on a lighter note...

I don't want to turn into one of those crazy cat ladies that devote post after post to their cats, but if for nothing other than documentation, I thought I'd share with this blog and its readers the latest in a four-year-long battle between us, our cats, and their food.

It's been so long and taken so many turns that I'm honestly not totally certain how it all started, but about four and a half years ago our two cats were on separate diets, fed just twice a day. Xander began to meow incessantly for food, sometimes as early as 2 or 3 in the morning, so we shut them out of our room at night. Sophie, the partner of this dynamic duo of feline neurosis, hates being confined or barred from any space, even the built-in cabinets in the hallway, opening them at random from time to time to simply peek in and walk away. So that when we closed the bedroom door on them, even if we couldn't hear Xander's meowing, we'd definitely wake up to Sophie's scratching.

Eventually, this led to a routine of one of us waking up around 5:30 every morning to feed them. The last year or two we lived in Oakland, during the week at least, I'd get up at 5:30 and stay up, sometimes going for an early morning walk that would end with a scone run at the Arizmendi Bakery on Lakeshore Ave. I convinced myself I was a morning person and actually felt better on just seven hours of sleep.

When we moved to Boston, we felt lucky to have found an apartment with the option of confining the cats to a portion of the apartment at least one room away from our bedroom door. This worked pretty well for awhile and I discovered that I don't, in fact, naturally wake up before dawn. The only problem occured when guests would visit and stay overnight, since the door to the area that would become their bedroom each night was right next to the guest room. Sometimes we'd make guests suffer; other times we'd relinquish our bed for the futon and deal with it ourselves.

But lately, in addition to this occasional dilemma, Xander has started to meow for food every few hours. In response to the afternoon meowing, which would usually start two to three hours before their typical evening feeding, we started to give them a "snack" of dry food. After a few weeks all this had done for us was to bump Xander's meowing up a few more hours, starting as early as noon some days, five or six hours before dinner. All this meowing was driving me crazy, especially with several weeks at home at the beginning of summer, as I searched for a summer job and tried in vain to work on my thesis, having moved out of my studio in May.

I shared notes with other cat owners and we eventually decided to try an automatic feeder to dispense dry food once or twice a day, hoping the feeder-bot would dissociate us from the food. We even tried letting them sleep with us again, realizing the confinement was probably adding to their neuroses, setting the feeder to dispense a little night-time snack around 3 a.m. Xander seemed to do a little better with his newfound freedom but still began meowing for food right around the time sunlight poured into our kitchen and bedroom windows, which, in the summer months at least, can be as early as 5 a.m. On top of all this, with the feeder just around the corner from our now open bedroom door, we quickly learned that a quarter-cup of dry food pouring out into a plastic bowl is wicked loud at 3 o'clock in the morning.

While we decided what our next move would be, the cats returned to their nightly confinement, allowing me at least a week or so to catch up on sleep. We put the automatic feeder in the living room with them, dispensing food three times throughout the day and night. But when I was home, I noticed Sophie would bully Xander away from the food, meaning our hungry cat was actually eating less and meowing more.

To distract them from food, I tried to deal with the problem in a few different ways as well, purchasing a Feliway plug-in for an outlet near their food, and putting on the "Video Catnip" DVD in the afternoon. The Feliway - which is supposed to emit "friendly facial pheromones" to ease a cat's daily stress - doesn't seem to do much of anything to calm my crazy cats, but they are downright captivated by that video catnip!

For awhile, I felt committed to the $50 feeder. But a week or so ago, I decided to try one final thing, certainly not the healthiest option, but it just might be the sanest. I got one of those non-automated feeders that provides a never-ending flow of kibble. I put it out for the first time last Friday morning and watched Xander, in particular, gorge himself. He'd just had breakfast a few hours earlier, but he must've eaten for a solid twenty minutes or so. And then proceeded to drink all the water and lay on his back for the rest of the day.

One week later, I think he's gained easily 20% of his body weight, but he's quiet and peaceful and I think finally slowing down a bit on the amount of dry food he's taking in. If nothing else, we can take pictures of him for one of those fat cat calendars.

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