It is difficult after the many months of our long presidential campaign to get my mind back around the subject of aging day to day. If you sense a bit of stumbling about this week, you are not wrong. My past routine was replaced for most of this year with intense scrutiny of minutiae of the election. I learned a lot about politics, government and policy, but I’ve lost the rhythm of my days.
To Ollie the cat’s frustration, his life became unsettled during these months. I sometimes ignored him when he tapped my arm at 6:30AM for what had been, since his kittenhood, our morning fetch-the-mouse game. My lunch break, which in his mind, involves a round or two of strings on a stick, was hours late on many days, overlooked entirely on others. And the 7PM romp of find-out-what’s-hiding-under-the-blanket was too often set aside as I caught up on the news of late afternoon election developments.
But don’t let anyone tell you that cats don’t have long memories. I may have neglected Ollie, but he didn’t stop pestering me even though I improved my ability to ignore him, and sometimes he got so angry he bit my ankle - which does focus one’s attention. Cats don’t forget anything and they worship at the altar of routine.
To Ollie’s relief and the well-being of my ankles, we have resumed his daily schedule.
Although I undoubtedly picked up Ollie’s toys and dried them out while I was distracted during the campaign, I had forgotten how icky they get.
Ollie’s food is stored in the cupboard above this counter which is where I fill his bowl twice a day and dry out the #$%^&* mice when he soaks them in his water bowl – every damned day.
Let’s have a closer look at that: soggy mice in a variety of colors forever drying on the counter. Not a day goes by…
Oh, but that’s not the extent of it. For a long time, Ollie stole my dirty socks from the laundry basket. Eventually, I gave in, knotted one so it can be thrown with more heft for a cat to chase and gave it to him. It solved the stolen sock problem only to become the wet sock problem. Did you know that a sock in a water bowl wicks ALL the water into the sock? Apparently, this pleases Ollie and so the sock too, spends time drying out on the counter.
But I’ve kept the “best” part from you for last: Ollie doesn’t just drown the mice. Oh, no. He then drops them in his food bowl so the kibble turns into soft, slimy stuff which attaches itself to the mice.
I’ve never actually seen Ollie retrieve mice from the counter, or put them in his water bowl or transfer them to the food bowl. He does it when I’m not looking, but clearly expects me to keep him supplied with dry mice. He’s quite stern about it, as you can see.
And, he complains when he can’t find a dry mouse, sitting on "his" counter yelling at me until I locate a mouse. Even when I stand around watching, however, he doesn’t drown it until I get bored and leave.
For many years, my women friends and I had a joke-y rule that holds a lot of truth: don’t do anything the morning after the first night with a man that you don’t want to do for the rest of your life. Don’t pick up the clothes flung around in the throes of passion. Don’t cook an elaborate breakfast. Don’t be the one to go out for the newspapers.
With cats, the rule is the same: don’t do anything with them on a schedule or they’ll trick you into a routine you can never escape.
At first you think it’s cute when, at the same time every day, they drop a mouse or a ball at your feet and look up at you with all the playful innocence and big, round eyes of a toddler. But don’t be fooled; they are training you.
In the beginning, you are amazed at the precision accuracy of their internal clock when they get you out of bed at the same time every morning. Be warned, if you succumb, you will never sleep in again. And cats don’t respect weekends.
Don’t ever give in to a cat’s attempt to organize life his way or you’ll be doing it for the rest of his or your life, whichever comes first.
Of course, none of us follows the rules - with cats or men.