The 5 Stages of Bargaining With My Cat


We humans like to fancy ourselves as being in charge of our homes and everything within them, but as anyone who lives with a cat can attest to, our word isn’t exactly law when we’re up against the whims of a whiskered housemate. Take for example my beloved Ghost Cat — sure, on paper I’m technically the boss of her, but in practice she has absolutely no respect for my authority. When I tell Ghost Cat she can’t have whatever it is she’s obsessing over, the negotiations begin. My first “no” is far from the final step in stopping her — it’s just the lead-up to the five stages of bargaining with my stubborn Ghost Cat.

Stage 1: Attempt to deter

One recent object of Ghost Cat’s obsession is my infant son’s bassinet. In fact, our battle over the bassinet is older than my kid. I bought the thing into my bedroom a few weeks before the baby was due so that my pets could get used to it and learn that it was off-limits. My dogs and my younger kitty, Specter, gave the bassinet a sniff and moved on, but stubborn Ghost Cat was determined to make that bed her own no matter how many times I lifted her out of it. After several nights of drifting fitfully in and out of sleep, waking each time Ghost Cat’s paws crackled across the noisy plastic surface of the waterproof infant mattress, I decided to bring in the reinforcements: It was tinfoil time.

ghost cat tin foil
Victory was mine … or so I thought.

I placed a large sheet of tinfoil in the bassinet, and Ghost Cat’s first reaction to it was just negative enough to give me false hope. She jumped into the bassinet, placed one paw on the tinfoil, and jumped out again. She spent the rest of the morning sitting on my bed, looking at the bassinet but not attempting to occupy it. I thought I’d won.

My hopes were dashed when I woke up in the middle of the night to find Ghost Cat sleeping in the bassinet — all curled up on top of the tin foil.

Stage 2: Performative pouting

Because she just couldn’t keep out of the bassinet, Ghosty was temporarily evicted from my bedroom when the baby was born. Despite this, she was initially very happy when we got home from the hospital. A steady stream of visitors provided plenty of attention for my people-loving girl. She was especially pleased that my husband had taken time off from work, which meant her favorite lap was available even more than usual. 

Ghosty and baby share lap
Sharing a lap is one thing, sharing a bed is another.

I was happy to see that my first baby was not jealous of my new human baby — until we brought the bassinet out of the bedroom. As soon as we wheeled that thing into the living room, Ghost Cat’s bassinet obsession reignited, and when Ghost Cat doesn’t get what she wants, she does what any spoiled brat does: She pouts. 

"I'll just sit here in the bottom by myself and look sad."
“I’ll just sit here in the bottom by myself and look sad.”

After thwarting several of Ghosty’s attempts to jump into the bassinet, I was resting on the couch holding the baby when I heard a very sad little meow. I looked up to see my kitty’s pouty mug peeking out of the bassinet’s bottom bunk, which is meant to hold all the various accoutrement new humans require. Despite this piece of performative pouting, Ghost Cat was not permitted entry to the top level of the bassinet (although I will admit to being too tired to bother chasing her out of the bottom tier).

Stage 3: Antagonizing

When pouting doesn’t work, Ghost Cat gets mad and the bad behavior escalates as she antagonizes me on purpose. As the bassinet battle raged on, Ghost Cat would look me in the eye and then slowly move her paw toward the thing, like she was daring me to stop her.

"I'll just put my paw here. What are you going to do about it?"
“I’ll just put my paw here. I could put it further if I wanted to. What are you going to do about it?”

Because Ghost Cat appreciates both negative and positive attention equally, taunting me like this brought her great joy. Eventually, I caught on to her game and realized she wasn’t actually even aiming for the bassinet anymore —  she just wanted to get a rise out of me.

Stage 4: Acceptance

Which brings me to the fourth stage of striking a bargain with Ghost Cat: acceptance. One of us always concedes to the other’s conditions.

"I now understand it is my job to watch over this human kitten while he sleeps. He may keep the bed."
“I now understand it is my job to watch over this human kitten while he sleeps. He may keep the bed.”

Most of the time, I’m the one who accepts that Ghost Cat is just gonna go what she wants to do (hello kitchen countertops!), but this time, it was Ghosty who accepted my terms. I think once she realized that her new little human friend was the rightful tenant of the bassinet, she decided to back off.

Stage 5: Substitution

I say it has five stages, but really bargaining with Ghost Cat is more like an infinite loop — only the obsessed-over objects change. After accepting that the bassinet was not hers, Ghost Cat quickly sought out a substitute, and she didn’t have to look very far.

"How dare you wake me from my nap in this monkey-themed chair?"
“How dare you wake me from my nap in this monkey-themed chair? I was enjoying the vibrations.”

I may have won the battle of the bassinet, but negotiations over the baby’s bouncy chair have just begun.

Read more about Heather and her kitties:

About the author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten, GhostBuster the Lab and her newest dog, Marshmallow, make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google +

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