“To sleep, perchance to dream — Ay, there’s the rub.”
Hamlet (III, i, 65-68)
This is what Shakespeare said through the pensive Dane in one of The Bard’s most famous plays. I’m guessing Shakespeare may have had a cat. The “rub” he’s talking about is the very witching time of night when the cat wakes up and rubs his forehead against your face, just because he can.
With a cat, there’s little sleeping and lots of rubbing.
Our cat, Fala (named for Franklin Roosevelt’s dog), is 16 and is suffering the slings and arrows of aging. He is cranky, bossy and whiny.
Among his ailments are some digestive issues, including hairballs. We awaken unhappily from precious REM sleep and by then the nocturnal nausea is mostly over, except for a few laboring hacks. We sleep again, and the wretched retching is forgotten until morning when the bare foot encounters the warm, furry remnants on the cold, oak floor. Something, indeed, is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Fala pretends to have no knowledge of his fe-line-onious nighttime ailments.
We use an over-the-counter remedy, a sticky malt-flavored (so says the label) gel in a tube. Here are the directions: “To help eliminate hairballs, feed adult cats and rabbits a one-inch ribbon daily until symptoms disappear. Give between meals either by placing on your finger or on the front paw where it can be licked off.”
The label also notes “Satisfaction guaranteed.” (My question is “whose satisfaction? Mine? The cat? The rabbit? How did rabbits get involved in this?)
Anyone who has ever lived with a cat (note I did not say “owned” a cat) knows that cats won’t do anything you want them to do. Fala easily surmised if I approached him in a certain way, I was going to put sticky brown goo all over his paw. Though this be madness, there is method in it.
He obviously did not read the directions or the marketing commentary because he ran in the other direction.
I must be cruel, only to be kind: Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.
I’m trying to outsmart him with what is good for him. I squeeze an inch-long ribbon from the tube and put it on my right hand, and casually sit near Fala on the couch. I rest my hand near him. I unobtrusively move it closer and closer until under his nose. Fala smells the fragrant malt flavor and licks it off.
Fala thought it was his idea, so it worked several times.
Last night while attempting to seduce Fala into my little melodrama, the phone rang, and it was for me.
Do I “ungoo” and waste a batch?
Or do I sit at my desk and talk on the phone with this glob of gunk smeared all over my hand?
When I find myself in one of my self-imposed “I Love Lucy” situations, I must say, “Look at yourself, woman. You are a grown-up, and you are trying to entice a dumb animal to take his medication. Just grab him and shove it down his throat.”
Alas, anyone who has been owned by a cat knows this is easier said than done.
— Amy McVay Abbott
Amy McVay Abbott is an Indiana writer who deeply apologizes to scholars of William Shakespeare. She likes to hear from readers at her blog. She is the author of four books, including A Piece of Her Mind and The Luxury of Daydreams.