Thursday, December 02, 2010

No, really, this is worse

Has it ever happened to you that some young person starts complaining about something that you and everyone else already knows about? How bad the rush hour traffic is, or that the service at some chain restaurant can be terrible, or something like that. And you nod, in a way that's at the same time both sympathetic and patronizing, at someone learning this awful lesson. There's definitely commisseration, but there's an overtone of "you should have known, everyone knows this, boy, you're so naïve," along with a mild desire to engage in one-up-manship ("you think that's bad, this one time I had it a lot worse, let me tell you all about it!").

What I find frustrating, and which happens a little more often than it really ought, is when people assume anything you complain about must, necessarily, be just the same as what they've experienced, and you are just a newbie to the whole situation, even when the evidence indicates otherwise. The example that's freshest to mind is one I've been facing a lot the last week or two: how destructive and problematic are our two new cats.

Yes, I know that cats like to climb into Christmas trees and knock ornaments down. I know they claw things, and don't care at all about going anywhere they like, as long as they don't get caught and punished. I know the line between cuddly and affectionate, and ready to claw your eyes out, is so thin they can cross it twice in ten seconds.

I know all these things and more since there have been cats in my life for as long as I can remember. There were cats around the house I grew up in at all times; in my earliest memories, there'd been a cat already around, and there were more, often several, from then on. Some were born in the house, some adopted from other people, some picked up as strays. When I moved away, there were cats in the apartment I moved into before I got there, and there were cats from then on. In fact, when Brynna died a year and a half ago, it was the first time I can remember in my entire life that there wasn't at least one cat in my home. I've owned (read: been owned by) several dozen cats over my lifetime, and they cover a wide variety of personalities and behaviors.

So when I say that the two cats I have now are not just really bad, not just worse than all the others, but so much worse, so much more heedless and destructive and rambunctious, that it's a difference of degree so large as to become a difference of kind, I'm not just expressing a little frustration at something that I should have known would happen. They really are that much worse.

They don't just play with the Christmas tree ornaments and break a few and maybe climb up a little; they routinely knock down every single thing on the tree, squat in the tree chewing on it, and bend up the branches so much that I fear that within a week the tree itself will be trash. They don't just make a little mess with splashing water out of their water bowl; they knock pints of water onto the floor, enough to do water damage to the cabinetry and threaten to harm the floors. They aren't just a little slower and more stubborn about getting used to the dog; they aren't as far along after two whole months as I've seen cats be within two weeks. They aren't just more ill-behaved about making noise at night than some cats; they routinely keep me awake for hours night after night doing the same things and going back to them within minutes, or even seconds, of being sprayed, chased, or punished.

This is all a great source of frustration, so I'm naturally a bit cranky. But that's not the only reason that I get a bit irked when, if I mention this to someone, I get that patronizing, knowing nod. "Of course cats play with the Christmas tree, you should have expected that. Just suck it up." This is really not helping.

And I've had a similar experience on a lot of things lately in various venues, so it's not just the cats. I feel like I get no credit for actually having some grasp on the scale of things. I'm not the boy who cries wolf, I think. I don't say things like "far worse than usual" lightly. When something really is significantly more urgent, or worse, or more important, or bigger, or more dangerous, or more expensive, or more painful, or whatever, I can't get the reaction I need, or the sympathy I'd really appreciate, or even the sense that I'm being taken seriously or that I might actually know what I'm talking about. It's exhausting.


Anonymous said...

We have had the same problem with an older cat at the last place I lived in. We tried spray and soaked him until he started loving the water. Used a newspaper rolled up at times to whack him lightly. Didn't phase him. He threw water on the floor and still does. What you might do to fix that is get an automated machine, you fill it with water and it constantly acts like a fountain. Runs the water from top to pour out with the rest and takes from the bottom. Place a towel or something that soaks up water underneath it and against the wall. Then they can play all they want. When the water runs out it won't ruin the floor as bad.
As for the christmas tree. It's rough to do but we did do it. Basically we took a flyswatter to the cats. After a few times of that, they learned very quickly to stay out unless we tell them otherwise. Still they had been bad a few times, but not as much. The older they get the less troublesome too. Flyswatter helped with their constant meowing or catnip. You get ready to sleep, take some and place it over a the cats and a few spots, you will at least get some sleep while they are lost in that.
Of course you have had cats longer than I have. I may just be repeating things you already know. Just hoping I can help a little bit on tricks we have had to do. We still can't keep our youngest female cat from being a thief. She's stealing pens now from people doing homework at the old house hehe when they are not looking.

Kelly said...

I do know cat personalities and behaviors can be all over the board, I've had some extremely calm and tolerant ones to ones that have exactly one human they tolerate to destructive. But I do know I've stopped at maybe mildly destructive. What's done is annoying, but nothing that isn't generally usually just something to pick up or unfortunately, gotta figure out how to repair the wall... Hate wall paper, paint at least you can match. Wall paper... you're generally screwed. And they like destroying my blinds... yargh. But all said, I know they have the potential to do worse, and don't. So I kinda figure if you say 'really bad', there's probably something in there I haven't had to deal with. I figure some mild chaos and mess is just cat life. Not bad, just life when it comes to cats... most pets really. And when anyone I know who has had pets before says some are unusually bad, I figure they're pretty bad. I know I haven't had it too bad... especially since I am very limited on anything even remotely expensive that bugs me if it gets a bit roughed up or knocked over.

Anyhow, Thorny, I believed you when you said it was bad!