After almost five years of being a parent to Ivy the Wonder Cat, I’d like to think that we’ve reached a point where we understand each other pretty well.
We both like structure and we both lean toward strong adherence to a schedule, which is already half of the battle when it comes to understanding cats (and humans). In doing so, she has adjusted to my schedule and vice versa.
When Ivy meows about something, the timing and the location from where she meows is all the context I need to know whether it’s related to food, water, treats, litter box, sleep, play, attention or whether she is just making small talk.
While I make a point of regularly ensuring everything is neat, tidy, on time and according to her preferred specifications for all of checklist items above, there are times I may get caught up in the trappings of responsible adulthood and that I might miss one little detail… How foolish and selfish of me.
The rare time she might get up on the dining room table is her form of “escalation” to say that I didn’t respond properly and an identified issue remains outstanding. I don’t get mad at her when she does that. I just slowly walk over and softly ask “Should you be up there?” to which she immediately jumps off and provides another sign of what she wants.
It’s a pretty good system and seems to work… Most of the time.
Then there are those out-of-the-blue days when I have to ask “who are you and what have you done with my cat?”
Those are the times she heads to the food bowl and her favourite is suddenly not her favourite anymore.
Those are the times when her own adherence to schedule is completely out the window.
Those are the times when everything on the checklist has been meticulously tended to, but she stomps around on the dining room table for no rhyme or reason.
Those are the times when she relentlessly hangs out by the doors of rooms that are off limits and tries to rush the door like a Boxing Day shopper racing for an $88 55-inch flat screen TV.
Those are the times when I might be working from home and she insists on joining me on the coast-to-coast conference call to announce that she is awake from her nap (ahead of schedule) and hungry.
It is in those times, when it feels like she has had a personality transplant, that I remind myself that this is not the usual feline example of calm and serenity that I see 99% of the time.
And it is also the reality check that as much as I might think of her as my daughter, because we are similar in a number of ways, we do not actually share a gene pool. This is a cat.
It should come as no surprise if it feels like she has restored to her factory default settings from time to time. It keeps us on our toes!
While I am certainly no feline psychologist, I don’t think it is overly permissive on my part to just let her go through such a phase, especially if they are so rare, and by that I mean once every 3 or 4 months.
The best part is that these phases are temporary and usually pretty short.
If it was happening more frequently or for a longer duration, I would be concerned and looking for other symptoms. I might even resort to contacting her vet to discuss any out-of-character behaviour, just to be on the safe side. I wouldn’t want an outburst to be ignored if it was a sign of a more serious condition and that this was her own feline vocabulary to get my attention.
But when everything is fine and it is just the cat having a moment of extreme randomness, I just have to dig a little deeper for patience, and I try to have fun with her “Tasmanian Devil” routine.
The interesting part is that as much as these episodes seemingly appear out of the blue, the reverse is true as well. Usually, it just takes one nap for her to return to the Ivy that I recognize and to whom you could set a clock.
When you think about it, even as humans, don’t we have off-days when we don’t feel like ourselves and cannot explain it? Even our kids sometimes have their days when we don’t recognize them, with no rhyme or reason.
Why should we expect our pets to be any different?
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