The silent pressure of cats

Duncan, Katy and Marlo

Duncan, Katy and Marlo

Domestic house cats are like often water, opting for slow and silent pressure rather than overt fire and brimstone approach of other pets when food time is approaching (and possibly forgotten by the two-leggeds in the house).

Our three house cats noticeably become more friendly as regular mealtimes approach. They lean against our legs when we walk through the house. They make little murping noises and rub against doorjambs and table legs in our presence.

But mostly, I can tell how close it is to their next meal by how close they are to my desk. When mealtime is 45 minutes away, they’re in the hallways. When it’s 20 minutes away, they’re outside my den door–or just inside it. When mealtime is imminent (or late) they’re right next to my desk. Sometimes I say, “Why are y’all going around in a pack” and they look at me with a variety of expressions of pity and disdain–their way of saying, “the old duffer doesn’t know how to tell time any more” and “Sure, when he wants something to eat, he just goes out to the refrigerator and gets it, but we have to wait because the Creator screwed up and didn’t give us the thumbs we need to open stuff.”

If cats could speak English, I’m sure they’d say, “Raccoons got thumbs and we didn’t. What kind of sense does that make?”

My answer would be, “They wash their food and you don’t. You don’t need thumbs.”

“If we had thumbs, we’d wash our food.”

Far be it from me to question why cats don’t have thumbs. If they did, food time for them would probably be 24/7 because (unlike what some cat books say), cats do overeat if the food is available.

But since it isn’t, I can set my watch by how close they are to my desk. Since they just got fed 25 minutes ago, they’re nowhere to be seen. Once they have their food, they have no use for me any more until 11 p.m. approaches. Then, I’m suddenly their best friend, the best thing since slice bread, or even a minor god (though not a smart god due to their lack of thumbs).

The cats who–as we know–move around on little cat feet like fog know how to use silence to exert pressure. Like the water that slowly erodes rock over time, they erode my concentration over time. I could be in the middle of writing the last line of the great American novel. But I can’t, because I can’t come up with the right words due to the sound of silence all around my desk.


LandBetweenCoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, paranormal short stories, and the three folktales about animals in “The Land Between the Rivers.”

20 thoughts on “The silent pressure of cats

  1. Oh, Malcolm. You’ve got it, for sure. My cat does the same thing, and add to it, immediately after I feed her in the morning, in the kitchen, she waits not so patiently for me to go into my bathroom and turn on the water tap, so she can lap “running water” to her heart’s content. She watches me for the cues that mean, yes, this Person is/is not obeying me. And if I don’t head in that direction immediately, she nags me. Once she races ahead of me to the bathroom, she cries to be lifted up. She’s getting old and arthritic, like her Person, so I lift her up and turn on the faucet. She laps greedily, as if she had no water in her water bowl, ‘The tap has to be turned to just the right amount of flowing water; too much and she reminds me that her paws are getting wet. I tell her sometimes she just might have to get her paws wet; I’m busy.
    They run our households, don’t they?

      • Except my cat disappears when I have house guests. She doesn’t like other people in her house. Not even to get water out of the faucet. Oh, I forgot. She will tolerate my 93 year old mother when she visits. But nobody else.
        Actually two years ago at Christmas time, Cleo got up in my mother’s lap. We were amazed. About 10 minutes later, Mom complained of her left arm going numb and her chest hurt. We called 911. She had a heart attack. Was in the hospital for Christmas Day. The cat knew before anyone else.
        The next year, Mom said, “I’ll come if you’ll keep the cat away from me.” I declared my house a heart-attack free zone and the cat cooperated.

        • One our cats hides (for a while) when guests appear; the other two jump up on the chairs next to the guests and scare them–if they’re not cat people. Interesting how your cat knew your mom was ill before she did.


    • Marilyn, a cat we had years ago got into the habit of drinking out of the faucet at the bathroom sink. He thought that water was much better than what was in the bowl. He would wait there for us to come by and turn the water on and off for him. Since then, we haven’t shown any other cats this personal little water fountain.


  2. I must have weird cats. They attach themselves to me at all hours, meal time or no. And heaven help the cat who has claimed my lap if Tufa decides she wants it!

  3. Just like in my household, consider yourself fortunate that the cats have allowed you to reside there, lol. Mine get fed twice a day and the one fortunate thing I’ve trained them to do, whenever we try to sleep in, one of the cats knows to wake my husband to be fed and not me.

  4. That’s adorable! Our older guy does the classic wind-around-your-legs trick but the younger guy is a lot more straightforward. He comes and sits next to my chair at the table and says “Now! N – o – o -w!” He also does this in the mornings if I don’t get up as soon as the alarm goes off, but that’s not for food, it’s for water (he likes to drink from the faucet and be petted at the same time). ❀

      • It was our older cat who learned the trick, while we were brushing our teeth – and he went and taught the younger guy! Now he doesn’t do it anymore but the younger guy wants it every day. Even if we come back from a three week vacation, he still remembers (and, in between, sometimes pesters those dropping in to look after him)…

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