Creatures Of Habit
When I get home after work, Nutmeg comes to greet me from wherever sheâ€™s been scheming.
Less than a minute after I get in my bed at night, Dala has hopped up on the bed (if she wasnâ€™t there already). Nutmegâ€™s there within five minutes.
When I open the bathroom door after Iâ€™ve showered in the morning, both of them push their way in.
These things happen every. single. day.
My apartment has a utility room right off the kitchen. The washing machine, dryer, water heater, and airconditioning/heater unit are in there and thereâ€™s a door to the room. I decided before even moving in that the room would be perfect to house the litter box and the food and water dishes. That way if I ever needed to lock them up for a while theyâ€™d have everything they needed all in one room. Theyâ€™d still freak out about being locked up, but at least they wouldnâ€™t die.
I feed them every day at both 6:30s (or thereabout), a half-cup of food per time. This, too, has become part of their schedule, though theyâ€™re not exactly right about it. At night they start pestering me for food about an hour and a half before the actual time. In the morning, Nutmeg starts batting at me and purring as loud as she can about a half hour before itâ€™s time. When I head downstairs, they almost trip over themselves hurrying to get to the cabinet where their food is before I do. Theyâ€™ll stare at cabinet door and meow, pacing back and forth like expectant fathers. Once I get the food, they bolt for the utility room, and I can barely pour the food because their heads are in the way.
A few weeks ago I moved their food and water dishes out to the end of the counter in the kitchen, maybe eight feet away from where the dishes have been for the past year and a half. I did this for a couple of reasons:
- Most â€œcat expertsâ€ tell you the food and the litter box should be in different areas. Makes sense. I donâ€™t think I need to explain the thinking behind this one.
- Sometimes feeding time intersects with laundry time. Iâ€™ve noticed during these times that Nutmeg wonâ€™t eat. The noises scare her. And while Nutmeg could stand to not eat and Dala could stand to have more unmolested access to the food, I still feel bad that Nutmeg gets scared.
A funny thing has happened. When I get their food from the cabinet, they both still head for the utility room. I realize they have brains the size of a walnut, but itâ€™s been a couple of weeks with this new setup, and Iâ€™d have guessed they would have figured this out by now. Itâ€™s become a lab experiment of sorts, and when Dala actually did head to the end of the counter the other day, I got the same sort of thrill you might get when your team scores a touchdown. Sadly, the next day she was back to the utility room.
Itâ€™s particularly odd because to get to the food cabinet, they go right past the food dish. Youâ€™d think that theyâ€™d see it on their way and remember, â€œOh, yeah, the dish is over here now,â€ but I guess a starving cat isnâ€™t so much concerned with little details.
Theyâ€™ll eventually figure it out, I know, Iâ€™m just surprised itâ€™s taking them so long. But then it strikes me that Iâ€™m exactly the same way. Itâ€™s no surprise to anyone whoâ€™s read this blog for more than a week that Iâ€™m one for ruts â€“ I do things the way Iâ€™ve done things and thatâ€™s how it is. I get the same things at the same restaurants, I drive the same routes, I do the same things over and over. For me, thereâ€™s comfort in familiarity. For as much as I like Star Trek, Iâ€™d make a lousy space explorer. Spock would alert me to sensor readings indicating a never-before-seen lifeform on a nearby planet and Iâ€™d say, â€œYeah, butâ€¦ weâ€™re headed to that other planet and besides, the lifeformâ€™s probably dangerous and most certainly ugly. Letâ€™s skip it.â€
Some habits are good to have and keep â€“ brushing your teeth, making your bed, being nice to other people. Other habits arenâ€™t so good, and just like the origin of the phrase â€œstuck in a rut,â€ it becomes next to impossible to get the covered wagon up out of it and on to a new course.
Note those words â€œnext to.â€ Itâ€™s hard, but it can be done. About two years ago, I changed what hand I use to brush my teeth. I know, itâ€™s such a weirdly random thing to do, but I read an article that talked about different things you could do to exercise your brain and thatâ€™s the one I remembered. Iâ€™m a righty and have brushed my teeth with my right hand for however long Iâ€™ve been brushing my teeth. Switching to my left hand was hard and felt awkward and I wasnâ€™t so good at it for a long time, but it eventually became natural. In fact, these days I canâ€™t brush my teeth with my right hand. Now it feels weird and awkward.
My brainâ€™s slightly larger than a walnut (but still smaller than a watermelon), so it should be easier for me to make these habit changes, especially if the habitâ€™s destructive. If the cats never figure out the food dish thing, the only problem they have is two extra seconds of walking when they hear or see me pour the food in the bowl. My bad habits could cause infinitely more damage, so whyâ€™s it so hard to change them?
I think tomorrow Iâ€™m going to start re-training myself to brush my teeth with my right hand.