Category Archives: Animals

The Seven Faces of a Hungry Cat

Or, Bailey’s repertoire of strategies for getting me to feed him, along with my interpretations and evaluations of their efficiency.

1. The Lovey B Cat: Usually around 10:15 pm, if I am sitting on the couch, Bailey will suddenly appear snuggled up next to me.  There is purring and kneading, or “biscuit-making” if you will.

The Intended Message: “Mommy, I love you.  I love you so much that you remind me of being a kitten, and kneading on my birth mother, and getting noms.  And I know you love me, too.  You know how my birth mother showed me she loved me?  When I got all snuggly and lovey and started kneading on her, she fed me.  So, if you really loved me, you would feed me. Now.”

The Effectiveness: Not effective at all.  Because this is one of the few times Bailey shows me love.  And unlike a real cat mother, in order to feed him, I have to get up and go into the kitchen, prematurely terminating this rare display of affection.  So instead I promise I will feed him in just a few more minutes and milk (no pun intended) as much of this empty cat love out of him as I can.

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2. The A**hole: Just as the Lovey B Cat is typically reserved for evening feedings, Bailey typically saves The A**hole for 5 am.  Or maybe he tries being lovey, and I just sleep through the subtlety.  The A**hole consists of a subseries of incredibly obnoxious behaviors:

  • The Obsessive-Compulsive: Locating any paper bags or cardboard boxes with loose flaps and pawing/scratching at them furiously.  If you don’t understand how this can be noisy or irritating, I will be happy to demonstrate.  Just give me a shopping bag, a key to your house, and permission to come into your bedroom at 4:30 tomorrow morning.
  • The Golfer: Finding items on the nightstands (jewelry in a bowl; loose change; small, heavy things that I cannot identify but know they are somehow related to Nick’s musical instruments, although more often than not they seem to be in his pockets) and putting them around on the table before driving them right off onto the floor.
  • The Trampoline: Bailey has used my stomach as a springboard or landing pad on more than one occasion, but he usually aims for Nick’s man parts.
  • The Big Bad Wolf: Never underestimate the force with which a cat is able to pound on a closed door.  Even if you close him in one room and close the bedroom door as well, the second door is not sufficient to muffle the sound.

The Intended Message: “I will keep doing this until you feed me.  Sure, you can throw a pillow at me, but I’ll be back in thirty seconds.  What are you going to do, lock me in the office?  I’ll just bang on the door.  I might even pee on the desk chair.  So just get out of bed and feed me, okay?  This doesn’t have to get any uglier than it already is.”

The Effectiveness:  It’s effective.  Very effective.  As much as I try not to respond because I really don’t want to reinforce this behavior, inevitably my desire for a few more hours of sleep wins out.

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3. The Infant: Did you know there have been empirical research studies showing that cats use high-pitched purrs where the frequency is in a similar range to that of a crying baby, thus triggering humans’ instincts to nurture?  While I have not noticed differences in Bailey’s purrs, he does have a distinct chirp/cry for when he is hungry.  (He also has a specific cry for when he is about to throw up, which is useful for guiding him away from the carpet.)  The hungry cry is desperate and questioning, and he almost always does it when he is in a separate room from everyone else, which just makes it seem more desperate.

The Intended Message: “Hello?  Is anyone out there?  I’m alone, and hungry, and scared.  Don’t you want to rescue me?”

The Effectiveness: Pretty good, as long as he doesn’t start it too early in the morning.  But there is clearly something to the research on cats manipulating their cries to evoke responses from humans, because Bailey has perfected his hungry cry to the pitch that simultaneously irritates me and stirs some drive to take care of him.

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4. The Mime: Bailey is excellent at charades.  Anytime I walk towards the kitchen, he zooms past me towards his food bowl.  If I actually enter the kitchen, he will pace between his bowl and the container of dry food, staring at me the entire time.  This is the one phase Matilda will participate in.  She will actually put her paws on the food container, just in case I couldn’t tell what they were referring to.

