Richard RiouxPauline HartePatti RasmussenTim WhyteLeon Worden

A harrowing night of felines and fur

Pauline Harte · October 7, 1997

About 1:30 a.m. last night, I admitted defeat and gave my three cats and Star, my dog, my side of the bed. For hours I had clung desperately and stubbornly to the narrow sliver of space that is generally, begrudgingly allotted me by my bed-hogging menagerie. And usually I sleep just fine with a snoring cat clamped tightly around my head while a couple of my extremities dangle off the side of the bed. I'm used to this. The "pack mentality" always knows exactly who belongs at the bottom of their little family tree.

But last night it was hot and humid and stuffy, and I suddenly, inexplicably, became possessed with an uncontrollable desire to remove the cat fur from my facial orifices before I smothered to death in my sleep.

So I did the unthinkable. I gently peeled Daisy off of my face and set her down next to me, a selfish and unthinking act on my part, I will admit.

This, of course, upset the entire ecological balance of the sleeping arrangements. Star, a 75-pound moose of a dog who thinks she is a 5-pound poodle, was sleeping comfortably across my legs. Unlike me, my legs had fallen asleep hours before. But if one animal shifts on the bed, a chain reaction is set into motion, and the bed becomes a living, writhing mass of fur and claws.

Stray Kitty (yes, that's her real name) was hissing her displeasure from the distant netherworld at the foot of the bed. That signaled Star to quickly hurl herself to safety across the top of my husband. Star is well-acquainted with the terrifying tantrums that always accompany the angry hisses of a displeased cat.

Hissing and spitting, Fluffles flew across the top of this unruly melee and crashed loudly into the dresser.

Now, Fluffles is a demented, surly feline that was spewed up straight from the bowels of hell eleven years ago and sent to us disguised as the cutest, fluffiest little kitten you could ever hope to see. When Fluffles gets upset, someone always pays. Due to the wonders of her magical digestive tract and with the haughty pride of an ancient craftsman, Fluffles hacked a furball across the room at Star who, by now, was twirling insanely in the middle of the bed. Star knew that an enraged Fluffles would soon follow that speeding furball.

Now that Star was off my legs, they had come fully awake and were screaming their displeasure at having been cramped and crushed for such a long time. The excruciating pain from a million piercing needles completely immobilized me and gave Daisy a chance to once again attach herself to my head. One of her legs was threatening to enter my brain cavity via my nasal passages. I had come full circle, right back to square one.

No, this definitely wasn't working for me tonight. I trudged downstairs to the quiet solitude of the family room couch. Since only two of the three cats follow me whenever I lose the battle for bed space, Star always stays upstairs with Daisy, who never gives up her now-spacious side of the bed. Star has learned that Daisy is the "nice kitty," Stray Kitty is a craps shoot, and Fluffles is the snarling Beast of the Undead. Sometimes, splitting up this armed and dangerous feline mob works out for the rest of us. We all have a little more room, a little more peace and quiet. It's not a perfect answer, just a workable one. And I usually drift off dreaming about a bed surrounded by an electric fence with a canopy of razor wire. MMMM!

Occasionally, a cat will venture into one of my daughters' rooms, but the rubble and chaos indigenous to these areas of the house don't seem to appeal to the finicky nature of these discerning felines, and they always beat a hasty retreat back to us. Besides, what's the point of ejecting a furball if it won't even be noticed?

I've come to the conclusion that we are either the most patient people on the face of this earth or the dumbest. I guess it takes a little bit of each to live in harmony with this beastly brood. All I know is that when I am away from them, I can't sleep at all. Unobstructed breathing and uninterrupted sleep is just not natural.

But it's a well-known fact that constant sleep deprivation can turn even the most patient animal lover into a raging, murderous psychopath.

One more 2 a.m. furball, Fluffles, and it's curtains. And I'm not talking about the ones you climb!

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