So, a couple of months ago, this cat shows up at our house. Walks out of the woods, sneaks in a door that the painter left open and plants itself on the pillows at the head of our bed. The kids come home, see the cat, and within minutes have a complete feeding and grooming schedule for the next three months, coupons for litter box cleaning, and promises to vacuum the whole house every other day since, you see, dad happens to have been allergic for most of his life. Well, maybe it’s time to give a pet a try, we think (since dad’s allergies seem to have been abating lately anyway) and so it’s off to the vet. It’s a Siamese. A neutered male. About 14 years old. Declawed in the front. And it’s got fleas.
Undaunted, Dad runs to the local office superstore to pick up a litterbox of some type (don’t ask) while mom and the kids put the cat through the ringer (literally) in the bathtub with flea soap offered by the vet. They leave the tick pulling job for later when dad can do it, however. Pillows and sheets are fumigated. “Found Cat” posters are created and distributed. The next few days, things are mixed; cat is litterbox trained (Yay!), but after chowing down a couple of cans of StarKist tuna on the day of his arrival, he throws up everything he eats for the next three days (Boo!). But things settle down, and we enter this pretty peaceful, flealess co-existence with “Oreo” who seems happy enough just to have two squares and a heater to sleep next to for 22.5 hours a day. This might work, dad thinks.
A couple of weeks later, the cat (who dad and mom have renamed “Catatonic”) begins waking up at precisely 5:34 each morning, emitting a quasi screech/howl that requires dad to get up and kick the cat out of the bedroom, leaving the cat to screech/howl on the other side of the door 10 minutes on, ten minutes off (just enough to let us fall back asleep) until we finally succumb and roll out. Soon, the cat starts the night outside of the bedroom, where screech/howling then begins at 3:45, one night prompting dad to get up and sleepily retrieve a piece of plywood and a old screen door frame from the freezing cold garage to fashion a gate that would keep Catatonic in the doorless dining room, farther away from the bedroom and out of earshot. Of course, just as dad gets back to sleep, Catatonic shoulders through the “barrier” with relative ease to take up screech/howling in front of the bedroom for the rest of the night as dad and mom pile pillows over their heads. (Children, btw, are fast asleep in their beds upstairs through all of this.) The gate building continues to get more complex, as does the cat’s ability to punch through, jump over, get around. One early morning, when the kids are at sleepovers, mom gets up and throws (not literally, of course) the cat upstairs, shuts the door, and we finally get peace. Both wakeup realizing that mom didn’t throw the litterbox upstairs with the cat, and sure enough, son comes running down the stairs that night screaming “EEEEWWWWWWW! Something smells in my closet!”
This weekend, we consruct the ultimate plywood, screen door, piano bench, bamboo stick, bar stool, aluminum foil (cats hate that, right?) barrier imaginable. Dad thinks about taking pictures and posting them to Flickr, it’s such an example of innovation and beauty. Mom and dad give each other a knowing wink before turning out the light. Peace at last.
Until about 4:30 am.
So I’m reading this book, Mindset by Carol Dweck which talks about the two types of minds that people have and how it affects the way we learn. There is the fixed mindset which believes that intelligence is pretty much static and that there’s not much you can do to get smarter. So these people avoid challenges and give up easily, ignoring feedback and feeling threatened when others succeed. Because of this, they don’t realize their own potentials. And then there is the growth mindset which says that intelligence is not static and can be developed. A growth midset loves challenges and is persistent in the face of hardships. It is focused on effort, it learns from feedback, and it finds inspiration from others. People with a growth mindset go beyond expectations and achieve at ever higher levels.
Any doubt which mindset Catatonic has? (Now our kids on the other hand…)
I’m going to blog more about this as I think it through, but for now, all I know is I want my kids (and my kids teachers) to be like Catatonic. (Not the sleeping part, of course.) I haven’t gotten to the part of the book that runs through how we can move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, but I’m expecting it to tweak my thinking about teachers and technology and my own approach to teaching it. And I’m going to be thinking about my own mindset, which is a mix right now, I think.
We’re trying to find Catatonic a good home. (After this narrative, I’m sure I won’t get many offers.) But for now, I’ll be holding him up as an example of learning perseverance for my kids.
Powered by ScribeFire.
Technorati Tags: learning, cats, mindset
Powered by ScribeFire.
Cyndi Danner-Kuhn says
Love this post and I want to see those photos, I suspect they are inspiring.
Ms. Mize says
I look forward to hearing more about the book. I am reading one along the same lines called Enriching the Brain by Eric Jensen. It goes into the different thoughts on intelligence but also talks about what an enriching environment can do for our brains. Perhaps I need to read the book you are reading next.
Good Luck finding the cat a new home.
