Cats Aren't Naughty When They Sleep Around

By Bill Hall

People sleep around because they are bad. Cats sleep around so bad things can't find them.

I saw an ad for cat furniture in which the people selling the furniture seemed not to know that much about cats.

"When pets have furniture of their own," the ad said, "yours won't be so tempting."

In other words, keep your cat and dog off the couch by giving them little beds of their own. The ad included pictures of little runty beds for little runty cats and little runty dogs.

The beds had headboards and ruffly bedspreads and all the other trappings of a regular bed. That, of course, was for the pet owner, not for the pet. You can sell more junk like that by humoring the absurd delusion among pet owners that pets are just little people with a body hair problem.

Maybe a personal pet bed would work with a dog. Sometimes a dog seems to like a regular place to sleep and a blankie of its own, preferably heated. But the reason a dog tries to sleep with you on your bed and with you on your couch is because it likes you, not because it likes your bed or your couch. Your dog wants to be near you. Dogs are love slaves.

Sometimes cats are a bit like that. Sometimes not. Sometimes they want to sleep with you. Often they want to sleep on you, usually on your chest breathing mouse meat fumes in your face. Call me crabby, but I won't let cats to that. I won't even let people do that. And I would rather sleep with my pet person than with my cats.

But I have noticed all the cats I have ever lived with tended to sleep around. Even if you let them sleep on the bed or on the couch, they won't do it for more than a few nights in a row. Every few nights, I find the cats curled up in a different room. Why is that?

I'm guessing that is a habit instilled in their kind by the jungle. If you sleep in the same place in the jungle every night, sooner or later something's going to get the scent of your bed and lie in wait for you. If you're a small animal in a large forest, you don't want to be too predictable. You have to keep moving. And cats still follow that instinct now that they have moved inside with us.

On the other hand, it may be that I find them in the guest bedroom one night, another night in the computer room and a few nights later in the laundry room because they just enjoy variety. And maybe they fall asleep in the laundry room after washing out a few things.

Or maybe they are insomniacs, roaming the house, trying to find any place where they can get some sleep.

But it's probably because they are trying to avoid trouble. Humans who sleep around are looking for trouble. Cats are trying to avoid it.

I suspect the people selling cat and dog beds don't know about cats sleeping around. And they probably wouldn't care if they did. That's because the people selling cat beds know a lot about cat and dog owners. They know people get attached to their pets and will go to great lengths to lavish comfort on them. That is especially true of those millions of Americans like me whose nests have been emptied of children and whose grandchildren visit infrequently.

There is some nurturing instinct among our kind that makes us want to mother something -- or perhaps to dominate it. It is our natural parental impulse to enjoy having some small living things around to fuss over. That used to be kids almost exclusively back when most people lived to about 30. But we now live long past the departure flight of our chicks. And we feel an emptiness when they are gone.

So we bring in these hairy kid substitutes. And we do for them what we did for the kids once upon a time: We feed them. We provide them with a place to sleep. We buy them toys. And if we aren't thinking, we even dress them in little clothes.

In other words, we spend money on them. We are suckers for toys they ignore, for beds they won't use.

The cats are right. There's something out there trying to get us.

It's the cat bed salesmen.


Forward to the next column
Back to the Main Page