The Intended Message: “Hey, you’re in the kitchen, we’re in the kitchen, and hey, look at that!  Our food is in the kitchen!  It’s right here!  All you have to do is open the lid and scoop it out.  So easy.  Also, we’re hungry.  You haven’t fed us in an entire hour.”

The Effectiveness:  This is my favorite of Bailey’s strategies.  It’s useful for when I actually do need a reminder that they need to be fed.  But it’s also easy enough to ignore when the cats are asking for their third breakfast.

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5. The Great Communicator: If Bailey does not come snuggle with me around 10:15 in the evening, he mostly likely will sit on the coffee table, attempting to block my view of the television (as fat and fluffy as he is, he’s just not big enough to do this successfully).  He makes direct eye contact with me, tilts his head to the side as though engaged in conversation, and mumbles.

The Intended Message: When I say he mumbles, I mean he moves his lips and tongue around, but no sound comes out.  It could be nothing more than a Pavlovian response of salivating as he anticipates food, especially since I usually respond with, “Are you hungry?” and he knows that means I’m getting ready to feed him.  But I prefer to think that he is trying to break the greatest barrier between cats and humans, and attempting to speak to me.

The Effectiveness:  It’s not immediately effective, because it’s really funny to watch, and I try to draw it out as long as possible.  “Are you hungry? Do you want your dinner?  You want food?”  I tilt my head, and he mimics it.  It’s adorable.  But eventually I feel guilty for teasing him, so I will actually feed him.

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6. The Puss-in-Boots: Bailey does not frequently resort to this.  I think it is because he knows that you should keep your most powerful weapons hidden away in your arsenal for only the most urgent of circumstances.

The Intended Message: “I do not think you fully appreciate just how cute I am.  Let me dilate my pupils fully to reveal my optimum cuteness.  If that does not convince you to reward my cuteness with heaping piles of noms, I think I might give up on life.”

The Effectiveness: Oh, it’s pretty damn effective.  If Bailey can suffer through a minute of being scooped up and squeezed and hearing, “OMG you are the cutest little B face.  I love my favorite boy cat!”, his cuteness and his tolerance are likely to be rewarded with heaping piles of noms.

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7. The Temper Tantrum: Fortunately we don’t see this one too often.  But sometimes, if Bailey really feels like I am ignoring him, he will sneak up next to me, give his shrieking warning cry, and bite my arm.

The Intended Message: “I hate you.  I am a vicious animal.  Feed me, or I will eat you in your sleep.”

The Effectiveness: It is not effective.  This results in a timeout, in the bathroom so that any spiteful peeing outside the litter box will be easy to clean up.

He wasn't always so eager to snuggle...

In case you are wondering what Matilda is doing during all of this, other than occasionally taking part in The Mime, she feigns indifference to eating until the food is being served. While Bailey is busy knocking stuff over and jumping on us, Matilda is typically curled up at the foot of the bed.  I have heard about younger siblings sometimes starting to talk at a later age because their older brother or sister will often talk for them.  I’m pretty sure that’s essentially what is going on here.

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Coming Soon… The Return of Anything but Academia!

Well, I knew that this semester was going to be a busy one, and that my blog writing time would likely suffer, but I did not think it would be several months without a single entry. Wearing the Student, Teacher, and Researcher hats all at the same time (not to mention trying to keep the Wife, Friend, Sister, and Daughter hats on as well) has been really tough. And then there’s that whole “taking care of yourself” thing.  Actually, I’ve managed fairly well on that end. But yeah… there were a lot of days in February and March that I would be driving home and the only word I could find to describe how I was feeling was defeated.

Fortunately the last month or so has been a lot better, and now all that stands between me and summer is one paper, one take-home exam, and two final exams to administer and grade (after I finishing writing the exam, that is).

You can rest assured that even while I have not been actively posting, I’ve been accumulating ideas to write about and blowing up my Pinterest account with about 500 recipes I want to try. Oh, I also finally discovered The Kitchn. And yes, I’ve already been informed that I’m a little late to the party on that one.