Thanks for an early morning chuckle. Our cat,
Lucy to our daughter and Lucifer to us, starts her morning wake-up call around 6:00. If chasing her tail on the bed, rattling the window blinds or tapping us on the chin with her paw doesn’t work she knows that clawing the mattress is guaranteed to eject one of us from the bed at lightening speed. I guess because we’ve had her since she was a kitten we don’t have the heart to shut her out. She has us right where she wants us. Good luck finding Catatonic a new home. BTW he’s very likely to find his way back to you. LOL.
Cathy Nelson says
Yep–just like adult children, cats have a homing instinct. If you have been bestowed the title of home, Catatonic will be back. Now what kind of parallel to your great book can you make with that?
Robert Rowe says
My 7 yr old, Naji, does the same thing. It reminds me of a Discovery Channel show on Squirrels that showed their perseverance (trying to get to the bird-feeders) no matter what obstacles we silly humans put in their way.
The growth mindset though, not only comes from the cat finding new ways to wake us up, but also us, as we continue to find ways to get that extra sleep.
Londa Richter says
Our cat, Whizbang also has an early morning ritual which includes having someone (me) rise much earlier than the alarm clock is set for. We have touch lamps in our bedroom and she has discovered that touching them with her nose will turn them on and get just the reaction she desires. Saying she is persisent is an understatement, and the fact that negative feedback does not discourage this behavior must say something about the learning process.
Somehow I doubt that cats have minds that are described in either way. The cat just sounds annoying to me ( a real pet lover here )
Tim Goree says
Cats think we humans exist to serve them. In essence, we are the pets and they are the masters. I think Catatonic is doing a great job of proving that point. I love pets, but cats don’t count as pets in my mind!
Pam Shoemaker says
We also have an alarm cat that goes off on the weekends. We have a squirt bottle filled with water by our bedroom door that usually works to make her stop if we can manage to squirt her before she runs away. We also have locked her in a downstairs bathroom. Maybe our cats are just training US to be more persistent and challenge our thinking? Maybe you should keep and appreciate Catatonic for helping you to learn to think and problem-solve ways to let you sleep in the morning.
Carolyn Foote says
Any chance Catatonic is a girl and looking for her mate?
This reminds me of our cat, which I found at our library a year ago…..the poor guy was wandering around, thin, and obviously a boy.
That is until we got him home, fed him, and discovered he was pregnant. Shortly after the sole kitten was delivered, said cat embarked on a two month ritual of howling all night long, stationed comfortably outside the bedroom door. A baby gate failed to deter her.
The only way to placate said cat was by feeding her. Needless to say, she gained a little weight 😉
The persistence she displayed was quite impressive. Something to be admired, as you point out.
The book sounds fascinating. How/why do some people have the growth/persistence mindset, willing to keep re-trying things beyond all reason, until they sort it out?
And how could we nurture that? Hoping you’ll summarize for all of us 😉
Gary Stager says
Are there REALLY people who BELIEV this?
“There is the fixed mindset which believes that intelligence is pretty much static and that thereâ€™s not much you can do to get smarter.”
Will Richardson says
Gary, obviously you are of the growth mindset.
Stephen Kennedy says
Cats do come into the world with a mind of their own. Which then changes ours. Which might just then change theirs…And…
Gary Stager says
Sorry I spelled, “believe,” incorrectly.
Remember, all good books reduce issues to zero-sum options 🙂
Vanessa West says
I, too, have been owned by a Siamese cat. Her name was Kiki. Kiki was a singularly intelligent cat–I read Shakespeare sonnets aloud to her when she was a kitten (off you go into your nature vs. nurture arguments). Kiki had the characteristic Siamese yowl. I think the only solution is to utterly give in, spoil the cat as much as possible and enjoy your furry friend while you have her.
RE: allergies … in a somewhat similar situation, I developed the habit of washing my hands whenever I got near the felines.
The allergies continued to abate and I was cold-free. IN fact, the allergies abated enough that I got out of the habit… and then caught my first cold…
It’s a Siamese. get rid of it immediately. Siamese are like the cocker spaniels of the cat world – prone to depression, and full of neuroses. And they’re manipulative as hell (siamese are masters of operant conditioning) apart from being LOUD.
Sorry, but I’m a confirmed Maine Coon fan. Give me a real cat with a bit of weight in it, not a stick insect 🙂
Robert Paterson says
You are doomed – Pussee, our cat – has the same habits. My go around informs me that so do many other cats.
It’s a test of ‘wills’ – who is more persistent?
We limit the damage to our sleep with feeding at about 6am. I usually am up then. My wife can go back to sleep. The cart knows that she will get attention then and is less persistent at 4am as a result.
Like small children, your ability to sleep through the night may be broken for a long time.
In desperation my sister used to lock her cat and the pan into the basement