Coronavirus Culture Confounding to Cats

The pandemic has affected our two cats.

No, they haven’t actually had COVID. At least we don’t think so. How would you even test them? Certainly not with a long swab up their nostrils. Good luck with that.

They have just been acting a bit differently lately. Well, cats naturally do weird stuff. Those of you with cats know what I mean. Maybe they notice us complaining to the TV more now.

They wander a lot, patrolling the house. Indeed, that’s what cats do. They’re almost like security agents, checking around every corner and listening intently for mysterious sounds. They check their food bowls in case they missed hearing them get filled. Maybe there’s a missed morsel from the last feeding.

They get confused whenever we leave them for a day or two, which isn’t very often now. They have food and water. They just don’t get wet food. And they might need some deft footwork as their litter boxes fill up. But that’s to be expected. Not getting that daily can of puréed animal parts is just not fair. Or their treats that supposedly clean their teeth. I’d certainly be out of sorts if I couldn’t brush my teeth for a couple days.

But lately they look at us as if asking, “What’s with you guys? You don’t play with us anymore. Is this all there is now? Isn’t there something fun we can do other than continuously wandering around the house to see if anything has changed in the last 10 minutes?”

I want to tell them, “We just aren’t in the mood for fun and games right now. This is as good as it gets for awhile. For all of us.” But they won’t listen. They just slink away to sleep in one of their hair nests before wandering again.

This time of year a mouse or two gets in the house somewhere and we can hear the cats racing around trying to catch them. For them it’s at least something to do. Catherine is not impressed, though, when they proudly present their catches to her.

To end their annoying whining for food at 4 am, I bought an automatic feeder. It works well, dispensing dry cat food at several scheduled times during the day. For a long time it was near the kitchen next to their water fountain but I moved it to the basement.

Now the oldest, Arthur, a 16-year-old male tabby, just sits at the top of the basement stairs, sometimes for hours, waiting to hear the pellets drop onto a tray. That’s actually an improvement. After I moved it he watched the water dish by the kitchen, expecting it to dispense pellets. He talks a lot and always has. I didn’t know cats had such a vocabulary. Maybe he’s cussing me out for not feeding him every hour on the hour.

Mimi is our skittish nine-year-old tortoise shell cat. She’s a bit brighter than Arthur. The odd thing is that Arthur eats anything and everything and is practically fur on bones while Mimi, often left with lean pickings after Arthur has finished, is slightly on the plump side.

We have a grandfather clock that plays the Westminster chimes every quarter hour. Their ears perk up at each 15 minute chime as the next feeding time gets closer. They know the difference between the short chimes and the toll of the hours. Pavlov would be proud.

What really throws them off is when we change our clocks twice a year. They think something is wrong so start patrolling more seriously and giving us the stink eye. Maybe that would be a good argument to present to Congress for remaining on one time schedule. The seasonal changes in daylight and temperature are also probably our fault.

I can’t explain to Mimi that I haven’t challenged her with the red laser light lately because its three tiny hearing aid-size batteries died. It’s cheaper just to buy a complete new light, which I will when I remember it. Arthur definitely has no interest in a red laser light, probably because it’s not food.

The main problem for them is that we’re retired and with the pandemic we’re home so much it interrupts their nap/patrol cycles. They must think we’re abusing them for something they did. Daughter Clara’s rescue dog, Bert, puts further strain on cautious Mimi when they visit even though that dog is more scared of her than she is of him and he almost never barks.

Some people choose to have pets so they have a live object to complain to when there’s no human around or when they’re tired of talking to any other members of the household. It’s convenient to vent at pets about something they are not remotely involved with.

It could be considered abuse if you were venting at another human. The main difference is that pets have no idea what you’re saying but they like the attention as long as you aren’t screaming at them. A dog would happily wag its tail if you soothingly said, “You are the dumbest creature on earth.” A cat would just yawn and continue staring at you.

So our cats continue developing their own COVID culture. If things ever return to normal, they’ll wonder why we’ve changed.

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