I’m starting to think about my summer to-do list. My list for school-related goals is already made. For my personal list, I’m thinking this might be the summer of quality, not quantity.  Maybe I’ll just pick a handful of things I want to do, and get totally immersed in them, rather than having a lengthy checklist. We’ll see.

One thing you can be sure of: there will be lots of tomatoes.  I can’t wait for tomatoes.

Before I return to paper writing and tackle the 16-page take-home multilevel modeling exam, let me take a moment to catch you up on the last few months of my life, told through Instagrams.

The cats are doing just fine.

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During a mostly work-oriented Spring Break, Nick and I managed to sneak away for lunch on the Eastern Shore one day:

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I learned that a Bloody Mary is even more delicious when there is avocado blended into it:

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I went to Seattle for a conference. In addition to the conferencing, we managed to see some sunshine, check out the Chihuly Gallery, and eat a lot of good food, although the only time I thought to document the food was the last night in a fairly dark but delicious pizza and microbrew place.

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And on a few occasions, I’ve managed to cook a decent meal.

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My Distractibility Increased by 500% Today

I guess that “30 days of random moments of happiness” thing didn’t quite get finished, did it? Well, I’ve been busy. And then sick. And then busy. And then sick again, while still being busy. But I am pretty sure I had random moments of happiness every day for the last week or so of November. I just didn’t tell you about them in a timely fashion, and now I have forgotten them.

I have a final paper due tomorrow-ish. There is nothing more simultaneously awesome and horrible than when your professor tells you, “Yes, the papers are due on Friday. But if you get it to me a little after that, it’s okay, too.” The good thing- some of the pressure is off. The bad thing- some of the pressure is off.

I’m working on it. And I’m trying to stay focused. But there are a bunch of things that are competing for my attention. Maybe if I tell you about them, it will allow me to move on and get this thing finished.

My Birthday Dinner(s) This Weekend. Mmhmm- that’s right- multiple birthday dinners. I can’t stop thinking about the menu at The Food Market, where I’ve wanted to go for the last four months, but since Nick and I are rather spontaneous with our date night plans, we always miss out on reservations. This time, I’m prepared. I made that reservation weeks ago, just in case I got so wrapped up in finals that I forgot to make birthday dinner plans (like that would ever happen). Why am I so excited? Four words: duck confit potato skins. And if that isn’t fabulous enough, later in the weekend I’ll be celebrating with the family and a sexy plate of raw oysters. Honestly, I think that will be so satisfying that if I don’t have a birthday cake, I won’t miss it. (But I did request something with chocolate and peanut butter, with carrot cake cupcakes or chocolate eclairs from my favorite bakery as backup options.)

Wanting to Grade My Students’ Final Exams. I can’t help it. I want to know how they did. The suspense is killing me. You know you’ve got it bad when you’re bribing yourself to finish your own paper with grading other papers as your reward.

My Pinterest Boards for Christmas Dinner and Christmas Baking. So many pretty pictures of food! The one thing that is bugging me- and perhaps this is just me being a Pinterest novice – is that I can’t rearrange the pins on a board. Is there a way to do that?

Facebook. I think I have liked and commented about 20 times as many things today compared to a typical day. This is exacerbated by the fact that I think a lot of my fellow grad students are also procrastinating and are consequently posting about 20 times as many things as they normally do. The best thing from today so far: Your LL Bean Boyfriend. (Thanks, Virginia.)

Really, really wanting to post photos from our Christmas card. We have sent them out. I want to wait another couple days so that it is still a surprise for most of the card recipients. But then I will release them to the public.

Cats. My cats, because they are hanging around being alternately cute and obnoxious. But also, these cats:

Wanting to tell you about the bourbon bread pudding with bourbon sauce that I made. Well, I guess I just did. It was delicious. If you are short on time, just make the sauce and serve it on ice cream. Or on a spoon.

Okay… I think that’s good. I have emptied all the extraneous stuff bouncing around in my head, and will now resume paper writing. Next time you hear from me, I will have finished the first semester of my third year, meaning that I am officially half-way through the program (assuming my distractibility does not interfere with my finishing in five years).

