The truth about living with pets on the farm

A hand over a laptop keyboard and a small, black dog resting her head on the wrist.
Ever try typing with a tiny dog resting on your arm? It’s an acquired skill|Photo by Julia Bayly

I’d like to say I’m the kind of person who stands firm in the face of demands from critters looking for extra food or attention. But it would be a lie. 

I share my house here on Rusty Metal Farm with two cats and a tiny dog, each of whom has my number when it comes to getting what they want.

The cats, for example, decided a month or so ago that they no longer liked the cat food I was buying. Ever see a cat go on a hunger strike? It’s impressive. Not only did they eschew the food. They would pick it up and spit it back out. If I was anywhere nearby, they’d also glare sullenly at me while doing so.

“Too bad,” I told them. “Eat what I give you.” After a day or so of this, I modulated to, “Fine, when that bag is empty, I’ll go buy a new kind.” A day later, after picking up a new bag of a different variety of cat food, I told them, “You can have this, but I’m only opening it after you finish the already open bag of the old stuff.”

By the third day, the old food had been tossed to the chickens (who appreciated it, by the way) and the cats were happily munching on the new kibble.

Then there are the treats. When Chiclet first moved here three years ago, I got into the habit of giving her a treat when we’d come back in from answering her calls of nature.

The cats quickly did the math on this and in no time were lurking by the door demanding treats. “No way,” I told them at first. “You have done nothing to earn a treat.” A week later, I bought them a bag of cat treats, and from that point on, whenever Chiclet and I come back inside, everyone gets a treat.

The other day I had run out for the mail and dashed back in. There was Reggie, Rusty Metal Farm’s elderly feline curmudgeon in residence, waiting for me just inside the door.

“Nope,” I told him. “Just because I come back in does not mean you get a treat.”

Moments later, as I was sitting at my desk and working, I glanced up to see him still sitting exactly where I had left him. Glaring at me.

“Sit and stare all you want,” I said. “No treats.”

Ever try to work with a pair of cat eyes boring twin holes into your back? It’s darn near impossible.

“This is ridiculous,” I said getting up and heading to the kitchen. “Why should you get anything simply because I went to get the mail?”

My tirade against his behavior continued as I retrieved and opened the bag of treats. “Fine, you can have one, but just one,” I told him, before pulling out a second treat for him.

With Chiclet, it’s not treats so much as attention. She is really good most of the time not bothering me while I work, unless she needs to go outside. But when I shut down the computer and get up from my desk, as far as she is concerned, the work day is done.

So, we go for a walk, play with some of her toys or just hang out. It’s all lovely unless I happen to pick up my tablet or — heaven forbid — my laptop while I am sitting in my recliner.

See, in Chiclet’s mind, recliners are not for work, they are for snuggling on mommy’s lap and mommy should never pay attention to anything with a screen during that time. 

If I start using my tablet, she will take her remarkably dexterous front legs and paws and actually grab my hand and pull it away from the device, all the while looking at me as if to say, “Do you love that gizmo more than me?”

I defy any of you to resist that.

The other night was classic. We’ve been working on a pretty major project on the Hello Homestead desk, and I decided to jump back into it late in the evening just to knock a bit of it down.

I got my laptop and settled into my recliner. Moments later, Chiclet jumped up and maneuvered her way onto my chest so she was blocking my view of the screen and making it a bit tricky to type around her.

I gently moved her so I could see to type and started to write. In a second, one of her front paws was wrapped around one of my hands. When that did not work, she wrapped the other front paw around that hand.

Sighing, I told her I had to work. She was undaunted and — don’t even ask me how she managed to do this — she added a back paw into the mix, so I had three tiny legs wrapped around my hand and preventing any typing at all.

Clearly, I was outmatched. I shut the computer, put it away and Chiclet happily curled up on my lap while the two of us watched a movie.

On a recent morning, she added a new move to her repertoire. It can take an hour or so for the house to really warm up after I start the woodfire in the morning. So I’ve taken to turning on a heating pad for Chiclet to lay on if she is chilly..

She loves it. That morning, however, it was not that cold when she got up and came downstairs for the day. So, I did not set the heating pad up for her. I am not making this next part up. She came over to my desk, looked at me with wide eyes, stood on her hind legs and reached up toward me with her front legs.

She’d already had her breakfast and had been outside. The only thing missing from her morning was the heating pad. I plugged it in, turned it on and have not seen her since.

So, yeah, the Rusty Metal Farm pets may be a bit spoiled. And maybe someday I will draw a line and stick to it. 

I can almost believe that myself.

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