I often worry that too many new cat owners have unrealistic assumptions when it comes to the expectations and responsibilities of sharing your home with one or more cats. Because of their romanticized preconception of cat behavior (and for that I blame cat food commercials that hire supernaturally unfinicky actors, cat litter ads that hire one of the few cats alive that actually cover their disgusting waste, and Sarah McLachlan), these stereotypically lonely yet good intentioned people quickly regret their decision. This can result in lashing out when the cat behaves as nature intended it to, returning the cat like an unwanted gift after Christmas, or re-homing the cat who thought it finally found its forever home.
And that’s why I’m here, to enlighten humans on the reality of cat care and cohabitation. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not encouraging you to reconsider cat rescue; I’m encouraging you to make an informed decision.
One aspect of cat cohabitation that is often overlooked is the fact that felines are typically nocturnal animals. It’s their nature. This will equate to very little sleep for anyone who does not keep a pack of ear plugs in their nightstand. And what’s worse, the interruptions in your sleep grow exponentially with the number of cats you have.
To give you an idea of the struggles a cat owner endures nightly, I have created an activity log that chronologically outlines a typical night in my home: The House of Five Heathens:
10:30 pm – Looking forward to a night of sleep, I crawl into bed, navigating the limbs of my body around Blind Murphy, Mr. Tiddles, and Elvis (aka Boo-Boo Fett, Smooshy, etc.) so as not to disturb them as they are already resting in their designated spots. By the time I am settled, I am splayed in bed like a Taiwanese contortionist or someone who just splatted on a concrete sidewalk after leaping from the top of a fifteen story building (which is a tempting solution if you’ve lived with five cats for as long as me).
11:15 pm: Standing on the beautiful shore of slumber, Elvis pulls me awake by pawing at the bedroom’s standing mirror. The continuous clacking of his claws against the reflective surface is quiet but enough to interrupt my sleep. It would be easy to just throw a pillow at him, but I feel sorry for the pathetic creature for having no one to play with but his own reflection. The other cats just hate him. I crawl out of bed and bring him back with me. I cup his face with my hand, and he seems content with this.
12:04 am: Zoe “captured” one of her toys, and like a town crier armed with a megaphone, she is wandering the kitchen downstairs, assaulting my sleep with her loud cries for attention. Nights like this, I wish I could find her volume knob, but Zoe is deaf, so she doesn’t know that they can hear her in outer space. Unfortunately, she won’t stop until someone compliments her hunting skills, so I stagger downstairs to meet her demand for accolades and pettings. I can’t be mad, though. She seemed really pleased with herself.
12:48 am: Cat Fight Club has begun. We all know that the first and second rule of Cat Fight Club is to not talk about Cat Fight Club, but how can I not know about it? When they throw paws, they holler and knock around furniture like they’re in a bar brawl. Do you think Brad Pitt squealed and kicked over a plant stand while having his ass served to him? No, because it’s unsexy. But the moment Elvis touches her, she thrashes and wails as if she’s being electrocuted. Typically, I wake up long enough to mutter, “May the odds be forever in your favor” before stuffing a pillow over my head, but tonight, she sounds more distressed so I retrieve Elvis, return to bed with him, and assume the typical sleeping position of cupping my hand over his face until he falls to sleep.
2:28 am: In a daze, I slowly blink open my eyes and wonder who just threw a bag of flour over my legs. When my eyes adjust to the darkness, I see it’s just Mr. Tiddles.
4:03 am: Someone is chasing me with a chainsaw. I soon become cornered. I am scared. Turning to face the shadowy figure, he revs the chainsaw’s engine and jabs it into my face. I almost scream, but instead of feeling metallic teeth chew into my face, the growling weapon is soft and…furry. I open my eyes to discover Blind Murphy playfully rolling against my face, his purr so loud, I can feel his body vibrating. I pat him with a limp hand and roll over, but he clumsily claws his way over my shoulder, finds my face, and continues wallowing. I mutter something about him being spoiled and roll over again. Of course, it’s my fault that he always gets what he wants (food, attention, playtime, toys, etc.). This time he is content with rubbing his body against my back, leaving me to get a couple more hours of sleep.
5:32 am: I must meet whomever thought it was a good idea to build such a long hallway outside of my bedroom because this person deserves an angry letter. The length of this corridor encourages the cats to gallop up and down and up and down and up it like a herd of miniature ponies.
6:00 am: My alarm is screaming at me to wake up. But I just want five more minutes. Just five. As I reach for the snooze, I see Blind Murphy hugged against my crotch, his back leg stretched in the air as he slathers his asshole with his tongue.
6:09 am: Ugh. Just a little longer.
6:18 am: Didn’t I just press the snooze? Like, 3 seconds ago?
6:27 am: Noooooooooooooooo. I don’t want to. *snooze*
6:36 am: Uuuuuuuuuugh. Fine. I’m up. Damn it. I am so sleepy. I better get a better night of sleep tonight….who am I kidding. Of course I won’t.