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Random Moments of Happiness: Day 23

Earlier this month I talked about how happy it made me to go through our wedding photos. They led to another happy moment when the final products were delivered. We had purchased some Groupons (or one of the 20 other similar things) for canvas prints. I wasn’t sure how I felt about having a photograph of us blown up on a giant 18×24 canvas. I know that isn’t that big. But a giant canvas with my likeness just seems a little egotistical. It’s not like I’m Victor Newman.

Nick, however, made a valid point that we both looked pretty great that day. If there was ever a time to print a giant photograph of ourselves, this was the time to do it. It also helped that our photographer had some beautiful shots with us in them, but also plenty of landscape surrounding us. So it’s not like, BAM- Wow, check out Sarah’s nostrils or Huh, Nick really does have flawless skin. (He seriously does. I’m very jealous.)

The canvases ended up working out pretty well. And you can barely see my nostrils.

I’m even happier with the photo album we got. This was my first time using a website to make a photo album, and I was really impressed with the amount of control we had over the formatting and design, as well as the quality of the book and prints.

It looks amazing. I don’t even care if you can see my nostrils in any of the pictures. The downside- I now want to make photo albums of everything. Who wants a coffee table book of the kitties for Christmas?

(The correct response is, “I do! I do!”)

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Random Moments of Happiness: Day 22

Thanksgiving… Nick and I realized this was our fifth Thanksgiving together. Sixth, if you count the first year where he cooked dinner for me on Thanksgiving Eve. It always amazes me how when I think about things like that, I cannot believe we have been together that long, but at the same time cannot imagine my life without him.

Sorry for that little sappy tangent, but it has a purpose, I promise.

At some point in my mid-twenties, I signed up for eHarmony. Do you remember when dating sites were considered somewhat taboo? I remember being super-embarrassed to tell people I had met someone on Match.com. But now that I think about it, several of my good friends met their spouses through various sources on the internet. Nick actually happens to be the only boyfriend I didn’t meet online, although Myspace did facilitate a lot of our early communications.

Okay, now that tangent had less of a purpose.

I think what I was getting at was that on eHarmony, one of the recommended prompts for early communications with potential soul mates was something along the lines of “What would your ideal holidays with your partner be like?” I cannot remember what my exact response was at that time, but I suspect it would have said something about wanting a nice balance between quiet time with just the two of us and time spent with our immediate families. Nothing rushed or requiring too much running around.

The awesome thing is that Nick and I have pretty much achieved that. Our Thanksgiving morning consisted of Nick’s finest breakfast sandwiches to date (did you know they make giant sandwich-sized English muffins, now??), the soundtrack to a Muppet movie (Nick will have to tell you which one), and lazily hanging around reading (yes, on Thanksgiving, I was reading about Christmas cookie recipes in the December issue of Bon Appetit).

Then we drove over the Bay Bridge and through the woods (kind of) to Nick’s sister’s house for a low-key, but delicious Thanksgiving dinner with his family. I think I mentioned this last year, but I am so appreciative that we both have families who are very flexible and understanding about us having two families to spend holidays with. There are no demands about having to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day, or requests for us to eat two Thanksgiving dinners in one day. So, to all of our family members, thank you for not being crazy. At least in this regard.

Also, I am thankful for having in-laws who do not judge me for changing into yoga pants after dessert. (Not so much because I needed an elastic waistband… I was just tired of wearing a skirt and having to sit like a lady.)

Besides the good company and food, the other Thanksgiving perk was getting to see Bailey and Matilda’s cousins, Tigger and Katie. Tigger is like a short-haired, orange B-cat. This was our first time meeting Katie, and while she is still warming up to people, I did get a few head hugs.  Also, both of them have really cute white feet, which is one thing that B and Matilda are lacking.

The formula to a good Thanksgiving: family, food, and felines.

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Random Moments of Happiness: Days 17-20

Yikes- I’m falling behind!  Here we go…

Day 17: Ladiez Night. With a “z”. Cocktails and food, followed by a wine-infused viewing of Lincoln. On a semi-related note, baby Bota boxes comfortably fit in purses….

