A Cat with Too Much Brain

Steve and I thought that middle-of-the-night feedings were a thing of the distant past for us. After all, our youngest child is 14.

They were, until we got our orange cat, Nigel.

Let me tell you about last night as an example: at about 1:00 a.m., Nigel who almost always sleeps between Steve’s legs, jumps off the bed and starts plucking the carpet. “Nigel stop it!” He stops for about 30 seconds and then resumes working his claws until Steve gets out of bed and goes out to the kitchen to feed him. It doesn’t matter that there is already food in his dish, Nigel wants his Iams cat food freshly plated.

This scenario is repeated at 4:30 and 6:45 a.m. with Steve and I alternating who gets up to feed him until we are worn down to the point that regardless that it’s Sunday, and we could sleep in another half-an-hour, it’s just easier to submit to his will. We tried squirting him with a water bottle but he thought that me chasing him down a dark hall murmuring swear words under my breath was a really fun game. OMG. Thirteen pounds of orange fur is ruling our lives.

Based on the way Nigel acts compared to our other two cats, we are sure the problem is that Nigel has about one-and-a-half times more brain matter than most cats. Charm, our oldest cat who is probably 16, is so domesticated that his only interest is in finding the most readily available warm lap. Day after day, when Charm wanders into the bathroom, his slightly crossed eyes always have a look of bewilderment, “Have I been here before?”

Nigel was a feral cat who was rescued from abandonment by a loving family and hand-fed until we adopted him as a kitten four years ago. He was so cute as a kitten. And it was so charming when he learned to play fetch; we could throw a little squishy ball and he would actually chase it and bring it back and drop it for us to throw it again.

We thought his predatory instincts would mellow with age and he would become a furry, free-loading slug who sleeps 22 hours a day like most cats. But Nigel is the one cat who we wish would sleep more because when he is awake, he is constantly pestering us for attention. And because he is so smart, he has figured out the ways that are most annoying to us to make sure that we do his bidding.

If he isn’t attempting to shred the carpet, he is up on the desk using his teeth to put puncture holes in every piece of paper within his reach. Every manila folder on my desk looks like it was attacked by an angry rattlesnake when it was actually just Nigel trying to get Steve to stop working and go sit on the couch so he can settle into his usual spot between Steve’s legs.

But here is the biggest problem. We love him to pieces. If Nigel could learn how to push a button on the computer, Valerie would probably just Skype him and skip talking to us altogether because it is Nigel who she really misses. Every phone call with her, we have to find Nigel and hold him up to the video camera so she can see his fuzzy face.

I know this sounds ridiculous to anyone who hasn’t had a cat, but when he curls up and sleeps with his eyes shut very tightly, he looks almost angelic and all the bad deeds are forgiven. So despite the pulled threads in the carpet, chewed shoelaces and cords, and missed sleep, our lives would seem very empty without him. We sometimes wonder, what did we talk about before Nigel?

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