The Cat’s Social Contract

When Paul speaks for our horrible cat, Ivan the (recently) Terrible, he does so in the voice of Stewie from Family Guy.  My internal voice for Ivan has become Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, complete with voluminous Roommate Agreement and it’s many Amendments, all written without our input or agreement.

It may be unwritten but, like Duke’s mayonnaise in the Deep South, there are things that shouldn’t have to be written down. One simply knows, and Ivan’s Social Contract with us is one of those things.

Full disclosure: I am most often the one in Breach of Contract. Damages are almost always forthcoming, both Compensatory and Liquidated.

When Ivan adopted me as The Human He Mostly Tolerates, his first change to our Social Contract was the Wee Hour Snack Amendment. In the early days when I was attempting to civilize Ivan, I bribed him shamelessly. In a spectacular example of Student becoming Master, Ivan quickly identified my insomnia as a weakness he could exploit. Thus Ivan will, a few times a week, launch Stage One: a series of plaintive meowings down the hallway to our bedroom (the small hallway aiding amplification). If I have been so heartless (and foolish) as to ignore what is clearly a starving feline nearing death, using his last gasps of breath to beg for a scrap, Ivan proceeds to Stage Two: I am Adorable, Why Won’t You Feed Me? This involves two minutes of wheezing and purring directly below where I am attempting to sleep, this being my signal to shove the dog over to the middle of the bed, creating enough room for Ivan to jump up and nestle down into the warm semi-circle I have created with my body for his specific comfort. Stage Two can go one of two ways; if he is feeling benevolent and not inclined to hold me to the letter of my contractual obligations, he’ll purr us both back to sleep for a couple of hours. More frequently, there is a combined purring and furious head-butting of whichever of my body parts he can get to, an arm, a foot, my face. Should that fail, should I fall so into breach that I remain unresponsive to his plight, his remedy is simple and deployed without hesitation or sentiment: Damages. Marching across my head to the night table, Ivan begins knocking the contents to the ground.

IMG_3100 (2)Mission: Accomplished.

The Litter Box Amendment is newish. As he enters his senior years, Housekeeping has become important to Ivan, and who would have guessed, what with the chaos and mess of his early years? Nonetheless, should I fail to scrape the litter box twice daily, Ivan is a persnickety customer, availing himself of the aforementioned Liquidated Damages to drive home his point. *In the voice of Stewie, “Oh, think you were clever removing the bathmat? How did you like that puddle in the middle of the bathroom floor at 5:00 a.m?”

We’ve managed to create a couple of Clauses in our favor, such as the one Concerning Lunch Meat, subsection 3. When I crack open a plastic box of lunch meat, Ivan comes in from the yard so I can close the door and, in return, he gets a bite. Roast beef is his favorite, in it’s place he’ll take turkey over ham. Like Chewbacca, he’s generally thinking with his stomach, and we’ve learned to exploit this to our advantage.

Our old dogs across the Rainbow Bridge had their own short Agreements with Ivan. Were they written they would have contained one line only: Let us mutually leave each other the hell alone. Lucy tried to warn Tasha when we moved in, but Tasha made friendly overtures, all rejected. It took her a week, but she joined the social contract of Ivan.

Despite my council, Blanca seems unwilling to enter into any such sensible Agreement. It reminds me of the time the telecom company I worked for was requested to quote on a $5 million dollar job at a time when we really needed work, and the executives got stupid and greedy and responded instead with a $330 million dollar “total network solution”. All Blanca’s bouncing and prancing and gifting of  balls means about as much to Ivan as the advanced software features meant to a company just trying to keep their backbone network from crashing quite so often. Despite several postmortems and fishbone diagrams when we lost the bid, those execs just didn’t get it – what they proposed was so awesome and exactly what the Customer needed! Why couldn’t they see it? Blanca doesn’t understand Ivan’s rejection of toys and play and an unfair portion of her own dinner but, unlike the execs, I think Blanca might eventually learn to give the Ivan Customer what he wants.

Blanca and I both understand this is where the furry little demon has us: the beauty of unwritten contracts is one would never agree to any of it if one saw it written down.

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