The Vine: September 29, 2010
I've had my 7-year-old kitty since she was a 3-week-old rescue kitten that had to be bottle-fed. For the most part, she is wonderfully behaved.
However, she whines.
She's always been very vocal kitty, and that is okay. In the last year or so, though, her meow when she wants something specific has developed the same tone and amazing nerve-grating ability as a two-year-old saying, "Mommy I wannnnnnnnt it!" The sound drives me BONKERS.
I have a hard time just not responding to the whine-meow because she usually does it when she has a legit desire — fresh food or water, a litter cleaning, something that's spooked her (often happens during thunderstorms), or when we are coming home from being out, she sits in the window overlooking our entry door and whines until we come in the house.
It gets noticeably worse when my son, who she's especially attached to, is gone overnight. She also does it when she sees me go near the cupboard where her treats are kept, though I can usually deny her at those times. She does not do it all the time, though — she definitely has a range of other vocalizations she uses when she just wants to be friendly or playful.
Is there any way to train a cat to use her normal-voice meow to ask for things? Or do I need to train myself to not let the whine bother me?
Thought I was done with the whining when my toddler grew up
(PS She is an only kitty, but that is because she will not tolerate other felines in the house, despite our best efforts to socialize her. In the past we have had hamsters that she's acted very protective toward, but we do not have any currently.)
Hobey has a Siamesey yowl that, in 15 years, I have still not learned to ignore. It can actually elevate my heart rate at times — not even the yowl itself, but the snotty prelude to the yowl that means I have 1.3 seconds to guess what he wants and do it before rrrreh turns into HAAOOOWWW.
So, I feel you, is the "good" news. The bad news is, ain't much you can do. When she starts giving you That Tone, make eye contact, tell her you love her, give her a scritch, and check over everything you just mentioned. Food bowl full? Litter clear? Son in the house? Thunderstorm over?
If she's got what she needs, spend a minute petting her and speaking to her in a reassuring voice (or tossing one of her toys for her) and then go on to something else — preferably an activity with a volume control that you can turn up to drown her out. Heh.
Another thing you might try to settle her down when your son's away: make a little nest out of a box (mine love the kind that holds a 12-pack of liter bottles of seltzer) and a t-shirt that smells like your son. Put it in a corner, drop a treat or toy into it, and give her a little safe space to retreat to.
I have a "friendships have a lifespan" question on which I could use your (and the Nation's, of course!) advice.
The question concerns my best friend from college. She is a loving, brilliant, kind, fun, thoughtful person. She is also terrible at keeping in touch in long-distance relationships and just started the second year of her medical residency. She lives on the East Coast; I live in the Midwest.
As you can probably guess, our communication is…not so good. I try to keep in touch with her, but between the fact that she's at the hospital 100 hours a week and the fact that she's just not that good at responding to people, it leads to my feeling snubbed more often than not. Emails go unanswered, calls forgotten, trips to see me proposed and unfulfilled, that kind of thing. I know she still values me as a friend — I was a bridesmaid at her wedding this spring — she just doesn't have it in her to maintain a working friendship right now.
I also don't have it in me to take the small amount of attention she has to give. She'll email me once every few months, I'll respond, and never hear back. Emotionally, it's really draining. I feel like I'm in this constant cycle: depression over the state of our friendship — being happy to hear from her — waiting excitedly for her reply — disappointment when she doesn't get back to me — depression over the state of our friendship, etc. I know the reasonable thing would be just to stop investing so much in the relationship, and I've done that with other friends, but I just can't make it happen here. (Because I am crazy? Possibly.)
I brought this up to her about six months ago, and she said basically what I already know — that she loves me and values our friendship, but barely has time to wash her hair. She said she'd try to do better, and I said I'd try to be more explicit about when I needed her support.
Since then, she has backed out on a trip to visit me (due to circumstances beyond her control, but without rescheduling), and been really unhelpful when one of my pets died and I tried to talk to her about it (again, she was at the hospital when he fell sick, so when I IMed her she was understandably busy. But she never got back to me afterward, and when I confronted her about it, she said she was so busy she had forgotten that I had even mentioned it. Which is awesome to hear when you're sobbing over the body of an animal you loved). So — not working.
It seems pretty clear to me that our friendship is not gonna work. So here's my question: is it reasonable of me to want to write her a note and "break up"? I'm afraid that if I don't, the next time I hear from her, the whole cycle will start over again and I'll end up just as miserable as I am now. I'm not looking for her to respond with some grand gesture that makes everything okay; I just want to let her know that I can't handle things as they are and I need her to delete my phone number. I don't want her to think I'm trying to guilt-trip her, though, or to come off as a totally insane control freak.
And the corollary question is, if I do write the letter, can I get away with telling her I'd be happy to hear from her again when she has the time to devote to a relationship? It's the truth, but that REALLY sounds manipulative, which is not the goal.
Thanks for everything, Sars!
Hopefully Not As Crazy As I Feel
Reasonable to want to? Sure. But please don't.
It's hurtful that Friend is consistently putting her career ahead of your friendship, and it's especially hurtful that an animal family member passed away and she blew it off. That emotion is real and legitimate.
With that said: "I need her to delete my phone number"? Look, she's…a medical resident. That you hear from her at all is pretty amazing. And the thing is, she knows. She knows that her friends outside the hospital miss her and wish she could participate in their lives and friendships the way she did before. She wants to go to baby showers and dinner parties, and Skype with a glass of Malbec.
But she can't. She's had to make a choice between having a full, rich emotional life and having a medical career for right now, because she's trying to become who she is. I don't read a ton of support for that from you; it's all about how little support she's offering, and not much acknowledgment that 1) she's doing the best she can under crazy-busy circumstances and 2) that set of circumstances has been pending for quite some time.
Bottom line: she's doing her best by you, but that "best" isn't good enough for you right now. That in itself is fine. Sending a letter that basically says, "Make a space in your already-impossible schedule to meet my unrealistic expectations, or we are through here"? I can't speak for Friend, but my own reaction to a letter like that received during one of my 20-hour-day business-start-up periods would be brief, blue, and final.
Like I said, it's hard. It's hard that she's not there for you and it's hard that things change without your say-so. I feel you, I do. But what you really want here, I think, is to stop getting hurt and feeling rejected, so, first, accept that Friend's behavior is not about you or your worth as a person and friend. Then, accept that you can't do anything to change it right now, and that continuing to try only puts you in a position where you get blown off (even if it's inadvertent) or feel unappreciated. Step back from the friendship as far as active participation, so that you don't resent her.
Friendships don't just have a lifespan; they also have a narrative arc sometimes, or a narrative sine wave. This one is in kind of a valley right now, but it doesn't mean Friend doesn't care, or that things won't improve. Maybe you should write the letter, in your journal, just to get everything out on paper, but do not send it, because it comes from a place of genuine pain, but it will read as self-absorbed and melodramatic, and I don't think that's you — or the note you want to go out on.
Tags: cats friendships Hobey