Battle of Wills

This isn't my cat, but it does give me an idea...

This isn’t my cat, but it does give me an idea…

The cat knows that he is not supposed to scratch the carpet.


I aim a spritz bottle at him and wait to see if he pulls his claws in and tucks his paws under his body. He stares at me, unblinking: eyes wide and round, claws still extended and hooked in the fibers of the carpet pile, daring me to spray him. I don’t move and neither does he. His gaze flickers from the nozzle of the spray bottle to me and back again. He still doesn’t move.

After an eternity of static tension, he pulls in his claws and begins to wash his toes, as if he has done nothing wrong and I am very silly indeed for resorting to the threat of spritzing water for the very suggestion. I put away the spritz bottle, but nothing has really changed: he will try to scratch again and I will try to spray him. It’s not a perfect dynamic, but at least there is balance. But at the times when we come into conflict, one of us must always back down. It doesn’t solve the problem of the cat scratching the carpet, it just de-escalates the confrontation.

I sometimes wonder if there even is a solution, or whether this periodic clashing of wills is just a factor of our human-cat relationship. I suppose it is natural for a cat to constantly be testing the rules- perhaps better than unquestioning obedience. As much as I would like to believe that I am the all powerful human, one does not own cats if one wants to feel all powerful. That is what goldfish are for.

As annoyed as I am- especially late at night or early in the morning- at the sound of a scratching cat, I admire his tenacity. I’d like to think that I would have the strength of will to continue to test my limits even in the face of powers beyond my control. Would I step up to these moments again and again if all I did was back down each time? Is it only important to step up if you’re not planning on backing down? The cat and I seem to find a way to live in harmony in spite of our moments of conflict. He’ll always have his claws and I’ll always have the spray bottle and I’m not sure we’d want it any other way.


~ by Gwydhar Gebien on November 13, 2016.

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