Almost every morning, we can count on being meowed awake by our cats. They seem to do this in shifts so that only one cat is meowing at a time. They don’t really have a snooze button or a time sitting, but they seem to pause for a little bit if you meow back or fully close the door.
This is one of our cats, Neko. (Yes, I have a cat named “cat” in Japanese.) She’s usually the early morning meower. We’ve been trying to figure out why she meows. So far, we’ve determined that:
- it’s not about breakfast, since there’s plenty of food,
- it’s not about water, since she has that too,
- it’s not about being able to drink from the bathroom faucet, since she doesn’t always do that even when I offer, and
- it’s not about not having company, because she still meows me awake even if W- is up and about.
My current hypothesis is that Neko is checking if I’m still there, since she doesn’t meow W- awake if I’m already up. It seems to match experimental observations. She’s only temporarily satisfied by voice; she insists on seeing me. She doesn’t cuddle or anything, just walks downstairs with me and goes about her usual cat life.
I raised her myself (hello, 2AM and 6AM soy milk feedings!), but when I moved into the dorm for university, I saw her only on weekends. And then there was that six-month span when I was in Japan, and four years (four!) when I was in Canada. Whenever I was home, Neko took to sleeping on top of me, probably to make sure I didn’t go anywhere without her knowledge. (Then she would bite my ankles at 5 AM so that I could let her out of the room to do her business.) My mom says that even though Neko avoided her most of the time (my mom’s not a cat person), Neko would cuddle up with her whenever I left on my trips.
Leia is usually the next one to meow. She usually meows if our door is left open a crack (for circulation), but closing the door often helps. Leia just wants to be picked up and cuddled. (She usually sticks around in the bathroom, meowing, until I get the message.) Luke is the meower of last resort. I think he meows because he wants someone to play with and sometimes the other two cats won’t give him the time of day. (Luke is usually the only cat at our door when he’s the one meowing, while we often wake up to all three cats waiting if it’s Neko meowing.)
I try to avoid anthropomorphizing the cats too much, but it’s fun to speculate at what goes on in their head, especially if you can test the hypotheses. =)
Neko is about ten years old now, and the other cats are four years old. The Internet says that indoor cats tend to live between 13 and 17 years. There will come a time when our mornings are quiet. In the meantime, I can appreciate the racket; our cats and their quirks.
One of the tricks I picked up from A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy is that of negative visualization: imagining loss in order to enjoy a deeper appreciation of what you have. I practise it frequently. Not so much that I dwell on it, but enough to sharpen my enjoyment of life and be ready for the inevitable sadness. There will most likely come a quiet morning, maybe years from now, when I’ll look back at this sketch and and trace the outline of a memory. I practise imagining loss with pets, with friends, with family, with W-. Emotional exercise.
Sometimes I’m up earlier than I’d like, but the cats are worth it.