Each night before bed, I set my trusty Forest Alarm. Forest is my cat, a fervent feline who anticipates the hands of time.
A friend heard my stories about Forest’s behavior and methods of waking me and devised the Forest Alarm description. While most people rely on blaring music or buzzers to jolt them from sleep, I get ear nibbles from a furry muse, a lick upon my lips, or a reverse exercise in counting sheep as he hops left and right over my head. He has concocted more techniques to wake me.
All pets seem to have distinct methods of making their owners do what they desire. A friend once told me that her cat, J.R., would sit beside her head each morning and sneeze precisely on her face. Another acquaintance shared a story of a cat who batted a baseball off of its owner’s headboard, more than once, clunking him on his head.
My beloved Desdemona, a cat who died at age 16, used to lightly nibble on my fingertips until I rose. If that didn’t work, she’d pace into and out of my bedroom meowing for her morning "num-nums."
What I never expected was to be licked on the lips — or, as I joke, French kissed by a cat. In retrospect, I’ve created my furry Forest timepiece.
As he approached four months of age, Forest entered my life and I showered him with kisses -ÔÇô often placing one on the end of his pink nose. He began to expect them. When I hug him, he now shoves his nose toward my face, wanting a kiss.
When I’m sleeping and he craves his breakfast, Forest sticks his wet nose against my lips looking for a kiss. When I don’t feel his nose, he licks my lips. I joke with my mom that he tastes me and would eat me if I didn’t rise. Many times I have woken up to find him licking my forehead, cheeks and nose.
After a point, Forest started using love-bites ÔÇô- gentle nibbles by fangs to my cheeks, eyebrows, ears, and the tip of my nose. One morning I woke to a sharp poke in the top of my ear, then itching followed by swelling. Forest bit my ear so hard that I was bleeding. Oddly enough, I’m allergic to cats and dogs, and a scratch will make me swell. When I tried explaining this bite to my doctor, I received a memorable response along with antibiotics.
Like an owl, Forest studies my every move, sitting quietly beside my pillow, on my nightstand or across the room on a railing. If I blink an eyelid, he moves closer for another wake-up technique ÔÇô- anything to make me rise and stay awake.
My furry clock will dive under the covers to find my naked knees and nibble them. If one of my bare feet pokes out from under the covers, he will hold it softly between his front paws and nibble on my toes.
He also has keen eyesight for hair ties (fabric scrunchies and elastic), which he can spy in my long hair while I sleep. Often I wake to him pulling my hair with his front teeth, maneuvering a hair tie from my mane.
I used to hang my eyeglasses over ironwork on the headboard of my bed. Forest spotted the stems and repeatedly knocked my eyeglasses down, making me crawl under the bed to find them.
If Forest’s sister, Joan, is resting nearby, he will tease her ÔÇô- poke his paw at her bottom or stare at her until she growls and I get up to stop them from fighting.
Gradually, I had to hide everything on my nightstand: pens, lip balm, notepads, and books. Everything was methodically batted onto the floor. The last thing was my real alarm -ÔÇô a small digital, battery-operated clock. Each time the snooze alarm sounded, Forest watched me touch it and then sleep again. Two or three snooze rings later, Forest swatted it to the floor, causing the back to pop off and the battery to roll under the bed. By then, I had to rise.
Without fail, Forest can predict the sunrise, often implementing these animated techniques within minutes before my other alarm sounds.
It has been six years waking to his spirited purring and happy face close to mine. I can’t imagine mornings without him.
More stories about how cats help their humans: