When writer Carrie Borzillo's new boyfriend moved in, she was excited for a new man in her bed. Her cat Aidan had other ideas.
“Please don’t put that in your mouth… It’s for the cat,” I said with minor disgust to my boyfriend.
I shouldn’t be surprised that John* was taking some drops of the pet CBD oil (a medicinal cannabis oil made for cats and dogs to ease anxiety and stress). It’s been a stressful few weeks since he moved in because my 5-year-old rescue cat, Aidan, who is a total Mama’s Boy, has not quite adjusted to the fact that mommy’s got a new man in her bed.
You see, Aidan’s used to sleeping with me every night. He’s also used to me catering to his every need. What he’s not used to is a man in his bed, being locked out of the bedroom when we want to have sex, and not having mom’s undivided attention anymore.
And, yes, let’s get this out of the way: I am a crazy cat lady. And, I do realize that this problem is my fault. I let Aidan train me, from the minute I took him home from the shelter at 3-months old, to come running every time he cries.
I know the exact moment I went wrong. When I brought Aidan home from the shelter, I was advised to introduce him to my other cat, Carrie Bradshaw, slowly by separating them for a few days. On the first night, I tucked Aidan away in the guest bedroom with a comfy cat bed, food and water, toys, and a sound machine as I went to my room to sleep with Carrie Bradshaw, the most chill cat ever, by my side. One hour into his sequester, Aidan started screaming. It’s not a meow. It’s not a cry. It’s a full-blown scream. And, I came running. I found him shaking and afraid, and it broke my heart.
Working from home didn’t help. He got used to me always being there and he became abnormally attached to me. Cats are considered to be independent and aloof creatures, but Aidan was not like most cats. He’d follow me to the bathroom and watch me pee and shower. If I went to the kitchen to get coffee, he was right by my side. He watched me sleep, put on makeup, and work on my laptop. I love the little guy to death, but knew deep down that I had created a situation where he got stressed whenever he wasn’t right by my side.
Now, five years later, every time John and I are just about to hit the sheets, Aidan starts shrieking his furry little head off and scratching incessantly at the locked door for hours until I finally cave and come sleep on the couch with him. We’ve tried to get him to just sleep in bed with us, but he doesn’t want that. He wants to sleep with mommy by himself.
It’s been two weeks and I’ve only slept in our bed five times. The biggest issue is my boyfriend rolling over in the morning hoping for some morning sex only to find me asleep on the couch with a kitty curled up on me. Aidan is cock-blocking my boyfriend… and I’m letting him.
Naturally, my boyfriend is annoyed. “You’re letting him control you and putting his needs first,” he says.
He’s right. This is not a great way to kick off living together. “I’ve seen plenty of couples break up over pet issues,” says Dr. Jenn Mann, a psychotherapist, author of The Relationship Fix, and an animal activist. “The biggest issue is the pet sleeping in the bed and coming between the two. Some cats can be territorial, but it’s fixable.”
After several more weeks of sleepless (and sexless) nights, I decided to try everything everyone suggested. When your cat has behavioral issues, the first stop is always to the veterinarian for a complete exam and blood work to rule out any health issues. Sometimes excessive crying and agitation is your cat trying to tell you he’s in pain or something is wrong. As expected, Aidan is in tip-top shade. This is an emotional issue, not a medical one.
So, we went to Plan B and C and D and here’s what happened…
Dr. Mann said if the issue were happening with a human child, you’d want to find out if there are any underlying emotional issues causing it. Since cats can’t talk, I went to the next best thing — a pet psychic.
The psychic told me that Aidan fears losing me, and that he feels safest around me. No big reveal there. Still, she suggested a variety of things to help him feel safe and secure, and to cleanse any negative energy from the house. So, I sage’d the house, charged his water bowl with the loving power of rose quartz, and invested in a $60 DNA Repair 528 Hz Tuning Fork, which is supposed to support overall wellness and calm a worried mind. (528 Hz is considered the “love frequency.”)
