Mr Handsome, our fifteen year old curmudgeon cat, and I have been in a battle of wills for two weeks now. As he’s gotten older and his arthritis has gotten worse, he’s become more restless at night, less willing to cuddle quietly with the humans while we slumber. He’s developed a nasty habit of sitting in the middle of the bed – or on the floor in the bedroom – and howling at us until we get up and pay attention to him.
At first I was sympathetic — I have arthritis too, and I understand how difficult it is to get comfortable. I hear his little kitty joints crack when he moves, and I watch how gingerly and clumsily he places his paws as he walks. I know that walk – I do the human version of it most mornings. I understand the pain that laying in one position can cause when you finally move. These pains have turned me into a constant fidgeter, someone who can never sit still.
After several days of sleepless nights, I knew this pattern couldn’t continue. Mr. Handsome has all day to sleep, and does not need to earn a paycheck to receive his cat food. He delegates these pedestrian and exhausting tasks to us. And yet I found my boss and coworkers do not understand a yowling cat as a reasonable excuse for exhaustion. Cats are not babies, they explain. I become painfully aware that a fifteen year old feline will not spontaneously mature and stop this behavior.
I’ve begun sleep training my cat. I use a spray bottle of water in lieu of swaddling and warm milk. I try to be consistent – running for the spray bottle every time the yowling begins. No matter how exhausted or busy I am – I can be found making a mad dash for the bottle. My aim has improved, even in the dark. I can hit his nose at a distance of 15 feet…I’ll aim for 20 feet by the end of the week. If I want to do any better, I’m going to have to buy a better weapon than a re-used and cleaned Windex bottle.
I wonder if buying a better weapon is an admission of defeat. I do not want to squirt my sore, aging cat. I want to love him. I also want to sleep regularly.
We’re making progress. Last night he woke me up just twice. I hope he does not learn to like water before I train the night time yowling out of him.
I tell myself that this battle of wills with a nearly indomitable cat is good training for management, as I yawn my way to work.