Of course, our whole family misses Valerie now that she has gone back to college in Southern California. However, some of us miss her more than others. Her younger sister isn’t all that sad about having the bathroom to herself again even if it does mean that she can’t blame its grody-ness on anyone but herself.
Steve and I miss Valerie’s artistic energy but the family member who is really acting out his grief over Valerie being gone is Nigel, our orange cat.
When Valerie came home for the summer, Nigel immediately resumed his routine of sleeping with her, sometimes with his face so close to hers I thought he was sucking the life out of her and sometimes plastered tightly against her legs so she was pinned down for the night. If cats are capable of expressing affection, Nigel certainly seemed smitten with her.
Valerie reciprocated Nigel’s attention by playing with him as if he was a puppy and she was a little kid rather than the adult cat and college student that they actually are. She would get him to chase her down the hall, play tug-of-war with a feather tied to a long piece of cord, and try to get him to fetch a little squishy ball, a trick that he used to perform as a younger cat. It amazed us that he would retrieve the ball and drop it at our feet until we threw it again.
Steve and I commented many times that we were dreading how Nigel would act after Valerie went back to college. Would he resume his bad behavior of plucking the carpet and 1:00, 2:30 and 4:00 am? We knew didn’t do it to get food – he had plenty in his dish – he just wanted to get some action going. Without Valerie here to romp and snuggle with him, we feared the worst.
Nigel didn’t disappoint. After a night of me shouting at Nigel every 15 minutes to “Stop It!” and waking Steve up every time I did, I decided some drastic action was called for.
Based on some advice we got from my blog readers (thank you very much), the only way to break him of this pattern was to sentence him to solitary confinement in a bathroom or padded cell for a night or two.
The only destruction proof room in our house that doesn’t have carpet on the other side of it that Nigel could shred by stretching his sharp little claws under the door is the gulag…I mean garage.
So desperate to get some sleep, at the sound of the first thwack, thwack, thwack that I heard shortly after midnight, I knew an intervention was needed. I scooped up Nigel and tossed him into the garage. His pink spongy pads that have touched only carpet felt the cold, hard surface of concrete. And so Nigel spent the night separated from us for the first time in the five years that we’ve had him.
It took about an hour for my heart to stop pounding so I could go back to sleep while I reminded myself he’s a cat, for goodness sake. Given a chance, he would shred helpless little mice just for the fun of it. And I’m worried about banishing him to a warm and safe garage?
I’m happy to report that our tough love approach has had good results and we have actually gotten some sleep. The only challenge now is that the little orange beast knows what’s coming and shoots under a bed to hide when I come after him in the dark. But like Wile E. Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons, I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve. Acme explosives, anyone?