I didn’t see a difference in Aidan. But, as a lover of sound therapy already, I use the tuning fork on myself whenever I need to chill out a little and it’s very soothing and meditative.
Lastly, the psychic also suggested I leave little notes under his food bowl and bed that say, “You’re always home” and “Aidan, what do you need?”
I wrote the notes. But, never got an answer.
This was a total waste of $350!
The aforementioned CBD oil from the marijuana dispensary (veterinary approved, of course, and legal in California) worked a little bit.
We managed to get one dose into his mouth just once. He did sleep longer — instead of waking me up at 2 a.m., he woke me up at 6 a.m. Progress, but not perfection. The problem is we haven’t mastered our oral meds administration skills and the oil has an odor that he can detect when we tried to put it in his food, snacks, or water.
We’ve tried again, but a failed. He’s too smart to let this medicine get into his mouth so we had to abort this mission.
If not nipped in the bud now, says Dr. Mann, it could be detrimental to the relationship. “Sleeping in separate beds is not healthy for a relationship. So, you have to prioritize your boyfriend over the cat. It’s emasculating to put the cat first. Your boyfriend has to be the alpha male in the house – not the cat,” she adds.
Okay, duly noted. I took her advice, and honored my boyfriend’s wishes, by locking the bedroom door at night and not caving into to his kitty cries no matter what. It didn’t work at first. The sound of him crying just broke my heart and I got up each and every time he cried.
The next step was to simply block out the sound. This felt cruel. But, in the interest of re-training not just the cat, but myself, into a new pattern, I forged ahead with the plan to just not run to him no matter what.
But before I could do that, I needed a good plan so I called a cat specialist.
Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant known as The Cat Coach, said that along with running to Aidan every time he cried since kitten-hood, I made another major mistake here.
“Before your boyfriend moved in, you should’ve worked on their relationship. He needs to bond with him, play with him, feed him, and give him affection. If he does that, the cat will see the boyfriend as someone who is adding to the enjoyment of his life, instead of taking away the attention of his favorite person, you,” says Krieger.
While my boyfriend does love cats, he’s not as mindful around them as they’re used to. I’m constantly saying to me boyfriend, “You’re walking too loudly,” “Don’t walk past him like he’s furniture. Picture him as a little baby on the floor. Would you walk that close to a baby’s face?” And, the one that even makes me cringe: “Hey babe, maybe you could say hello and goodbye to him when you come and go. It’s rude not to address him.”
That might sound “catshit crazy,” but Krieger backs me up on this. “Those are not crazy requests. Men are bigger and walk firmer and it’s scary to a little cat. He does need to treat him like a member of the family and not a piece of furniture and work on fostering trust so that one day he’ll want to sleep quietly in bed with the both of you,” she says.
While we are still working on that, the most tangible advice was what to do at bedtime. Krieger advised that if I was going to lock him out of the room that I should make Aidan feel as comfortable and safe as possible. So, I plugged in the Comfort Zone Feliway Multi-Cat diffusers she suggested to help sending calming vapors throughout the house. I left some lights on, the television on low, and a bounty of cat toys for him to play with.
She also suggested I mimic the natural hunting instincts cats have before bed. To do this, I played with him with a chase toy — something I could drag that he’d chase, hunt, and capture. On the last capture, I rewarded him with food. It’s as if he captured his prey and now he gets to eat it. Hunt, Capture, Eat, Sleep is their natural rhythm in the wild.
With Aidan all set, I staged my own room to block out the sound of him crying and scratching and to get myself in a place where I could fall asleep even if he was crying. I put earplugs in, used the tuning fork to quiet my mind, set my sleep machine to the sounds of crickets and a babbling brook, locked the bedroom door, and hoped for the best.
It worked. John and I have enjoyed three nights in a row of uninterrupted sleep… and some long overdue morning sex!
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