Kathy Hooperman wrote a book a few years ago entitled All Cats have Asperger’s Syndrome. Now, I’ve lived with a lot of cats over my life, and for the last thirty-seven years I’ve lived with a man with Asperger’s. I’ve never agreed with Hooperman’s (playful) take on cats…until our newest one.
Pyxel came to us as an eight-week old kitten getting on for five years ago. I picked her up at our local humane society; she was the last of a litter that had come in for adoption. I was looking for an independent, well-adjusted, playful female kitten, a companion for our year-old Pye. (Pye was unplanned, a gift from someone who left her, twelve weeks old, on our doorstep in the middle of the night.) Pye came into a household with two elderly cats, and she wasn’t getting the exercise she needed, so we figured she needed a kitten.
Pyxel – she’s a tuxedo cat – settled in quite well. (Pye was terrified of her for the first month, but got over it eventually.) I don’t remember when I first began to notice the ‘Aspie’ qualities. But I have never been owned by a cat with such a need for routine. Not (mostly) around food: they have food on demand and eat when they want, and don’t even bother to tell us if the bowl is empty. And during the day – when we used not to be home – there are no routines. But between 7 p.m and 7 a.m., every single day, this is what Pyxel requires:
7:30 p.m. Humans have finished dinner. Time for treat, yes? (Dental treat, but she doesn’t know that.) Paws on table. Paws on couch. Up on footstool, stare at female human. Nothing happens until male human picks up tv remote. Now it’s really time! Treat given, eaten. Go away to sleep on the stairs.
10 p.m. Human bedtime. Run up the stairs. Jump into the electric-blanket box female human left on the bedroom floor last year (which is sooooo neat because it has a side opening and top opening). Look up expectantly. Female human scratches head. More looking up expectantly. Male human comes in and scratches head, leaves again. Jump out of the electric-blanket box and drink some water.
11 p.m. Humans are asleep. Bring a toy up the stairs and announce the gift loudly, until female human talks to you.
6-7 a.m. Humans are still asleep. Meow. No effect? Jump on windowsill and play with the blind cord so it rattles. Still no effect? Jump on dresser and knock something off.
7 a.m. Female human gets up. Run part-way down the stairs and look up expectantly. Female human throws the toy brought in the night down the stairs. Pounce on it. Wait for the female human to get downstairs. Run to the step between the living room and the sunroom. Jump to catch the toy as its thrown into the sunroom.
OK, that’s done with, now I can do what I want (play with toys, move rugs around, watch birds, chase Pye, and sleep a bit) until 7 p.m.
Every day. If we go away – and we’ve left them for over a month (with a cat-sitter daily, of course) – the routines begin immediately we’re home. I have never known a cat like this. As well, she hates being picked up, doesn’t purr, sleeps less than any cat we’ve ever had, and has just recently begun to initiate sitting on laps – but generally only if we have either an iPad or a book.
As I said, I’ve been partnered with an Aspie for thirty-seven years. I swear the diagnosis fits this cat: she’s got almost as many daily routines as he does. (Pye, on the other hand, is just a typical cat, except for her pathological need to be picked up, but she was abandoned…so maybe that makes sense. Our other abandoned cat had the same need.)
Does anyone else have a cat with this need for routine?