This is Ike. And no, he didn’t go to Harvard.
Ike has always been two things: a loving companion and a total pain in the ass. Luckily for me, now that I am home all the time watching my daughter I get to experience both halves of this ever-present companion of mine.
Including his jealousy toward Audrey.
Ike expresses his feelings in a variety of frustrating and disgusting manners. When he feels Monty—our other, wonderful, perfect-in-every-way cat—is getting too much attention, he throws up in Monty’s food dish. Or in his favorite sleeping location. Should he feel that the cat box is not to his satisfaction, he poops on the floor instead. And when we won’t let him sleep on our bed at night he…
Well, he keeps me up all night.
You see, when Ike sleeps with you, he sleeps on your head. Not by your feet, or on the comforter. No, he sleeps on your head. Or sometimes on your chest, staring at you in the dark from six inches away like some creepy cat of the corn. It’s disconcerting and certainly no way to get any rest. So, my wife and I made the decision that Ike couldn’t sleep in the bedroom anymore. This, unfortunately, did not sit well with the cat, who then proceeded to launch a campaign of terror against us that has not let up in years.
What he does to terrorize us—or, well, me—is scratch at the door. Might not sound like much, I know, but let me explain it step by step:
- It begins when you hear the scratching at around 2 in the morning. Scratch scratch scratch. A few seconds of peace then more scratch scratch scratch.
- It’s now that you think to yourself, He can’t do this forever. Just be quiet and let him scratch. Eventually he will stop.
- Three minutes go by. Scratch scratch scratch. You’re much more awake now. Anger starts to set in. Why won’t he stop? Can’t he just stop? Why the hell won’t he stop?!?
- Three more minutes go by. Scratch scratch scratch. It’s here that you silently curse your partner for sleeping through this racket and throw the covers off in a rage.
- You open the door and see a flash of grey and white fur vanish into the dark recesses of the house. You curse, stand there for a moment, and then find something to barricade the door.
- You go back to bed.
- You start to drift off. It’s then, at that precise moment… Scratch scratch scratch. Curse words.
- This time you race to the door, throw it open, and dive for the cat who manages to elude you once again. You chase him out into the house and lose him, never having had a chance in the first place. You find yourself standing around, mad at a cat in the middle of the night in your boxers. You go back to the door, barricade it a little bit better this time—laundry hampers, boots and shoes, etc.—and go back to bed.
- You lie down in bed, start to drift off again, and then feel a cat jumping up onto the bed and walking toward your face. You realize with a sudden coldness that you left the door open and unattended when you ran out into the house. More cursing.
Variations on the above have occurred on a near nightly basis in our house for years. It got to the point where we bought a motion-sensing canister that shot out a blast of air whenever something crossed its path. That worked for about three days before Ike figured out a workaround. We then got a “Scat Mat”. This is a plastic mat that releases a small static charge when something stands on it. We placed that in front of our door. It was a bit more successful than the canister, however it didn’t take long for Ike to discover that he could run quickly over the mat and not get shocked. This allowed him to get to the door’s threshold and go to town, yet again. Scratch scratch scratch. Curse curse curse.
I’m sad to say the problem with the door persists to this day and is a perfect example for what I am dealing with here. Ike is a Terminator; a modern-day feline T-100 who will never rest and never surrender. It’s this never-say-die attitude that coined the term Constant Vigilance in our house, for that is the only way to defeat Ike. You must be constantly vigilant. On your guard at all times. Never resting. Never losing focus. Or else you will fail.
And this is where Audrey comes in.
Ike isn’t terribly happy with all the attention Audrey gets. This results in his butting-in on all her activities, including sneaking into her room and sleeping in her crib. Just two nights ago I heard Audrey crying from her room about thirty minutes after I put her to bed. Lo and behold, upon entering the room I discovered our furry friend Ike not only sleeping in her crib with her, but pressed up against her face. He wasn’t smothering her or sucking the air from her lungs—I’ve heard the old wive’s tales—but he was upsetting her and I had to toss him out of there. He got in her room because he snuck in there and hid while we were getting her ready for bed. In other words, he had his plan and he put it into action long before we were aware of it.
Simply put, we weren’t constantly vigilant, and this was the result.
Now that I am home all the time, Ike is always jumping into Audrey’s crib to nap, including when she’s awake and playing with her toys. I could combat this by closing the door to her room, but that deprives her of the many toys and books in there. This results in me constantly kicking Ike out of her crib and room. I swear I do this ten times a day and it’s really starting to get on my nerves. The fur he leaves in her crib forces me to do more laundry. It also gets on her clothes and binkies, resulting in her pulling “yuckies” (a.k.a. fur) out of her mouth.
It has also resulted in Audrey’s mostly negative attitude toward Ike.
I’ve spent so much time correcting Ike’s behavior that it has rubbed off on her. Quite frequently she can be heard saying, “No Ike!”, “Down Ike!”, and “Out Ike!” Obviously she has heard me say the same so many times that she’s simply following suit. Sometimes she does hug and pet him, but mostly she’s yelling at him and for that I feel terrible.
So what to do? I don’t know. I feel stuck between a stubborn and relentless animal that seems determined to shorten my life and a daughter who needs to learn to be nice and kind to animals. People too. Thankfully there is Monty, who doesn’t behave in such a way and is the recipient of many acts of kindness from Audrey, even if he would prefer to be left alone. But still, the problem with Ike persists and it’s only gotten worse since Audrey and I have started spending more time in the house with him. I wish I could simply kick him out of her crib and he would listen, but he won’t. I’m convinced he never will. He is what he is and that will never change. So I’m left with either leaving the door open and kicking him out repeatedly, or closing it and dealing with my daughter’s resulting frustration.
As with most things, the solution is likely found in the middle. I will have to do my best to keep Ike out of the crib without shutting Audrey out too. I will also likely have to continue living with this situation for years to come. Hopefully some day soon I will have a job yet again, and at that time Audrey can return to daycare and we can keep the door to her room shut all day long. But until then, this is just one of the many little changes in life that result from being a stay at home father.
The burden is mine to bear.