Cats Make Strange Bedfellows

I have to sleep in a recliner because of my bad back. That means my cats only have one lap available from midnight until morning. My wife sleeps in the bed on her side which Lily and Ozzy find unacceptable. During the day, the cats choose between our two laps. If we’re sitting, we often have a cat in our lap.

Usually, I have one cat sleeping on me and sometimes it’s two. It’s not always fun, but if I try to lock them out of the bedroom they scratch at the door all night and bitterly complain in their language.

Cats are big on routines but I haven’t figured out how they divide up the time on my lap. Sometimes Lily hops on me as I’m going to sleep but Ozzy is there when I wake up to go to the bathroom. Sometimes it’s the reverse. Sometimes I fall asleep alone but wake up with a cat, or two.

It’s a unique emotion to regain consciousness to the sound of a retching cat knowing you have seconds to get an exploding feline to the floor. And nothing brings you back to consciousness quicker than an 18-pound cat doing a four-point landing just below the belt. Well, maybe when an 18-pound cat springs off of two legs while sitting just below your belt. Ozzy has some powerful hind legs.

I don’t know why my furry friends love sleeping on me at night. I’m an old man and need to pee several times a night. That means I have to wake them up and tell them they have to get off each time. You’d think that would annoy them enough to break the habit.

Getting up to drain my shrunken overactive bladder has evolved into quite a nocturnal ritual with me, Lily, and Ozzy. That ritual has been slowly refined over the last four years.

I wake up and tell the cat(s) they need to wake up and get off the lap. They step over to the table on the right side of my bed. I then pull off the blanket and put it on a chair that’s on the left side of my recliner. Then I pull the first pillow out from underneath my legs and pile it on the blanket. Then I pull out the second pillow and balance it on the first pillow. I’m careful to not let the stack fall to the floor because I hate looking for that stuff in the dark. Then I reach inside my pajama bottoms and pull out a small blue melamine plastic colander I use to protect the family jewels and set it on the table to my right. I then get up and walk five paces to the bathroom. I turn on a small light and log the time. Then I turn off the light. (You don’t want to know.) I do my business sitting down in the dark and then walk back to my recliner. I have to check to see if a cat hasn’t gone to sleep in the warm spot because if I sat on a cat it might kill it or the cat might claw the hell out of my ass in the dark and that would really wake me up. I try to never become fully awake.

Once I’m sure the seat is clear of cats I sit back down. I put my ball protector back in place, then put the first pillow under my legs, then the next, then I grab the blanket and feel all the edges until I find the short side. I throw the short side over my legs and catch the edge under my feet to hold in the warmth. Then I say out loud, “Pile on” and the cats will ignore me. Most times I immediately fall asleep and don’t feel them regaining their position. However, Ozzy always takes longer, and sometimes I feel Lily jump into his place first. So Ozzy walks around on me for a while trying to annoy Lily and tramples my crotch. This is why I’ve learned I need to ball protector.

As I said, I don’t understand their routine because it feels entirely random. However, I sometimes wonder if they haven’t set up a timetable. I should start logging that to see if I can’t detect an intelligence behind the way they take turns sleeping on me.

Usually, one cat sleeps on me at a time, and often for the whole night, no matter how many times I have to get up to pee. I wonder how they divide up the nights. Some nights it’s Ozzy other nights it’s Lilly. But every once in a while, Ozzy starts the night and Lily finishes it. Or vice versa. And then there are nights they are both determined to sleep on me.

They both want the space between my legs closest to my crotch. I think I’m going to go bowlegged sleeping with cats. If Ozzy gets the favorite spot first, Lily will sleep in the space between my legs below my knees. Ozzy won’t take that space though. First, he’ll try to sleep on top of Lily to make her mad. Sometimes this will piss her off and she’ll run away. Sometimes she digs in and just lets Ozzy bury her.

Evidently, Ozzy doesn’t find sleeping on Lily comfortable, so if he doesn’t run her off, he gets up and walks around my lap until he finds a comfortable position. This is where the plastic colander is essential. (It used to be a plastic storage bowl, but I discovered condensation in it and realized my genitals need both protection and air. Is this TMI?)

A lot can happen at night. A bird or squirrel (burglar?) outside the window will bring both cats instantly awake and sometimes their alert claws wake me. Sometimes they’ll spend thirty minutes grooming. When they are both piled on me and grooming, the different jostling patterns demand all my attention. Another annoying habit is gnawing their claws and trying to pull off a layer of claw. This creates a snapping motion and makes an irritating sound. And I’ve already mentioned the in-the-dark puking. Early in the morning, I often come awake with a cat in my face. I think smelling my face says, “Get up and feed me, you big bastard.”

