In search of ponies: Schedules help avert cat-astrophe

Waking to teeth on my nose was not a pleasant feeling.

In all honesty, it was downright disturbing.

To add insult to injury, the little black furry face – I could only see in segments because of the macro view I had between my eye and the end of my nose – shifted and found my finger on top of the blankets then bit again.

It wasn’t enough to break the skin, but the serious urgency of the message was undeniable.

Shoving the cat away with some choice words, I made it to my feet and in my sleepy haze began the bewildered route to the coffee pot in search of a caffeine infusion that might bring answers.

The route became treacherous, like running a gauntlet as the determined cat zigged and zagged in front of me.

“What is it?” I mumbled. “Oh no, Boy! Did Timmy fall down the well again?” I mumbled sarcastically as I rebelliously stayed the course and managed to get to the coffee pot without breaking my neck.

Only after I downed a cup, did I concede and pour the dry, fishy morsels into the bowl, glaring at the feline who watched with satisfaction.

It was the dawn of a new day at my house and led to me embracing something I had never had much time for previously.

Schedules…

I’ll admit, I’m not a fan.

It’s not that I don’t like the concept, it’s just they feel somewhat confining. After all, they dictate the allocation of time and time is that precious little commodity we posses that’s second only to air.

However with great reluctance, I understand the value of a schedule.

I can thank my cats for that – not that I did, mind you.

I had always secretly believed there was a fine line between love and dinner when it came to my house pets, and never doubted for a second that those adoring eyes that greeted me from the recliner sometimes envisioned a snack as opposed to a pal.

On some small level it was confirmed for me that morning, though I’ll admit he did display remarkable restraint.

Nonetheless, I didn’t want to revisit it. It just simply wouldn’t do for him to think he could munch on a finger in the absence of a full bowl of kibble.

And the schedule was born.

Every night before bed the bowl was filled, and by morning, rather than being greeted by frenzied, panicked and homicidal cats, the most acknowledgment I received was a satisfied half-purr from a drowsy window sitter.

I recently had a conversation with my mother about animals and schedules as she pondered why they respond so well to them – it’s the great attitude adjuster as she had discovered with her own cat.

Of course I have a theory.

We have domesticated these critters and in so doing, have rendered them completely powerless over their environment.

The one thing that gives them a sense of control is the schedule… knowing what to expect.

Without those kernels of unchanging predictability, they live in uncertainty that they cannot correct.

In the wild if a circumstance is unfavorable – for instance an animal is hungry and there is no food source nearby – they can redirect circumstance by moving somewhere else and they know that with an investment and greater effort, they can find reward. The ability to self-direct quells fear.

However, in our homes they have no such option – unless of course you’ve left food on the counter, but that’s a separate issue.

In the absence of opportunity to resolve issues such as hunger by themselves and with no routine to tell them when they will next eat, they become, for lack of a better word, animals. And not only are they animals, but animals full of panic and desperation.

It appears that as confining as a schedule may be, it isn’t nearly as confining as a lack of control over one’s destiny, fulfillment and reward… For animals, that is.