Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
I love cats. They’re so fuzzy and mischievous…totally adorable.
Well, not always adorable. Sometimes they’re destructive, annoying, and loud. Especially at night.
Any cat owner can tell you what it feels like to wake in the middle of the night to the sound of your beloved pet racing from one end of the house to the other and back at top speed, or to jump out of bed at the sound of a crash, certain you’re being robbed, to find your cat looking innocently up at you from a pile of pieces that probably used to be one of your most expensive possessions.
All cats are experts at demanding your attention, whether they’re jumping on your laptop while you’re writing that email or pawing at your face first thing in the morning to wake you. What they do in the night is likely just another method for making sure they keep your attention.
My cat especially is an innovator in this field. She’s a young tabby, just under a year old by the vet’s estimate. My boyfriend and I adopted her six months ago from a rescue run out of an older couple’s home. She’s always been an attention grabber with a sweet-and-sour attitude; she’ll hop right into my lap, knocking whatever I’m working on out of my hands, but she won’t let me pet her. She’ll nip at my hands if I try. Her bids for attention have changed a bit in the few months we’ve had her. She used to meow loudly for food any time I was in the kitchen, and try to paw her way into the cabinet where her food is stored. Now I only have to worry if I accidentally leave it open or leave the bag of dry food out on the kitchen floor, because she doesn’t hesitate to shred it up with her claws trying to get to the food.
Recently, however, she’s been acting really strangely. There’s a sound she makes when she sees birds and squirrels through the window, kind of like a barking/chirping noise. Apparently this is a normal part of the feline hunting routine. What’s strange is that lately she’s started doing that in our bedroom, to the wall opposite the windows. She’ll stare at a spot high on the wall, making that noise and trying to jump up to the spot like she thinks there’s something to catch there. It would be cute, if it didn’t make me worry she had vision problems or some other issue. The vet says she’s fine, so I just attribute it to her goofy personality.
It isn’t just the pseudo-hunting in the bedroom. Cats often have a habit of pawing their humans’ faces in the morning to wake them, but mine has started doing it in the middle of the night. She’ll paw at my face for a bit until I push her away, and then she’ll meow sorrowfully for a moment before hopping up and snuggling between me and my boyfriend. That’s another thing; this cat is not a snuggler. She likes to lay on my lap while I’m awake, but she does not particularly enjoy being held or cuddled and often snaps at me if I try to cover her with a blanket. Now she’ll climb under the blanket with us on her own. I’m starting to worry about her.
Now I know these peculiarities don’t sound all that odd, but something has just seemed…off, lately. Between my cat waking me and my boyfriend hogging the bed, I haven’t gotten much sleep. I’m always the last one to get to bed, so the cat and I are often the only two awake for a few hours each day. She likes to be right next to or on top of me during this time. I usually just watch or play something on my computer, or crochet. Sometimes I use this time to do laundry, but I don’t like going into the basement at night.
Now, I’ve seen some actual creepy basements in my young life. This isn’t really one of them. I used to work in a family-owned bookstore in the historic part of our city. It spanned two storefronts and the basements were joined. There were endless floor-to-ceiling shelves down there used for storing products and packing materials. There were plenty of lights, but the shelves made them ineffective anywhere but in their own aisles. There were pipes running through the whole area, several of which were low enough to require the employees to duck. There was a large wooden door on one wall with a red light coming from within through a knot in the wood. Certainly it was a boiler room or utilities room or something of that nature, but let me tell you, the time I spent alone slicing up cardboard boxes with a boxcutter right next to that door was a bit tense.
That was a creepy basement. The one in our house now, not so much. It’s empty, only two rooms. The stairs lead right to the middle of the space, with the laundry room on the left between the stairs and the back wall. It has another wall between it and the wall opposite the stairs but no door, so technically I suppose it’s all one room, except for a small closet under the stairs. The main space wraps around the stairs and the laundry room in an L-shape, and this is part of what I don’t like; I can’t see the whole room from the stairs. I’m one of those paranoid people who always sits in the corner of the room where I can see everything and I can’t stand to have anyone behind me. Going downstairs to arrive in the middle of a poorly lit room with several parts I can’t see is not fun for me. Even worse, the lights have been changing.
There are plenty of lights in the basement, the problem is that they don’t all work. Usually it seems like only the light in the middle of the room, at the base of the stairs, comes on, and it’s faint. There’s a separate switch at the bottom of the stairs for the laundry room, which has just been redone and thus has bright, working lights. But before I reach that switch, there’s very little light to go on. Recently, though, more of the lights in the basement will come on when I flip the switch, and sometimes the main light doesn’t go on with them. I mean, I guess that’s not too unusual. The house is old, and aside from the laundry room no one has touched the wiring in the basement for at least 40 years. It’s unnerving, though. I’m logical and detail-oriented, so changes like this make me want a more concrete explanation than “the lights are old.”
