Of course you know this means war.
Wars are foreseeable, if not always preventable. There is a gradual escalation of tensions and provocations between the two sides until one of them can’t take it anymore. For example, the U.S. Navy was planning for a war in the Pacific with Japan in the 1920’s — long before rising tensions between American and Japanese interests led to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. All but the most optimistic observers could see these two kids were going to have to roll up their sleeves and tussle.
So it was with my cat and I. She had gradully become bolder in her attacks on the Christmas tree and other things that didn’t belong to her. She became quite comfortable ignoring me when I yelled and hissed at her, desisting in her criminal behavior only if I got up and came towards her.
On Thursday, she began her reign of terror at 5.30 in the morning, attacking anything that struck her fancy, forcing me out of bed, and causing me to constantly stop reading the paper or stop writing or stop doing whatever it was I was trying to accomplish, so I could arrest her deviltry.
At 9.30, I was so overtired and frustrated, I imposed a kitty timeout by locking her in her cat carrier for five minutes. She didn’t tire and take a nap until sometime after 10, and, by then, my productivity was ruined.
But the final straw — our personal Day which Shall Live in Infamy — was last night when I came home to find the Christmas tree toppled. There were thousands of spruce needles on the floor and the couch, and ornaments were scattered about the floor.
And so I decided it was time for no more Mr. Nice Guy. I had been trying for days to divert the cat into socially acceptable amusement such as playing with her ball. No more. We were officially at war.
I retrieved my spray bottle from the laundry room. I set the nozzle for “stream.” And then, after righting the tree, putting it back together, and giving it water, I waited.
It didn’t take long. The cat went to the tree and selected one of her favorite ornaments to bat and pull at. I opened fire.
The effect was immediate. The feline terrorist let go of the ornament and fled the scene at top speed.
I waited. After a minute or so, she returned. When she rose up on her hind legs to reach for another prize, I pasted her in the back of the head again.
This time after rocketing away, she returned not to the tree but to me. She nuzzled me and asked for affection, as if to say, “Please, kind sir, I do not enjoy being blasted in the face by a tight stream of icy water. Would you mind not doing that? I do love you, you know.”
I petted her and allowed her to cuddle. But when she went back to the tree, I hosed her again.
Now when she goes under the tree, I grab the water bottle, get down on the floor, and take aim. She eyes me warily, almost sulkily. Occasionally, she is bold enough to attempt a swat at an ornament. On those occasions, she eats a blast of water in the chest. Most of the time, though, she slinks off, looking for adventure elsewhere.
This war is not over yet. She is a young cat full of mischief. It will take more than a couple of counterattacks to repel her offensive on the house.
But I will win. I have a lot of willpower, and there is a certain sadistic satisfaction in shooting the cat when she gets out of line.
The cat adopted me last week, and she is welcome to stay. But learning to live with anyone is a difficult task. She and I have not yet reached a ceasefire.
So it is to be war between us. But this time, clever friend, the disaster will be yours.
Don Black, The Phantom of the Opera