Last year, we took a week-long working vacation with plans to sleep in and enjoy life around the cabin while working on needed projects. Our previous vacations had resulted in sleepless nights at home because our alpha male cat, Sam, refused to let us sleep for several days after we returned. Last year we invited Sam to stay with us so we could sleep well.
Sam would not call it an invitation. He considered it an affront to his dignity and his calling to rule the home. We were optimistic that time would change his attitude. After all, he liked being with us and did not like us leaving, so he would be happy to be with us. That is what we thought. But Sam had other ideas. He relentlessly voiced his opposition to the plan from the time we left to the time we arrived and after about 20 miles, to punctuate his message, he emitted a malodorous stench which filled the car and almost made us gag. We were tempted to turn back, but determined to soldier on still clinging to the hope of restful sleep. On that hot, humid summer’s day, we slid down the windows and popped open the sunroof. The odor subsided but never left and every stoplight made it worse. When we were about fifteen minutes from our destination, Sam managed to open the door of his hard plastic carrier with metal bars. I reached back and blocked him into the back seat area. He crouched behind my seat and continued crying.
We couldn’t wait to get him through the cabin door and finally enjoy some needed peace. But peace was not for us. Sam huddled next to the toilet and refused to move for food, water, anything. By the end of the day, we decided to move him and carried him to our bed where he liked to be at home. But he cared nothing for our intentions and he moved to the back of the bedroom closet. We were worried about how me might exhibit his displeasure so we put the litter box and food in our bathroom, next to the closet entrance.
Sam is a fastidious cat. During the night he dug and dug and dug in the litter, scraping and scratching, waking us. We tried to coax him to bed, to sleep, but he would not comply. By morning, we were exhausted but we hauled ourselves out of bed to start our day. Now Sam was ready to sleep. He spent the next few days in the back of the closet and the next few nights digging in the litter, keeping us awake.
We had come on vacation to sleep and Sam’s distress clearly was worse than coming home to a disappointed Sam after vacation. Finally, we decided that the only help for us, other than cutting our vacation short, was to keep Sam up all day so he would sleep at night.
Sam is not a normal young cat. He does not play. He watches. So our time was spent observing Sam and waking him from his daytime naps. When we successfully got him to open his eyes, we would lift him to his feet and make him walk. We did all this in between painting and electrical work and all the other things we had scheduled to do. One of us was stationed on Sam alert at all times. We threw balls back and forth for his amusement (and to keep him awake) and wiggled a packing strap to keep him occupied. And finally, by the end of the week, Sam almost slept through the night with only a couple of digging sessions. We had planned to put him on a diet during vacation (Sam is one fat cat), but the Sam plan turned into “let’s do whatever it takes to keep him happy and awake.”
We survived that week, completed most of our projects, and almost caught some good sleep by the end. The ride back home was the same as the trip down, without the odor. We arrived home and let Sam out of the carrier. He walked out growling. We tried to pet him and he growled some more. And that was his story for the next couple of days. He was very pleasant toward the dog and the other cats, but he growled at us. He kindly allowed us to sleep through the night at home, so we were able to capture some of the sleep we missed during vacation. But we learned our lesson. Sam is king and you do not remove a king from his kingdom without consequences. Sam will never again be invited to vacation with us. A few sleepless days at home is a small price to pay for a full week of sleep.