So, back to my cat’s strange behavior. There are two bedrooms upstairs that we’ve just been using for storage until we decide what to do with them. She has started wandering around the upstairs and meowing plaintively sometimes. Because the rooms are mostly empty, even her quiet voice echoes around up there. It sounds like she’s crying. I’ve brought her the vet several times since we got her; first for a basic checkup, and then out of concern over her eating habits. She’s finishing up her last round of worm medication and is otherwise healthy, so I know she’s not crying out of pain. I wonder if she’s lonely. That would explain why she keeps trying to wake me up in the middle of the night.
I’d love to get her a new feline friend, but my other half is going to take some convincing. I’ll have to start working on him tomorrow. Just thought I’d throw this up on my blog and see if anyone else has had similar issues with their cats.
My cat was not lonely.
She was not hungry, or bored.
She was terrified.
She woke me up last night, pawing at my face and mewing quietly but urgently at me. I tried to just ignore her, hoping she’d give up and settle down, but instead she extended her claws a bit. She managed to hit my right eye hard enough to make it water, then dodged my arm as I swiped at her, jumping up behind me and snuggling under the blanket between me and my boyfriend. She went very quiet and still.
Fuming, I thought about getting up to look at my eye in the mirror but decided against it; the room was cold, and my bed was warm. I decided to just keep the eye open until it stopped throbbing. Since I was laying on my right side with my long hair fanned out on my pillow, it fell across my face enough to block most of the light from the bathroom night light coming through the open bedroom door. As I waited to be able to close my eye and go back to sleep, I heard a noise.
The basement door was opening on its own.
Or so I thought, until I heard almost-silent footsteps navigating the kitchen with expert steps. Even in the dark, whoever it was managed to avoid the table, chairs, laundry baskets, litter box, garbage can, and cat food dishes without so much as a bump or a clink. I froze, not daring even to close my right eye or open my left. Through my hair I could see a large dark shape enter the bedroom and stop right in front of me. I prayed it couldn’t see my open eye as a thousand scenarios played themselves out in my mind.
Somehow my mind got hung up on the fact that it hadn’t tripped over anything in the kitchen, so this wasn’t the first time it had watched us while we slept. That fact kept me trying to breathe as I would in sleep, hoping that if it hadn’t done anything to us in our sleep during previous visits it wouldn’t start now. My cat was a warm, silent lump behind me, hiding beneath the blanket in terror.
Nothing happened for a few minutes. My right eye was still sore, and felt extremely dried out because I hadn’t blinked once. The shape didn’t move, standing so still I started to wonder if the cat had actually damaged my eye with her paw, creating the dark blur I was seeing.
Suddenly, I felt a movement from behind me. My boyfriend was stirring. I tried hard not to panic, unsure of what to do. Ordinarily I’m the kind of person who will grab a knife to go investigate a strange noise, but there were no knives in the bedroom and I didn’t know if the dark form was armed. It was definitely at an advantage, already standing above me, not tangled in blankets as I was. As my boyfriend shifted, it moved out of the room, back through the kitchen, through the basement door. I heard it close quietly.
I was pretty sure it hadn’t known I was awake. It wasn’t looking for a conflict; it had fled as soon as my boyfriend started to wake up. I felt him get out of bed to go to the bathroom and reached for my phone quickly. I didn’t want him to panic. I didn’t want the thing in the basement to know I saw it until it was too late. I dialed the police and reported a home invasion as calmly and quietly as I could. When I’d hung up, I got up myself, giving my boyfriend a hug and a kiss as I passed him on my way to the bathroom. I had to come up with excuses to stay awake until the police arrived without alerting the thing in the basement.
Finally there was the sound of sirens and a knock on the front door. I felt awful when my boyfriend came out of the bedroom and looked at me in confusion and concern as I opened it without a word, but there would be time for explanations later. I wanted whoever was in our basement behind bars. Tonight.
The police searched the whole house, but didn’t find anyone or anything as large as I’d described. The doors and windows were all locked and deadbolted from the inside, as we always kept them, but beneath the basement stairs they found a few bloody feathers and the bones of small wild animals. There was no point of entry for any animal from the outside, and there weren’t whole carcasses or skeletons, just a few bloody remnants of what looked to be, from the bite marks on the bones, someone’s last few meals.
The police didn’t know what to make of it, and to my knowledge no one has been arrested in connection with the “break-in” that left all of our doors and windows perfectly secured. I told my boyfriend what I’d witnessed and why I hadn’t alerted him sooner. We got a security system, added more lighting to the basement, knocked down the interior walls, and exchanged our normal stairs for a spiral staircase, eliminating the closet below the stairs and allowing for a full view of the entire basement from the top or bottom of the staircase.
Our cat started acting normally again. After months of wondering about her strange behavior I now realize that her demands for attention weren’t an indication that I should be worried for her, rather a sign of her concern for all of us. So the next time your pet starts acting up with no apparent medical reason, be on alert. Like I said, to my knowledge the thing under our stairs hasn’t been caught.
Credit To – Amanda Laven