How to Deal With an Adolescent Indoor Cat
If you’ve never shared a house with a completely indoor cat, you have never experienced cathood at its extreme—feline domesticus dementia—otherwise known in laymen’s terms as cat adolescence a la maison. Under such conditions, kittens really should come with a warning.
All cats go through it, but for those who live their lives entirely confined to watching the outside world only through a pane of glass or screen, the intensity of the adolescent phase is magnified a thousand times. During peak periods, the amplitude is almost unbearable.
For this period of adolescence, a cat suffers an identity crisis and a form of insanity. It fits all the clinical descriptions—a demonstrated departure from reality, dramatic and spontaneous personality changes, a tendency to slide into a delusional state (hallucinations and the like), and a blatant disregard for social mores.
At this stage, the young feline seems to have an inability to commit to a temperament. So, she fluctuates between pompous aloofness, endearing docility, and alienating bouts of maliciousness. Though the age range varies from cat to cat, the phase begins at about three months after the switch from kitten chow to adult cat food where they have big cat bodies but the mind of a two-year old human child.
Living entirely indoors just complicates matters as it plays havoc with kitty’s internal mapping. For example, cats instinctively know they are rulers. Who are their subjects? The precious years of youth give them this information. Cats who experience the outside world soon learn their domain over the “lesser elements:” other cats, birds, rodents, dogs, and, as a matter of fact, all other living creatures. This superiority makes for a happy and self-satisfied cat.
Indoor cats, however, prey upon and attack things like uneven carpet threads, wine bottle corks, shoelaces, wads of paper, twistie-ties from garbage bags, etc. Eventually, the cat realizes her domination of the world as she has come to know it is really an aberration of nature thrust upon her.
Not recognizing the benefits of safety that her living arrangements provide, she rebels. Part of that adolescent immaturity is revealed through her on and off mission in life to drive her human companions to madness. Yet, in this endeavor, she is dutifully torn as survival requires her to stay in the good graces of those who buy the cat food. Thus one can easily see where the internal conflict originates.
Kitty is stuck in a double-bind. To be true to her nature, she must dominate. To be fed, she must subordinate herself. To dominate or subordinate? She vacillates back and forth and the indecision drives her wild. So, as if an errant paw made its way into an electric socket, she tears through the house at lightning speed, making obnoxious noises, and then dropping to rest at will. She seems to derive a great deal of satisfaction from niggling acts of destruction such as lying in wait to strike a run in the panty hose worn by the female human housemate with a single swipe of the claw, or obstructing normal household rituals, i.e. making the bed.
Through my extensive research on the matter, albeit anecdotal (my own experience and interviews with others who share their household with a completely indoor cat), I have found this phenomenon (psychosis) to be widespread. It appears to escalate during adolescence, it peaks then levels off and starts to subside at about two years old. It shows up sporadically, in diminishing small spurts throughout the entire adult life until kitty can no longer be bothered.
Unnerving as it may be, there is no remedy for the symptoms of the adolescent cat phase—spanking is unthinkable and spritzes don’t work on cats who like water (as does mine). But, if you have a cat in this maddening phase of feline life, all you can do is sit back, restrain yourself, and hope nothing gets broken—let the phase run its course.
You can always lock yourself in a room to get away from it all. However, be warned. She will soon be at the door with cries of agony and a probing paw in the door jam, wondering herself mad as to what you are doing in there and why she wasn’t invited.
Remember, you have leverage to ensure a better portion of good behavior. It’s the one thing she needs more than anything—your complete and unconditional adoration. Only realize, however, that cats, having no genetic sense of humility, will never admit to needing anything but complete sovereignty.
So maybe she has knocked dishes off the counter then darted through the house to escape punishment, dug her teeth into your important business documents, chewed your computer and telephone wires, nibbled buttons off your shirt, torn the spine off of your books, and shredded the toilet paper to bits. You must remind her of the one thing she can never get in that big wide, very wild and dangerous world outside the window—the true devotion of a human being.
Pick her up, stroke her lovingly and talk softly to her. Tickle her memory and subdue her will with that affection. Let her know how privileged you are to have her presence grace the household. That, when it comes down to it, enduring her frenzied bouts of insanity is nothing compared to the utter madness you would experience if she were not part of your life.
Then, if she hasn't wrestled herself out of your arms already, put her back down and let her get back to her business—the business of being a cat.
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