Keith’s mom’s cats have their own suite of dysfunctions.
There isn’t space in this post to get into the evolving psychology of the late — and much missed — Nala. I wrote about her death earlier this year. Yet we aren’t the only ones missing this neurotic ball of affection. Joella’s other cat, Squirmy*, is much in need of her mother figure/playmate.
Even though Queen Nala was slowing down with age, she still kept Squirmy in her place. That was a good thing…for us.
Squirmy can be very sweet, mind you. And she’s even gotten more affectionate since Nala died. But as soon as she gets bored of your petting, she’ll scratch or bite you. I think Keith initially doubted me when I attributed her aggression to boredom, until he researched the not-uncommon phenomenon.
You can see her expression shift from affectionate, to unfocused boredom, then homicidal.
Believe it or not, getting attacked for giving the attention sought by your cat gets old after awhile. I realized that I needed to start playing teaser with her again to channel her aggression, of which she has more than her fair share.
If you aren’t a cat person, you may not be aware of the universal reverence with which cats worship the pole toy. I call them teasers, but there are as many terms for them as there are alternate names in Lord of the Rings.
It the photo below, Squirmy looks more like Lady of the Cat Toys. I think this photo might have been taken when I unpacked my box of cat supplies after I moved in with Keith and Joella.
Squirmy was still a kitten then, but she doesn’t look much different today. She’s a small cat, so what’s to be afraid of?
Well, I’m a small person, but I don’t have claws or fangs, as handy as they could be. And, to put a fine point on it, even if I did I wouldn’t bite someone because I’ve grown bored of their attention.
Logic would dictate that if you want attention in the future, you would refrain from wounding the source of said petting. But cats have brains the size of a walnut.
Okay, so I resume playing teaser with Squirmy, which she of course loves. Too much.
Before long, Squirmy is ruling my evenings, as she grows obsessed with playing teaser. She begins biting and scratching me to make me to play with her.
That buys her — if I can get to Squirmy quickly enough — a spritz from a water bottle. And I then I refuse to play with her the rest of the evening.
Did I mention that cats have walnut-sized brains? In Squirmy’s case, it might be an almond. Or a peanut.
Cats: An Unequal Arms Race
On a side note, when Googling solutions to aggressive demands for play, I came along the helpful advice that you should never discipline cats by spraying them with water.
They would take away my only defensive weapon? That would be like walking into a lion cage with your arms tied behind your back.
When I can’t or won’t play with Squirmy, I arm myself with the spray bottle and point it at her to make her back away if she approaches aggressively.
Make my day.
Spray bottles don’t spritz cats, people do.
Of course, that’s no defense against a rear attack. The other day, Keith had the temerity (in her eyes) or recklessness (in mine) to pass by Squirmy on an evening in which he hadn’t played teaser with her.
She bit him not once, but twice on the back of his leg. Squirmy even did that to me recently when I foiled her attempt to boredom bite me by placing my laptop between us. She instead sneaked up and bit me on the shoulder from the back of the couch on the other side.
So what can we do with a crazy, kamikaze cat, armed (or should I say pawed?) with ice picks and sabers?
Keith is already giving up part of his precious post-dinner computer game time to spell me. But I’ve begun defensively playing a bit with Squirmy without waiting for her to ask me to do her bidding (as cats so expertly do). That way,
I can then go off and do something I want to do without bleeding. For a while.
When I pet Squirmy, I try to get up while she still looks affectionate…and before her mood turns.
I’ve also purchase a twirling and flittering, battery-powered cat toy, which she enjoys. For a couple of minutes.
Taran can play with it a good half-hour. But then, he doesn’t need anyone to play with him (though we do). To him, everything is a toy. And if it’s not already on the floor, he’ll help it along.
Squirmy doesn’t seem to have a capacity for self-play. She grew up with Nala as a playmate, but she never learned to play on her own.
She used to play with my cat Hitch before he died, too. Hitch was twice her size, and he had to wear her down. He follow Squirmy and try to play with her whenever he saw her playing.
It was great for Hitch because my other cats, Gort and Klaatu, never played with him much. Yet, Squirmy never really learned to initiate her own playing. Yes, she played with cat toys. But as my experience with the battery-powered toy show, she has the attention span of a gnat.
Still, there is hope. It may be that Squirmy has been growing needier and more aggressive because Joella has been away from home longer than usual. She would normally already be back home from her annual summer visit to her other two sons and their families. But she’s been delayed because of some unexpected health problems (though she’s doing well).
Squirmy is attached to all of us…but Keith’s mom most of all. Joella adopted her as a kitten. By the time she moved in with Keith (shortly before I did), Squirmy was a juvenile. It’s therefore natural for her to be bonded closest with Joella.
Though Squirmy has bitten Joella on occasion, she mostly knows better than to bring down the Wrath of Mom. I think Squirmy’s aggression will be easier to contain once she’s home.
Of course, we wish Joella a speedy recovery for much more important and personal reasons. But we also hope we can survive her recuperation.
*Squirmy was Keith’s and his sister Karena’s descriptive nickname for the not-yet-named kitten, as they attempted to wrestle with her while they helped their mom move. It stuck.
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