If the Olympics had catnapping, we'd take the gold

Friday, November 23, 2012

Missy Kitty has been with us about a year and a half now, and I'm sure I have mentioned more than once that she has shunned laps. She is an affectionate cat and loves to be with us, just not on us.

I have been somewhat disappointed, because I like a cat in my lap. And I like napping. It's a combination that just can't be beat.

But Missy Kitty has stubbornly resisted sleeping in my lap. I thought at first it might have something to do with her body temperature. It seems like she generates far more heat than the average cat. So it made sense, during the warm months of summer, that she might prefer a cool spot to take her naps.

Last winter was hardly any winter to speak of. Again, I assumed there was a correlation between temperatures and laps.

Missy Kitty, like most cats, is smart. She has trained us to do so many things, all of which are, as you might expect, in her favor. She is not as vocal as some cats we have known, but she has body language that shouts its intended message.

For example, if she sits by the family room door, she wants to go out. Now.

She also has learned that if she goes downstairs, she will be pursued and let out. Same results as sitting by the door, just a bit more complicated. She likes the game.

Knowing that cats are creatures of habit and like to stick to a routine, it occurred to me that perhaps what Missy Kitty needed was a few lessons in catnapping.

Thus began what at our house is known as the Era of Training the Cat.

I started by showing her that napping in the La-Z-Boy is a natural human activity. It is not to be feared. I let her watch from her perch in the wicker chair. She seemed to accept that a human more than 20 times her size could easily fall asleep in a recliner.

Next came sessions of holding the cat in my lap, stroking her head, massaging the nape of her neck and occasionally rubbing her tummy. These were not things she craved, as many cats do, but she got the hang of it soon enough.

Finally came the afternoon when, while being petted, Missy Kitty curled up in my lap and fell asleep. The phone rang, and I didn't answer it. My wife got concerned and came looking for me. She found us both asleep in the recliner.

"The cat's sleeping in your lap?" she said, incredulously.

"Shh!" I replied. "I'm training the cat."

Day by day the cat and I have slipped into a routine. At 6 a.m. I find her in the garage and give her food. I go have coffee with friends. By 7 a.m. I'm back and retrieve the newspapers from the driveway. Missy Kitty meets me on my way into the house. She expects to be carried. Once inside, she gets a small bowl of milk. After drinking the milk, if she wants a lap, she falls on her side and does a half-somersault. If she wants out, she goes downstairs.

As the mornings have grown colder, Missy Kitty has opted for my lap most of the time. Drop. Roll. Sleep.

It's not a complicated system, but it's working.

And there are quite a few afternoons, after a particularly filling lunch, when both Missy Kitty and I think more training is a good idea.

"I'm going to run some errands," my wife might say. "Want to come along?"

"No," I reply. "I have to train the cat."

It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.

As far as Missy Kitty is concerned, she has successfully reordered, once more, the lives of her humans. That big guy, in particular, is so easy to train.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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