It looks just like its mommy!

Day 18: Sleeping in. With my husband.  Usually I’m wide-awake several hours before Nick and get fidgety hanging out in bed. But thanks to the previous night’s cocktails and wine, that was not a problem. I cannot remember the last time I slept until 11.

Typical morning scene at our place

Day 19: Catching up with my old roomie. For three years after college, I shared an apartment with a friend from school. There were a lot of margaritas and reality dating shows. Sadly with leading busy lives in different states has drastically reduced our contact with each other. This dinner date was a year in the making. Seriously. Finally we managed to set and stick to a date with neither of us needing to reschedule. It seemed fitting that it was a Monday, as much of our margarita drinking occurred on Mondays while watching Average Joe or Joe Millionaire. Of course, we were drinking red wine instead of margaritas. Because we’re older and more mature now. Or maybe it was just because we weren’t at a Mexican restaurant.

Day 20: The Voice results show. All my favorites – Melanie, Cody, Amanda, Terry- got through. And I was surprised that I liked Dez and Cassadee’s performances as much as I did. At this point, I don’t think I’d feel too disappointed about any of them winning, but I really want to see more of Cody. He’s just so much fun to watch.

 

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Random Moments of Happiness: Days 8-11

Day 8: An aggressively affectionate B Cat. It’s funny how cats go through different phases. I remember when Bailey was younger, I would watch him tear through the apartment (sometimes crashing into walls) and wonder if he would ever chill out and be a snuggly lapcat. Now, at least once a day, he plants himself on my lap, purrs loudly, and goes into an impressively intense kneading frenzy. This typically occurs when I’m trying to work on my laptop and he actually stretches himself out over my arms, essentially rendering me incapable of doing anything but providing a place for him to rest. But before I push him off, I usually just enjoy it for a few minutes, remembering how much I wanted a lovey kitty when he was younger and not so lovey. It also gives me hope that one day Matilda won’t be quite so offended by all the affection that Nick and I want to shower her with.

He wasn’t always so eager to snuggle…

Day 9: Nick’s Bedtime Music. When I was a kid, I loved having some sort of sound in the room when I was falling asleep. Apparently I went through a phase where I would request the Brandenburg concertos, although what I remember is that my favorite was the sound of the humidifier running. My parents actually made a tape recording of it for me so that my room didn’t turn into a rainforest. More recently, I’ve developed a love for ambient music when I’m trying to wind down at night. In particular, I love the recording that Nick made especially for me. Best way to drift off to sleep. Ever.

Day 10: Cooper’s wagging tail. I’m a cat person. There are dogs that I like, but I’d always choose a cat over a dog. There’s no way I could deal with everything a dog requires, at least not right now. So, in the same way that I’m content to be enjoying the babies that my friends are having, I like visiting with dogs who belong to other people. All the fun without any of the responsibility. Last weekend Em asked me to let out their dog, Cooper. (My nephdog? dogphew?) And I can see why people who have dogs like having dogs. Our cats will run to the door to greet us – sometimes – but most of the time I suspect they are just happy about the possibility of being fed. Dogs, on the other hand, genuinely seem happy to see you. Just for being you. When I came back upstairs I had to have Nick remind me of all the reasons we should not have a dog.

Photo courtesy of my sister, although she doesn’t know it yet.

Day 11: Organizing wedding photos. Finally. Nick and I both tend to be pretty relaxed about getting things done in a timely fashion. At times, it would be great if one of us was motivated to push the other one a bit more to get our taxes filed earlier or to clean the bathroom before it gets too nasty. But mostly, I think this is one of the reasons we get along so well. So yeah… one year, four months, and several days after our wedding, we finally got around to picking some photos to print. And really, the only thing driving us yesterday was the realization that the Groupons we bought for canvases and photo albums were about to expire. There is still more to do, but at least we’ll have an album and a couple pictures to hang soon. Plus, looking through all the photos of our friends and family from one of the best days of my life is a pretty great way to spend an afternoon.

Credit: Stevie T Photography

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