I just go to bed (chair) just before midnight. Last night I got up to pee at 12:24, 12:44, 1:41, 4:44, and 6:43. And that’s a fantastic night for me. I haven’t slept for three hours in years. But there’s a chance I didn’t log a pee – that sometimes happens. I also took a pain pill, and that sometimes lets me sleep longer.

I had both cats all night last night, so for those five times, this routine was repeated:

  • wake up cats and get them off me
  • stow the blanket
  • stow pillow one
  • stow pillow two
  • stow the ball protector
  • lower the footrest
  • walk to bathroom
  • log the time
  • pee
  • return to chair
  • check for cats
  • recline
  • position pillow one
  • position pillow two
  • position the ball protector
  • find the edge of the blanket
  • recover my body so everything is warm and comfortable
  • tell the cats to “pile on”
  • fall asleep

It’s amazing how fast I can fall asleep. Sometimes I can fall asleep before the cats resettle themselves. And I dream. Boy, do I dream! Getting up so frequently in the night is a great way to interrupt dreams. I think about the dreams while I pee. I’m always impressed with the creativity of my unconscious mind. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the dreams or my thoughts the next day.


Cat v Man @ 3:55 a.m.

by James Wallace Harris, May 10, 2021

Ozzy has developed a very annoying habit. We used to feed Ozzy and Lily their wet food at 6:30 a.m. and 6.30 p.m. Then after the time change, Ozzy started wanting his morning meal at 5:30 a.m. I kept telling him to learn to tell time and pointed to the digital clock with the large readout. He just ignored that. Instead, he started scratching at the covers pulling them down urging me to get out of bed. He also paws at my head and sniffs my mouth just like the cat in this video. (I couldn’t convince Susan to get up in the middle of the night to actually film Ozzy, so this video will have to do.)

Now I have to get up frequently at night because of prostrate troubles, often 7-8 times to pee, so Ozzy knows getting up is no big deal for me. I had the Urolift surgery in April but so far it hasn’t been a miracle. My doctor tells me it might take months for my bladder to break out of its bad habits. I am slowly peeing less often but I still get up at least once an hour, and Ozzy is convinced they are good times to be fed.

He’s demanding food earlier and earlier. At first I acquiesced to 5:30 a.m., but then the little fuzzy bastard got pushy, pestering me at 4:30 a.m. I realized he wouldn’t stop until I got up and gave him what he wanted.

Ozzy and Lilly like sleeping with me. Usually they come to bed after 2 a.m. when they’ve finished their routine late night rowdy romping, in that dark house time after Susan has gone to bed. Ozzy used to sleep soundly until morning, but evidently my frequent rising has altered his sleep patterns.

I tried tossing both of them outside the bedroom and closing the door, but they’ll make a terrible racket to get back in. When I saw this video about how a cat reacts when their human leave home it made me more considerate towards how a cat feels. I stopped closing them out before I went to sleep.

But Ozzy kept pestering me to feed him, earlier and earlier. This morning it was 3:55 a.m. I’ve learned that I can close the door to the bedroom after I feed them and they don’t complain. I find them sleeping soundly in the den after I get up for real.

It really annoys me when Ozzy wakes me up. I’ve tried scolding him, and pushing him off the nightstand, but he just returns and wakes me up again. I wish I could reason with Ozzy. I keep seeing these videos of dogs talking to their humans with buttons. I wonder if cats could do that too?

If I could talk to Ozzy I wonder if I could reason with him? We didn’t know dogs could talk until we gave them buttons, so maybe cats can too, and if they can communicate, maybe they can be reasoned with.

As of now, I’ve lost the war. But we’ve reached a détente. I refuse to feed them before 3:30 a.m. I did this by just laying there no matter what even though it will set off a night of insomnia. And when it is past 3:30 a.m. I’ve learned to quickly get up, find my way to the kitchen in the dark, only turn on the small light in the washer room next to the kitchen, open a can of Fancy Feast, give them exactly one half of the can, chop it up fine, put their plate down, stick the rest of the can in a plastic container, turn off the light, and put it in the fridge, and go back to bed.

I can usually get back to sleep instantly if I stay calm and don’t get annoyed at Ozzy.


