I had friends in college — a boyfriend/girlfriend couple — who had a pet cat.
The two of them went on a trip one weekend, and asked if I would be kind enough to watch their cat, Tigger, for the weekend.
Drop him off Friday, come get him Sunday.
That seemed simple enough, I thought. Cats don’t even do anything. They don’t even need to be walked.
All I had to deal with was Tigger’s litter box. We placed that in the bathroom, next to the toilet.
The first day, watching Tigger was just as easy as I’d predicted.
Tigger didn’t bark, or need to be let outside, or try to steal food off of my plate. Watching him was easy.
Then came the night.
As soon as I turned off the lights to sleep, Tigger got active.
The efficiency I stayed in at that time had bunk beds, but I had the place to myself. I slept on the top bunk.
I had been lying down for three minutes when Tigger jumped from the floor to land on my chest.
It was an impressive 65-inch vertical leap.
I don’t know what Tigger wanted. He couldn’t talk. I would have been OK with him lying down and sleeping next to me, but he didn’t. He kept moving around on the bed. And he didn’t get down.
I gently picked Tigger up and tossed him to the floor below. He landed softly, and I attempted to go back to sleep.
Tigger landed on top of me again. This time he walked on my face.
Obviously, this cat wasn’t going to leave me alone. The couple who’d left the cat with me didn’t say anything about these nocturnal habits.
I had a set of 35-pound dumbbells that I kept in the living room area. Tigger’s owners had left me a cat leash that attached to his collar “in case I needed it.”
I needed it now.
I tied Tigger’s leash to the dumbbells, and climbed back to the top bunk.
Tigger easily got out of that one, and was back on the bunk with me mere minutes later.
I tied him to the dumbbells again. Tighter this time.
He got out again.
There was only one option left, and an unbeatable one.
I put Tigger in the bathroom. Closed the door. I was nice enough to leave the bathroom light on for him.
There was no getting out of that one.
Tigger recognized this himself. And he made quite a ruckus about it.
I would see the cat’s shadow as he leapt and leapt and yowled about his predicament.
Cats can jump HIGH. He was touching the damn ceiling!
But there was no way out for him.
After about 4 minutes of fussing, Tigger accepted his fate and got quiet. He didn’t make any more noise for the rest of the night. And in the morning, he calmly strolled out of the bathroom to resume living his life.
After giving him a second chance the second night, a chance that he promptly violated by jumping on me in bed again, Tigger spent a second night in the bathroom.
The same protest occurred.
Tigger’s owners came back Sunday. They informed me that the cat’s litter box was supposed to be emptied each day.
They hadn’t told me that.
I told them how Tigger had jumped up on the bed incessantly at night; they said he didn’t do that with them.
I never mentioned the bathroom thing.
When circumstances change on them, humans are just like Tigger: getting emotional and reactionary, yowling and leaping and making as much noise as they can about the situation.
Ignore the noise for long enough, and they’d simply shut the fuck up and accept it.
Problem is, most of us can’t sit calmly through the noise.
We respond by appeasing the noise makers with attention, changing things back to how they were — anything to calm the situation.
The key to handling people’s emotional reactions and outbursts, is to not handle them at all.The key to handling people’s emotional reactions and outbursts, is to not handle them at all. Click To Tweet
Let them shout and protest and carry on. That’s what humans do when their equilibrium is disturbed. It’s like letting the air out of a balloon. Eventually it’s just a piece of stretched rubber laying on the floor.
In due time, they’ll realize that nothing’s changing. And then you can sleep soundly.
When and where have you used too much energy responding to responses — when you could’ve just let the noise pass? Reply and let me know — I read all responses.
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