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World peace begins at home … in the bathroom

I haven’t had a private moment in the bathroom at home in years. My husband generally leaves me alone, though on occasion, he needs to discuss some very important topic while I am otherwise occupied. Through the years, my children, however, have routinely needed me for all sorts of important things while I am using the facilities. Apparently, the very action of my entering the bathroom triggers perfect recall for very lengthy, hilarious stories. It is THE BEST time to show me YouTube or TikTok videos. Important decisions about inviting friends over, needing spending money, recitation of this year’s entire Christmas List (long form), signing permission slips, requests to borrow the car — all are routinely addressed through the bathroom door.

At work, folks usually wait for me to emerge to ask me to sign documents. Usually. They typically refrain from simply screaming to get me to hurry up. (Thank goodness.) That said, it often seems that whenever I do find myself in the bathroom, even at work, someone needs me for something.

If I ever need to feel wanted and needed and loved, all I need to do is go to the bathroom. Unless there’s no toilet paper, then good luck finding a human within yelling distance.

And then, there’s my furry companions. For those who are uninitiated with cats: books, newspapers and important school or work papers comprise the seating of choice. Commandeering these spaces takes precedence over almost all other items on the cat daily agenda (sleep, food, litterbox) since it falls under the category of “bother someone.” There is only one thing that comes before that: someone just sitting down on the toilet. It summons a cat like the Bat Signal calls for Batman.

Virgil, one of our cats, loves to come bopping into the bathroom, right at my heels. Normally, Virgil doesn’t have much time for me — he considers himself my husband’s cat. However, in the bathroom, I am suddenly (albeit temporarily) his new best friend. He seizes these opportunities to demand affection and to solicit play. He touches me with his front paws, grooms my hands, winds his body around my legs — and has even hopped onto my lap on a few occasions. If I’m sitting in a chair, he doesn’t give me the time of day. Lovable, but odd.

Through the years, many of our cats have liked to sit in the sink and beg incessantly for a drink directly from the faucet (the “good” water.) Murdock taught Grace about the “good water,” and Grace taught Sister Mary Agnes. Sr. M.A. became so fixated on beating Grace to the bathroom in the morning; she often slept in the sink to get a head start. Virgil still hasn’t learned to drink from the faucet at 16 years old, but that hasn’t stopped him trying, though always ending in a bedraggled, wet mess — and still thirsty. He’s sweet, but he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Igor, one of my childhood cats, was so anxious for his breakfast each morning; he would go to the trouble of unrolling the toilet paper for my mother, presumably to help speed things along. He was also famous for barging in on guests in the bathroom and then staring at them, unblinkingly.

You’re probably wondering why cats like to bother people in the bathroom. I bet you’re expecting a brilliant answer, since I’m supposed to know about these things. Sorry. My answer: cats are weird. I do have an idea, however misguided it may be. Cats are mostly very intelligent and it doesn’t take them long to figure out that they can be very silly and even annoying while someone is in the bathroom, and will likely get away with it. It is against all rules of statistical probability that you will spring up off the toilet and seize them as they sprint away.

(Even if you did try this, you would fail, since cats are adept at always being just out of reach when it really counts. Not to mention the added bonus of you feeling and looking ridiculous.) So they can get away with stuff like biting your feet, without being punished for it — at least not right away. But one thing’s for sure: cats are different from dogs in this instance. Cats that won’t leave you alone in the bathroom are, well, normal. Dogs that do this may have some … issues.

Since the advent of COVID-19, months of quarantine, then the return “normalcy,” there’s been an uptick in the development of needy pets. It is not unexpected, and in some cases, has become a real problem, especially with our faithful, sensitive, canine companions.

Tune in next time for a discussion of dogs in “Degrees of Separation.

— Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital. Her column is published every other Sunday in the Lifestyle section. She can be reached at life@sungazette.com.

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