Following Rules in the Kingdom


Two cats—Sophie and Teddy—possess the house my wife and I own and sometimes inhabit. I said they “possess” the house rather than “rule” because we make the rules and they decide whether or not to follow them. I didn’t say they “own” the house because human names are on the deed. Yet often I get the feeling that they believe this is their kingdom rather than mine, and the human inhabitants were created to serve and care for them with no strings attached.

Because my wife and I own and make the rules for the house, we are the deities of this kingdom. For cats, deities are a necessary evil.

As deities, we rule but we are wise enough to know that lots of commands are worthless when it comes to cats. We could have a whole book of rules and they would just ignore it. So we have one basic rule: no cats on the countertops. Who wants paw prints on surfaces where food is to be prepared—especially knowing those paw prints may come after time spent in the litter box?

Do you think the cats can follow one rule? Of course they can. But only when the deities are watching.

One of the ways I have of reinforcing the only rule is a spray bottle with water in it. It sits on the countertop as a visual reminder. We use the spray bottle very rarely. The cats are long gone by the time we can cross the room to get it.

One time I chased Teddy with it, yelling and trying to instill fear. It worked. Now he fears the male deity rather than the spray bottle. After all, the bottle doesn’t do anything without a deity around. And the first time he got hit with the negative consequence inside the spray bottle, he licked it and said, “Hey, I drink this stuff! I won’t hurt me. I just have to watch out for that boisterous male deity who gets agitated just because I can walk on a higher level than he can.”

Sophie merely thinks it’s an inconvenience to have to wait for the water to dry. It’s the wild look in the male deity’s eyes that causes her think there’s a risk to remaining in the area. She’s much more at ease with not getting on the countertops while the deities are within the kingdom. She knows we’re absent more than we’re home. The only time she’s tempted to break the rule while the deities are roaming the kingdom is when one of us has placed an object on the counter than might need investigating. And she doesn’t need much time to find out what she wants to know.

Sometimes I wish there had been a class in seminary and divinity school where I could have learned how to be a more effective deity in my kingdom. “Effective” meaning getting others to follow the rules of the kingdom.

How effective are you with others following rules in your kingdom?

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