Dear Sage Chuck,
I am a single mom with a lovely child. My beloved little 10 year old cat Jonesie has a terrible habit. Despite being "fixed," every night, he locates one of my toddler's large stuffed animals and starts doing his sex dance on it until he has a little kitty erection, dismounts, licks himself, and goes to sleep. Here's the problem -- the stuffed animals are getting beaten-up looking. I can't imagine this little "play activity" is harmful to Jonesie, but it's not something I necessarily want my toddler to emulate. Is there anything wrong here?
I would not have an answer to this unique and difficult question, but by happenstance, I had a college roommate who displayed remarkably similar behavior, which caused obvious consternation for my girlfriend and me and was a bit difficult to explain during Parent’s Weekend when my folks unexpectedly stopped by my apartment. (Incidentally, at the end of the semester, I moved out, but I did leave all the throw pillows behind.)
Your cat Jonesie is exhibiting behavior pretty consistent with the majority of male mammals, to wit, the life-long male post-pubescent drive to have sex, independent of the obstacles and whether or not said sex is even performed correctly. Most middle-aged men who have undergone vasectomies do not lose their interest in what reproductive medical professionals call “post-operative, below-the-waist recreational hooha,” and are able to perform ceremonially in just about the same way that biologically potent men can. So it is no surprise that getting your cat re-plumbed would likewise have no effect on his natural cat instinct to “schtup something.” Jonesie may have been “fixed,” by the way a word that I do not think Jonsie would choose, and while that procedure would curtail his ability to sire Jonsiean offspring, nothing you can do will curb your pet’s indwelling jungle libido. That he immediately goes to sleep after his activity is further evidence that he is exhibiting behavior wholly consistent with most vertebrate males. Females cats, strangely, do not manifest such overtly sexual behavior, the reason you will never see Hello Kitty humping anything.
You may wonder why Jonesie does not try to get outside to ply his sexual craft on living neighborhood felines. It is because he has been fixed that he chooses not to date local “girl cats,” who, since he cannot perform as do other fully armed tomcat suitors, may likely ridicule him unmercifully as we know cats, the most judgmental of all animals, readily do.
Your cat needs an outlet, and I presume it is smart enough to know that displaying mounting behavior on you or your child would probably result in its retributively swift death. So a stuffed toy, though not a normal cat’s preferred object of affection, may begin to look better and better as time goes on. This willingness to accept a less-than-perfect substitute may be similar to the phenomenon experienced by members of our own species who go to a bar or some kind of a singles party, and as the night progresses, find their own lust standards, which seemed previously implacable, getting a little more relaxed, and those in attendance who appeared to be unattractive and unacceptable a few hours or drinks earlier, somehow take on an inexplicable aura of sexual possibility that will once again be hard to explain in the morning that follows.
Your cat has chosen a less threatening vessel for his love, and since a stuffed animal cannot complain about just-so lovemaking and is conveniently accessible without having to squeeze though a cat-door and cornering a cat playing-hard-to-get, Jonesie is willing to copulate with an inanimate, albeit compliant stuffed creature instead, even one in fact that may not be the same species.
Sadly, Jane-a, your concern is misplaced. I see no problem for Jonesie, but even if it were a tiny problem, keep I mind you are talking about a cat. What is far more troubling to me is that you still consider the stuffed animals that have been repeatedly ravished sexually by your male cat as “my toddler’s” toys. Most parents seeing a cat try, even unsuccessfully, to fornicate with a child’s plaything would likely either throw the toy away using metal tongs, or just give the toy to the cat and make sure that the child never handles the slutty toy again. I am quite concerned that you are OK allowing your toddler to continue to cuddle with the same play toy that a cat just rubbed his apparatus upon. Like most responsible parents, I would rather teach my child, under the circumstances, to stay clear of ALL soft plush cuddly toys henceforth, being never quite sure which ones have been diddled, saying “NO!” with same vigilant and frightening voice of authority I would if I were warning about open windows or petting packs of stray feral dogs. My advice would be to direct your child to the cat’s old plastic toys instead, which apparently the cat has no further interest in using.
You could probably break Jonesie of this habit if you have the time and money. Medication, especially certain anti-depressants that have been shown to have a libido lowering side effect in many of the women I have dated, may be helpful.
Aversive shock therapy, where you wire a toy to a wall outlet, has also proven effective in some cases, but with a child in the house, you may not want to pursue this option unless you have a Home Defibrillator at the ready. So under the circumstances, let the cat enjoy what little sex he can get. He probably wishes the same for you.
To answer your question about whether your toddler will start behaving in a socially unacceptable manner by mimicking the cat’s behavior, I think your child will no sooner add toy-humping to his repertoire as he would drinking out of the toilet, scratching your furniture, or abandoning the conventional bathroom for a sandy litter box. As you toddler gets more curious, chances are that you will have bigger worries, such as keeping him from eating Comet cleanser.
By the time your child becomes pubescent, when his natural hormonal drives begin to kick in, Jonesie, who I belive you indicated is now 10, will probably no longer be an improper sex role model, because he will probably be long dead. But even if he isn’t, your elderly cat should no longer be a worry since he will be 22 years old and have barely enough cat-strength to urinate, let alone get an erection.
Once Jonesie is gone, your child is safe and will likely never be influenced by seeing such aberrant behavior again, unless of course he ends up with a college roommate similar to mine.
I hope this helps