It's always the things you assume are going to be a breeze to do that turn into traumatic events. Or so it seems in my household, especially where my feline friends are concerned. The introduction of new automated pet feeding machines this past week was no exception.
As I described in a previous post (Someone PLEASE Explain Daylight Saving Time To My Cats ), Gracie does NOT adjust well to changes in her meal schedule or diet. Unfortunately, both had to be altered this fall due to daylight savings time and Benjamin Bunny's new diet plan. To say that Gracie has not adapted well is to put things mildly.
While some progress was made in November, there were setbacks in December. The daytime racket caused by the ongoing renovation of my home seems to have induced a relapse of sorts. Maybe she senses how exhausted the chaos is making me. Maybe that is why Gracie is once again afraid that I will oversleep and forget to feed her. I don't know. But whatever the reason, a new solution is needed. That is where the new automated pet feeding machines come in to play.
I found them at a pet store the Friday before Christmas and thought I had won the lottery. Both feeding machines have two trays, each with its own timer. First breakfast could go in one, and second breakfast could go in the other. (This feeding ritual is explained in Someone PLEASE Explain Daylight Saving Time To My Cats.) Once Gracie and Bunny learned how the feeding machines worked, my sleepless nights would be history.
New Year's Eve seemed like the perfect night to introduce Gracie and Bunny to these new meal dispensers. Starting the New Year off fully refreshed was the motivation behind this decision. Looking back, I must have been especially sleep deprived when I made it.
Using a few of their favorite treats to familiarize them with how the feeding machines worked seemed like a good way to start. My husband helped me figure out how to put treats in each tray and set the timers for a few minutes later. It never occurred to me that Gracie would be leaning over a closed tray when it popped open.
Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. The timer stopped, the latch clicked, and the tray cover popped open bumping Gracie ever so slightly across the chin. But that was enough to send her hopping sideways away from the tray with her fur sticking out in all directions. It was like something out of a movie. I had never actually seen a cat hop sideways on the tips of her paws while arching her back up and hissing.
Bunny, unsure of what had just happened, couldn't decide whether or not to eat the treat waiting in the open tray of his feeding machine. Since he had not seen the actual "pop top attack", Bunny didn't know whether it was the treat Gracie was upset with or the feeding machine. Lucky for us, he couldn't resist eating the treat. At least one cat was willing to use the new automated pet feeders.
Gracie, in the meantime, was “tippy-pawing” around the room, occasionally going in circles. I tried in vain to calm her down, but she was now mad at me for bringing the vicious food dispensers into her ouse. Completely deflated, I plopped on the ground convinced I might never sleep through the night again.
Anger overtook fear at this point, and Gracie became determined to show the feeding appliance how she felt about it. Still on “tippy- paws”, she begins circling it - occasionally reaching out to punch it with her right front paw. When it did not punch back, she moved in closer. This behavior continued until the smell of the treats began to wear her down.
After seeing Bunny eat treats from the second tray attached to his feeding machine, Gracie finally decided to take a chance and nibble on one of the treats still lying in her tray. For a moment, it looked like things might work out alright. That was when I heard the latch on Gracie's second tray click.
I dove for the cover from my nearby position on the floor. Gracie's body went rigid as she leaped straight up and away from the tray. Although I wasn't able to stop the cover from popping open, it didn't hit her this time.
That was not good enough, however, to lesson her anxiety. It was like watching instant replay as she began alternating etween arched back side-hopping and spinning in circles. It was beginning to look like both my cat and I were going to need therapy before the night was over.
The only one who seemed unaffected by Gracie's battle with the feeding appliance was Bunny. He had finished both sets of treats in his trays. And now he was secretly inching his way over to Gracie's tray to eat hers since it seemed she wasn't going to.
I think that it might have been the possibility of losing her food to Bunny that snapped Gracie out of her tizzy fit. Once she realized what Bunny was up to, she began making her way tentatively back to her feeding machine.
My husband and I were afraid to breathe for fear of alarming Gracie as she punched and hissed at both feeding trays. Too tired to fight anymore, she finally calmed down enough to eat a treat from one of the trays. When it didn't attack back this time, she gobbled up all the treats from both trays as fast as she could. I felt sure that she would decide to pee on the feeding machine when she was done just to show it who was boss. Thankfully, she didn't.
No, we didn't pack up the feeding machines and put them away after this - although initially I did feel the urge to crush the one that caused the trauma. Since Bunny was alright with using them, I wanted to keep working with Gracie.
I am happy to report that progress is being made. Gracie seems to know when her feeding machine will open for 1st breakfast now and waits until a few minutes before that time to wake me. As long as I accompany her downstairs and make sure the top has popped open already, she will let me return to bed while she eats.
Until next time, remember...
Good intentions are like a wheelbarrow - because if you get anywhere with them you have to do the pushing yourself.
-Ernest C. Wareing