Dogs everywhere rejoiced during pandemic lockdowns.
Unlike me, our dog was super excited to have the boy child home ALL THE TIME. Instead of leaving on the weekends for soccer games, boy and dog played soccer in the backyard (the grass may never recover).
At first, Boss Cat seemed to like having everyone at home. What’s not to like about two extra people to harass until they opened a new can of cat food?
As with many cats, the novelty of so much human interaction wore off quickly. Even a social cat like Boss Cat needs space (unless she’s hungry, in which case there is no space between her claws and your fingers).
Boss Cat was used to sleeping between nine AM and 3 PM. Suddenly her rest was repeatedly interrupted by Baby D. Sometimes he just wanted cuddles. Sometimes he wanted to put her in contraptions like the “cat furnace.” (Yes, it was 80 degrees out and he built her a furnace.) Boss Cat began sleeping in her scratching post condo—claws facing the entrance hole.
Baby D tried to pull her out. Once. After an application of Neosporin and three band aids, Baby D changed tactics. He pushed the entire scratching post out of our bedroom, across the hall, and into his room.
Boss Cat redoubled her efforts to sneak outside. With a new pack of coyotes in the neighborhood, we redoubled our efforts to keep her inside. Anyone going in or out learned to look for a cat lurking by the doorway. Mindful of teeth and claws, I’d use my purse to block/ shove her away from the door. Baby D used his soccer ball.
Andy, unfortunately, lacked the crucial Ashbough cat sense. Sometimes he didn’t even notice she’d escaped until hours later.
If she couldn’t get outside, Boss Cat would pry open closets. She pulled expensive clothing off the hangers and made herself nests.
Baby D inevitably found her, neutralized the claws by bundling Boss Cat up in a jacket, and triumphantly carried her off to his room.
Boss Cat’s eating and drinking behaviors changed, too. Because dogs eat EVERYTHING, we’d always had Boss Cat’s food and water on top of the washing machine. (We also had to put her litter box in a closet, but that’s another story. A gross one.) She had a comfy, sunny cat bed on the warm dryer.
Boss Cat began dragging her food out of her dish and dumping it in her bed before feasting. This made a mess of her bed. Half the time she dropped food in the crack between the washer and dryer. After insects found her dropped food and invaded in force, I put a towel on her bed and just fed her there. She still made a mess, but at least a towel was easy to clean.
Boss also started ignoring her water bowl. Instead, I found her drinking from a large, stainless steel bowl in the bathroom. (We have a bucket in the shower and a bowl in the sink to collect “warm up” water, which we then use to fill our fountain or water plants.) Sometimes Boss Cat wouldn’t even drink directly from the stainless steel bowl; instead she’d dip her paw into the water and lick off the water on her paw.
“Why THAT water?” I wondered aloud to Andy.
“Maybe she’s offended by the writing on her original water bowl,” Andy suggested.
It wasn’t until I read blogger Kate’s post on her cat Gus that I learned about “whisker fatigue.” Some veterinarians believe that cats’ whiskers, which are basically antennae leading to highly sensitive sensory organs, can get overstimulated from touching the sides of food or water dishes.
With all the extra food and attention from Baby D, perhaps Boss Cat was attempting to avoid any extra whisker contact/ stress by drinking out of a bowl so large her whiskers didn’t touch the sides. Maybe she was pulling her food out of the bowl to eat in peace as well.
I put away her old water bowl. Not that she noticed.
But she did make herself at home on Baby D’s bed, much to his delight.
“Can’t make my bed, Mom,” he insisted. “I’ll disturb Boss Cat.”
“I’ll move her,” I told him.
Boss Cat stretched her front legs as I approached, showing the entirety of her long, curved claws as she stared me down.
I retreated. “Just, um, make the bed around her, sweetie. That way we don’t stress out her whiskers by moving her.”
Then again, maybe Boss Cat’s behavior has nothing to do with stress, because I swapped out Boss Cat’s food bowl for a plate and she’s STILL leaving bits of food all over her bed.
Maybe her water bowl was right all along.