Nick (1994-2013)


Today, September 3, 2013, I had to have Nick put to sleep.  He was almost 19.  His sister, Nora, died just two years ago, also in September.  Nick was a survivor.  When he was young Nick had cancer twice, having to have operations on his back both times.  For each operation they had to shave his back and turned him into ugly cat for months.  For years now Nick had mega-colon, an enlarge heart, a heart murmur, and arthritis in his hind legs.  Today they told me he also had severe anemia and needed a blood transfusion, plus his heart had a new fast arrhythmia, and his kidney function was worse than it was just a few months ago. 

Susan and I had a hard time letting him go, but we decided it was finally time.

I hate putting animals to sleep because they can’t make this decision for themselves.  I’d like to think Nick would have thought it the right time too – for all I know, he might have been ready to go months ago, but felt obligated to stay around to be our cat because he thought it was best for Susan and I.  The doctors and staff at the Greene Animal Hospital were wonderful as usual.  Nick died very peacefully, and I only wish when my time comes I could go like that.


Nick was my all time favorite pet – although I loved all my dogs and cats.  He will be my last pet.  I couldn’t watch another grow old and die, and I’m not sure I could outlive another pet myself, and I wouldn’t want leave an animal that was attached to me that way.  Back in 2002 I went to Seattle for six weeks and I felt really bad leaving Nick – he always favored me in picking laps.  I worried about how he felt not finding me for so long.  And when I returned I could never tell if he recognized me or just found another person to like.

We got Nick and Nora back in 1994.  Yes, they were named after the famous movie detective and his wife, Nick and Nora Charles.  Nick and Nora were our second set of cats, with Yin and Yang the first.  Susan and I have been married long enough to outlive two generations of cats.  Nick was so small when we first got him, I could hold him the palm of my hand.  That was so long ago, and just yesterday.

When they were kittens, Nick and Nora loved each other, and like Yin and Yang, would play fetch with paper balls.  Susan and I would sit in our chairs and the cats would get on our footstools and wait for us the throw paper balls over their heads.  They’d leap high up into the air, snatch the balls in their paws, and sometimes even do flips before landing on their feet.  Half the time they’d even bring the paper balls back for us to throw again.  We’d always know when they wanted to play this game because you’d look on the floor beside your chair and find a pile of paper balls and a cat staring up at you.  They’d also play soccer, batting the balls around while chasing after them, scattering them all over the house.  But the cats would bring them to back us when they wanted to play fetch.

Sadly, both sets of cats got tired of these games as they got older.  And it was also sad, as they got older they became less friendly with each other.  For many years Nick would sit in my lap and Nora would sit in Susan’s.  If there were only one of us in the den watching TV they’d both pile up in a single lap that we called a double-cat.  If Nora got to a lap first she’d get pissy if Nick tried snuggle a space next to her.  At one time Nick got up to 20 pounds and Nora peaked at 16, so we’d have 36 pounds of cat on our laps.  However, as you can see, I’m no lightweight either.

Cats 010 

Even though Nick and Nora stopped playing together, they stayed together most of the day.  It was hard to tell them apart at times.  After Nora died, Nick got the pick of our laps.  He loved sleeping on us – until we bought him a heating pad for his old age.  He loved that heating pad so much, but would always still spend a portion of the day sleeping on one of us.


Many of my friends have worried that I will be lonely without Nick.  Since Susan works out of town, I’m by myself all week.  Nick has kept me company for five years now, but I’m not sure if I will be lonely.  Loving an animal seems much different from loving a person.  Loneliness for me is not having someone to talk to, and I can call Susan on the phone.  And even though I often talked to Nick, he never replied back or started a conversation.  What I love about animals, and what I will miss, is their nonhuman qualities.  We mainly communicate with animals by touch, sight, body language – and smells.  I’m not going to miss the smells, but I will miss having a creature that chooses to curl up on me.

In his old age, Nick got very set in his ways.  But then so am I.  For the last two years we lived like old bachelors, following a clockwork routine.  My life will take a new daily course without Nick.  It will take me a while to get used to it.  It took me a long time before I stopped seeing Nora after she died.  Twice this evening already I’ve thought I saw Nick.  It’s funny how we get used people and animals being in our lives, and how hard it is to not see them when they are gone.

But for now on, I will have to make furry friends with those creatures owned by my friends.  I was very attached to Nick and Nora, and I just can’t go through that again.  This might sound hard hearted, but from now on I only want to attach myself to beings that will die after me.

JWH – 9/3/13

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