My cat is under the impression that I’m as thrilled by the prospect of getting up in the morning to feed her as she is. Most days I don’t technically have to get up at any specific time (which is pretty nice when I’ve stayed up until two or three in the morning, finishing a project), but my cat won’t let me sleep in past seven. I think she waits until I begin rolling around, apparently waking up, to really start insisting that it’s breakfast time, but it’s hard to appreciate her forbearance even when I do go to bed at a decent time the night before. I’m not a morning person.
And let’s be honest here: she doesn’t actually care about my feelings on the subject.
Her mode of attack is, overall, gentle. She sits next to a piece of bare skin – either my arm or, when I figure out what she’s doing and hide my arms under the covers, my forehead – and ever so slowly reaches out one paw. It descends slowly on the target area, rests for half a second softly, almost tenderly, on my exposed flesh, and then out come the claws.
She has yet to draw blood with this tactic. They emerge from her paws by an almost invisible margin, just enough to prick but not pierce. I jerk out of her reach, roll over and hide whatever piece of tender flesh she just tried to maul in the most loving way possible, and she waits half a minute for her next opportunity. I should keep a snorkel in the bed with me, because I can’t breathe comfortably under the covers for long. Eventually a patch of skin reemerges, she pads over to get a better angle on the situation, and the process starts over.
I have put her off for forty-five minutes this way. I have a semi-official policy that states I have to start getting ready for the day once I’ve fed the cat, so I have every reason to put off this moment for as long as possible. Unfortunately, a couple months ago Harper discovered that the lining underneath my box spring mattress has shredded with age, and, out of either extreme starvation or straight boredom, began eating the lining of my bed. I would like to say that I get up as soon as I hear her start to go to town on that bad boy, but…well, I’d hate her to think that it actually works.
My cat actually has pretty decent manners when it comes to eating random items (she won’t even bug me for people food; I can leave cereal boxes and chip bags on the counter without worrying about her eating through the packaging) but the two exceptions are 1.) the blue fuzzies that live on the undercarriage of my bed, and 2.) curling ribbon. Every Christmas I can count on seeing present trappings in her litterbox, encased in hard excrement but otherwise untouched, because curling ribbon apparently has the half-life of either plutonium, or those Styrofoam cups that are presumably filling our landfills.
Her second strategy is more incidental. Every now and again – whenever I’ve rolled onto my back – my cat will suddenly realize that HOLY CRAP, THERE’S SOMETHING LIVING UNDER THERE and will leap onto my diaphragm as it moves up and down. I can count on getting a gut-full of cat every couple of weeks or so.
Still, this is nothing to the family cat from my junior/senior high years. In my last year at home, after both siblings had gone off to college, every morning at 5 am she’d take a seat on my chest, put one delicate little tabby paw out, extend her claws the barest millimeter, and then hook one of my nostrils.
That cat spent a lot of mornings locked in the bathroom. The door was slightly loose on its hinges, so I’d lie awake, imagining the many ways I could kill her as she beat the door against its frame, confident in the knowledge that someone would give in eventually.