Feline Fatigue (#326)

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.

Cat sleeping under a drop cloth on outdoor furniture, with back legs stretched out into space.
Boss Cat’s truly excellent hiding place on the patio.

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. Multi-colored cat sitting on the edge of a bath tub next to a large, stainless steel bowl of water.(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.

Cat water bowl that reads "Psycho Kitty."
Boss Cat’s water bowl.

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.”

Cat curled up in hoodies and a battered baby blanket.

“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.


Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

21 thoughts on “Feline Fatigue (#326)”

  1. The Mysterious Catface Jones barely survived a two-hour visit with three active children. I can’t imagine how badly she would have handled being cooped up with even one of them for an entire week, much less a year and a half.

    1. We had three active children visit us a few times. Luckily, their attention stayed mostly on the dog…and the citrus trees. Who knew little kids would love picking lemons, washing lemons, and making their own lemonade so much?

  2. Aw, Boss Cat. I feel for you. I wouldn’t enjoy being inside a cat furnace either.

    I’ve never heard of whisker fatigue! Trixie has the opposite preference — she passes over her relatively open water bowl for much more tightly contained human drinking glasses. Go figure.

    1. Commando Cat was the same way! He would stuff his head inside drinking glasses to get at the water and then get stuck. Then he’d panic and run around with the cup on his head, bashing into furniture and half-drowning himself.

      I had to use water bottles instead of glasses. (Hopefully Trixie is smarter.)

  3. Sydney loves to drink water by dipping her paw in the bowl and scooping it out that way. I never thought it might be related to whisker fatigue, but that’s certainly a possibility. Love BC’s “Psycho Kitty” bowl!

  4. Boss cat truly is a BOSS!! I love how she shows you, Andy and D just who really calls the shots around the house (like taking over baby D’s bed, haha). Cats are always finicky and Boss Cat sounds like no exception. Always, though, it’s great to have a cat with so much personality.

    I never heard of whisker fatigue either! I will keep that noted for my family cat and when we get a cat of our own (soon I hope — crossing fingers!).

  5. She’s such an innocent looking little thing.Cute and innocent. I wonder why cats are so picky about their food and water.

    We’ve been having lots of complaints about the coyotes around here killing cats and small dogs. What’s the deal? Are there more of them than before?

    1. Well, Americans did their best to eradicate coyotes along with wolves. But the coyotes have come back and learned how to coexist with humans–often by dining on human pets. On the East Coast, some have gotten bigger and bolder by breeding with domestic dogs and possibly wolves. They do fill a niche left by the eradicated wolves.

      But coyotes were in SoCal before we were, and they are only increasing in numbers because there’s enough food. I love cats, but the feral and outdoor cats kill a ton of native songbirds. The coyotes keep them in check.

      There are a lot of folks who hate the coyotes and want to kill them around here, though.

  6. Poor, poor Boss Kitty. She has such a hard life, like most cats….right? (My furry one told me to write that.)

    I had a psycho kitty once and wish I would have had that bowl for him. The current boy, Gibbs, has a large ceramic dog dish that I bought because he kept tipping over and making a mess with the smaller cat dish. Works like a charm and no issues with whisker fatigue.

    Give kitty few sympathy skritches from me and keep making the bed around her.

    1. Yes, truly, life here is just one step up from the kitty salt mines for poor, poor Boss Cat. She is currently soaking up in the sunlight on Baby D’s bed now that he’s back in school.

      Gibbs sounds like a character.

  7. I like her name, Boss Cat. She shows who is the boss at home alright, or at least tries to make herself be heard. She knows where she wants to be and makes no excuses. As you mentioned in your comment to Mary, good to know she is more settled now.

  8. Poor cat…sounds like she’s had a really stressful lockdown. Wonder how most people reading this blog would react in a similar situation?

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