Experts say that retirement is one of those life-changing events that may require a period of adjustment. On June 9, 2011, I retired, and by 10 AM on June 10, I was adjusted. That morning no alarm jolted me out of bed. I ate a leisurely breakfast, perused the newspaper over my second cup of coffee, and for the rest of the day relaxed, avoiding any activity that required more than a push of a button. I relished the sensation that this summer would not end by the middle of August. I was finally retired; life was perfect. Well, almost perfect.
I share my house with two rescued cats: Oscar, a large gray shorthair, and Taffywu (a combination of his old and new name), a small ginger-colored tabby. They came to me as full-grown males, and over the last two years, they have spent considerable effort training me. Cats are enigmas to humans, so I’ve often wished they came with an owner’s manual. Certainly my past and present pets have experienced much success in managing me. That is, until I retired.
Cats thrive on monotony, and they do not easily adapt to change, especially when adjustment involves their food bowls or litter boxes. Now I’ve never let their food bowls get lower than half full, and their litter box is proof of my diligence to keep them well fed. However, in my early days of retirement while I was happily tossing out old routines, Oscar and Taffywu saw this new direction as dangerous. I no longer left early in the morning and returned in the late afternoon or evening. Rescued cats have a strong sense of survival, and I’m their food source. In their eyes I was a dependable clock that filled their bowls before I left and when I returned. Had this human clock suddenly become unwound, and even worse—unpredictable? After all, cats believe humans exist to serve them and fulfill their every desire—necessary or otherwise.
In dramatic ways Oscar, Taffywu and I each were adjusting to this major change in our lives. I embraced new activities and opportunities. I liked how my days had lost their regularity and had become a crazy quilt of mixed up hours. Cats spend much of their time sleeping, but Oscar and Taffywu began to keenly observe my movements, and this surveillance often interfered with their naps. My fondness for late nights and not so early mornings was especially troublesome. On one particularly late July night, they stuck their heads out of my bedroom door, their expressions clearly communicating they needed their beauty sleep and I was keeping them from getting it.
I have not given in to their demands. It has taken several months, but they are coming around to this new way of life. In fact, they now struggle as much as I when the alarm sounds, and it’s still dark outside. Both stagger into my bedroom, and all three of us are mirror images in our unhappy reactions to this ghastly time of day, except I lack four feet, fur, and a tail.
These very early mornings mean I’m going to school to sub, so it’s back to our old routine. But my subbing jobs are intermittent, so no period of adjustment is required. The cats are back to napping most of the day, and they barely flick a whisker when I head out the door.