It’s 5 am and you’re awake. Cranky bad-tempered awake. The kind of awake that has been forced on you because your pet decides it wants to eat, exercise or go to the toilet.
How do you react to this unwanted early morning awakening?
(a) leap out of bed and do exactly as your pet asks?
(b) force your partner to leap out of bed …and do exactly as your pet asks?
(c) bury your head under a pillow and refuse to budge a muscle?
(d) lock your pet in the laundry overnight so it has no chance of waking you in the first place?
Your reaction gives some insight into who is top dog in your house: you or your pet?
Here are a few signs that may reinforce the possibility that you are not in charge. That perhaps your pet has you wrapped around their little paw.
1. Your pet likes to wake you up
When my lovable fluffball cat wakes me in the early hours because her cat bowl is empty, my reaction usually moves through these phases:
Phase 1 – cursing expletives inside my head (I’m too half asleep to speak) for forgetting to put enough food in the cat bowl the night before.
Phase 2 – politely nudging cat off bed each time she headbutts me to get up.
Phase 3 – violently kicking cat off bed each time she headbutts me to get up.
Phase 4 – sadly realising that cat is not getting message. That cat can simply jump back up on bed each time I push her off. That unless bed is higher than cat jumping height – over 1.5 metres – there is no chance to evade cat.
What I do next depends on just how tired and annoyed I’m feeling.
Some days I dutifully get up and put more food in the cat bowl. On those days, I know that I’m a sucker – the cat’s the boss, I’m a mere player. She’ll be doing rounds of the neighbourhood, meowing to pals about the owner she twists around her finger.
On other days, I push my husband out of bed to feed the cat. Then I take a deep breath and know I’m not a sucker, I’m in charge. Back to sleep I go.
If it was my husband’s job to fill the cat bowl the night before and he forgot, then I skip phase 1, 2 & 3 and go straight to pushing him out of bed.
2. Your pet likes to hog your bed
Does your pet understand the importance of sharing equal bed space? Or do they simply take as much space on your bed as they wish and leave you with what’s left?
I know it’s winter in my house when the cat is no longer content with lying at the end of my bed. She must now lie under my doona, preferably squashed right up next to a living, breathing human being.
While there’s enough bed space to happily accommodate two humans and a curled-up cat, our cat decides it wants more than its share.
Under doona, winter cat no longer needs to curl up to keep warm. She can become stretchy, twitchy cat. She can spread her body as wide as possible and splay her legs. In other words, she can take up the equivalent of a person’s share of the bed. The humans have what’s left.
Doesn’t take much to work out who’s in charge there.
3. Your pet has finicky food habits
Maybe your pet will only eat a certain (premium) brand of food, from a certain bowl, at certain times of the day, when presented in a certain way?
According to the Roy Morgan research poll “Fussy Felines and Picky Pooches”, 52.1% of cat-owners and 23.4% of dog-owners believe their pet is a fussy eater.
So, are our pets born fussy or have their owners allowed them to develop finicky mealtime habits?
The consensus of pet expert sites like Purina is that fussy eaters are made, not born. I know this is true for my cat because when I stopped pandering to her, she eventually quit her fussy ways.
My cat used to refuse to eat unless her bowl was full to the brim with food. The dry food had to be stacked like a pyramid, the pointier at the top the better. She must have like the symmetry.
If the bowl was half full and flat, she refused to eat it.
Yes, I did try leaving the food in the bowl to see how long it would take before she gave up and ate it. It simply earned me nips on the toes and sleepless nights while she relentlessly demanded full bowls of food.
In the end, it was a trip to the vet that did the trick. It appears my cat was overweight, unhealthily so. The vet said to change her eating habits pronto.
With this incentive, I took charge. I borrowed some tips from Weight Watchers to educate her about the joys of flat lines. That food did not have to be stacked high to taste good. That a little bit can be as good as a lot.
Eventually she got it. I chalked up a victory. I’m now king of the food bowl.
4. Your pet knows how to get on your good side.
Your pet has chewed up your shoe, or scratched your lounge or done a whoopsie where they shouldn’t. You know you should be mad, but one look at their adorable little face and your heart melts. Sound familiar?
My cat has the unfortunate habit of vomiting up hairballs on the new carpet. It’s the kind of crime that would see the kids banished to the dog house for, yet the cat gets away with it. She leaps up to my lap for a cuddle and all is forgiven. Just like that.
5. Your pet gets more cuddles than your partner
When your pet wants a cuddle, there’s no mixed messages. They simply jump on your lap and don’t move – no matter whether you were planning to stay put or not. If you attempt to stop rubbing their belly or tickling their chin, you’ll get a headbutt or side-eye. So, you keep going.
I’m not getting myself into trouble on this blog by admitting that I cuddle my cat more than my husband. Let’s just say it has been implied.
If the boss of the house wants a cuddle, who am I to say no.
6. You are a sucker for cute cat videos
Videos of cats have overtaken selfies as the online content we love to post the most. Search YouTube for cat videos and you’ll find over 85 million, which is four times more than you’ll find for public figures like Donald Trump.
Does it follow that if you love watching cat videos, you are going to let your pet be the boss? Absolutely. If you go weak at the knees watching cute cats do adorable things, you have little chance of asserting your authority in a cute pet household.
Let me know what your pet does that makes you think it’s boss of the house.