Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Marriage, Cats, Claws, and Sofas

Goals are funny things. They can provide a compass to simplicity, but they can also introduce an undesired complexity. Here’s the problem:

I am married, and one of my personal affirmations/goals is: I love and nurture my wife.

Nothing wrong with that. I heard Josh McDowell recently say one of the best gifts a father can give his children is to love and nurture their mom. I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I remember distinctly my dad saying to me, “Son, if it comes down to a choice between you or your mom, I’m choosing her… every time.” That seemed a bit unfair at the time, but he knew what he was talking about. (Zen marriage?)

I am a home owner. Another personal affirmation/goal is: My house and cars are well maintained and cared for.

Because I own stuff, I need to take care of it. Sometimes you can own so much stuff that it seems to own you, but with me, I think I’ve found a good balance. Some time back I replaced my cat demolished sofas for some “gently used” leather sofas. Lovely. I traded up. I got a good deal on Craig’s list. But…

I own cats. Nothing wrong with that either. I own a dog too, but she doesn’t claw sofas. My cats do. I have an affirmation/goal for my pets: I care for my pets.

You begin to see the complexities. I love my wife. She loves the cats, and so do I. We like our stuff, including our new sofas, unfortunately, so do the cats. What is one person to do? (I have an affirmation/goal that ties it all together: My goals are meaningful and in keeping with my core beliefs and values.)

I’ve got core beliefs and values, and they provide me with both direction and challenges. They provoke me to find solutions that don’t violate my myriad of complementary and harmonic inner schemas.

So what to do about the cats slowing poking holes in the new sofa?

What’s a guy gonna do? Research! What have others done?

I found ways to train cats, ways to protect furniture, and most of them aren’t cheap. But I am. So…

I invented a “sticky moat.” Invention is a creative art. Being creative is not creating something out of nothing, only God does that. The rest of us create by mixing up existing stuff in new ways.

I took some old file folders, trimmed off the tab, and stapled seven-inch strips of contact paper face up. I peeled off the non-stick portion of the contact paper, cut some notches in the folders, and built a sticky moat around the chairs and sofas. (The uncovered part of the folders go under the sofa.)

But cats are complex animals. They have needs. A few years ago I bought them a nice three-story cat house that provides a view into the front yard and an appropriate clawing spot. They use it, sometimes. Because my cats are indoor cats, they love the smell of the outdoors. So I took some outside plants and rubbed them on their cat house in order to make it more appealing, even "new." (I also trimmed the cats' nails.)

Cats don’t like citrus smelling things, so I gently rubbed some lemon-scented Pledge on the sofas and chairs.

A three-pronged plan to solve a problem in keeping with my core beliefs! My wife and the cats are happy. My sofas are safe. (I hope.) And my wallet was barely impacted.

Score one for Don!? (I’ll tell you in a few weeks.)


  1. Smart thinking! That's the sort of problem I would give up on right away, and let the cats take over. But that's me. Funny, one of my best friend's cat rolled in this lemon juice we spilled on her carpet. I guess it's a weirdo kitty.

  2. I wish I had read this about 10 years ago! ;) We had leather furniture we had purchased while stationed in Germany. When we got back, our daughter ended up with a kitten. Needless to say, the couches after about 2 years looked horrific. But oh well, alls well that ends well. Glad you found ways to stop them and keep everyone happy.

  3. Pieces: Some problems I ignore, others I ponder. This one mattered. (Pride of ownership and not wanting to buy more sofas!)

    Omah: I wish I'd of known about this with my last sofas! (But these are better.) So far they are working. The cats are finding other places to hang out. Cool!

  4. Brilliant Idea! I love it.

    (You know.. my father used to tell me the same thing about my mom... I'm glad to consider it a virtue.)

  5. Love your work here, very practical and hopefuly effective... what more could a person ask for??

  6. Chase: Thanks. It's amazing what ideas you can come up with when you mix stuff together from what you already know. (My dad saying that about my mom made an impression. I can still picture it. I was in college. He added, "Another few years, and you'll be gone. I'm spending the rest of my life with your mom." Point made. Point taken.

    Ms. Hoogie: She-with-the-unpronouncible-last-name. I'm Mr. E sometimes. But that was just to let the students call my aide Mrs. S, instead of Mrs. Stoltenberg. (Too many students wouldn't ask for help because they couldn't get her name right.) The moat is holding! (I think I'm going to put some sticky-moat on top of my computer monitor!) I have caught my wife twice, but she's learning. I say that knowing I'll be next! ;-)

  7. I passed a church sign once that said, 'Treat your wife as a rose and she will bloom.'

    It's really not that hard to make women and wives happy, it's just that the very simple, timeless ways were long ago discarded in favor of a sadly misguided sexual revolution and a nearly manic focus on one's appearance rather than everything immaterial that makes them who they are (and shows you how to love them).

    You, your dad, and Josh McDowell (great author!) have it right.

  8. Saphron: It's fun to see how the sub-themes woven into this post gurgle to the top. Sub-themes like marriage/relationships. I agree with you, it's not that hard. (I might change it to, it's not impossible -- most of the time.) ;-)

    The church quote is good. I try to make my classroom the same: I'm in the business of blossoming. I try to serve as a catalyst for improvement, but only if improvement is desired. (Some people are content to be shriveled buds. I leave them alone; although, I occasionally poke them to see if they are ready to admit they need improvement.)

  9. Wow, great post Don. I too have two cats, a spouse and a dog plus two adult kids. I also try my best to care for all of them. It's not always easy but that's what I signed up for.
    I've also found that cats dislike slippery as well as sticky. We've had to replace all the vertical pieces of woodwork in our living room because they destroyed it with their claws, but the new stuff is varnished and they haven't touched it!

  10. Deedee: Thanks for the comments. Sounds like we have a lot in common: pets & family. I'll keep the slippery idea in mind, just in case! ;-)

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