I have spent the last several months engaged in an intense battle of wills with my cat, and I am ashamed to report that I’m losing.
My tale starts in February. At my old job, I worked on paid search advertising campaigns for two flower delivery accounts whose busy season was the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. The importance of this holiday and the enhanced scrutiny on our work called for me and the rest of the team to wake up at 5:30 am everyday to get to the office by 7, which then ushered in an entirely separate battle of wills that we were also losing. As one co-worker put it, it’s like Black Friday, but for two straight weeks. My friends who work in advertising can empathize with the situation’s precarity, a word whose definition mentions that “psychological warfare” hangs in the balance, to which I’d say: yeah, that sounds about right.
The only one who came out on top in this arrangement was not a member of my team. It wasn’t the client either. This individual wasn’t even in the workforce, for lack of opposable thumbs and luck in the macroevolutionary rat race. It was my cat.
Balerion is a relatively chill pet, or at least he used to be. Named after an ancient dragon in A Song of Ice & Fire, his name is meant to connote fire and blood and a force-of-nature-like ferocity that could never be tamed out of the beast. In reality, my cat gets stuck between the wall and the radiator and runs away at the sight of a plastic bag. He truly takes after me in this regard.
Balerion had been used to his regular feeding arrangement for the past year–6 oz of wet food a day, dispersed in the mornings and evenings, with some dry food at night as a snack. Everything was turned on its head when I had to wake up at 5:30 am vs. 7 am every morning. I am sure his mind was blown (ExpandingBrainMeme.jpg) when he realized that breakfast was not at a fixed point in time. It was something to be negotiated. This has resulted in a prolonged power struggle with no end in sight.
After Valentine’s Day passed, I was back to my regular sleep schedule, but Balerion saw an opportunity and he took it. Suddenly, 7 am wasn’t good enough for him. Neither was 5:30 am. He was now clamoring for food at 3 am every day. “BITCH, I’M HUNGRY,” he was probably saying in those desperate meows. He couldn’t be ignored. If I kept the bedroom door open, Balerion would scratch at the curtains or the bedspread. If I shut the bedroom door, he would claw at the door and rattle the doorknob, which is an even worse experience because it sounds like someone was trying to break in.
I have always had a hard time getting to sleep. Part of this can be attributed to bad sleep hygiene, but usually my mind just isn’t done for the night. I am wired, reflecting on the previous day and anticipating the next, running through mental to-do lists, turning over the same damn things over and over again. Should I get a tattoo? What’s the name of that restaurant I went to seven years ago? Do people actually like me or are they just humoring me? Sometimes this process takes hours. It is my way. So, for this lazy, non-rent-paying, uncommunicative bastard to disturb my sleep time and time again, I don’t consider it a mere inconvenience. It is purely and simply an act of warfare.
Sometimes Balerion will get me up at 5 am, after 20 minutes of ignoring and intermittently yelling at him, and lead me not to the kitchen but to the living room. He flops over onto the area rug: Pet me. Give me a chin scratch. Rub my back. Throw the mouse across the room so we can play fetch.
Of all the guerilla tactics he has used, this one would have to be the worst. How could I be mad at him? I don’t pay enough attention to him during the day. There’s no one around but me. And I’m sure he gets bored roaming the same 700 square feet while I’m at work 40 hours a week. I can’t judge him for this blatant attention seeking when I engage in it every day too, but in subtler ways, like caring about Twitter followers and performatively thanking the driver when I get off the bus and triple-messaging people before they’ve gotten the chance to respond to the first message. I eat at weird times of the day too. Are we all that different from each other? Aren’t we both just crying for help—two souls careening through life in an uncaring world?
First he disturbs your sleep. Destroys your curtains. Raids your bank account. Then he digs into your psyche and forces you to face your insecurities and undergo radical self-reflection. On your own blogging platform. He doesn’t even know how to read.
There is no winning against this asshole.