They really do. I wake up every day between 6 and 7:30 am because Bahloo wants to eat or play. No, he doesn't care what time I went to bed. No, he doesn't care how little sleep I've had or that this is the only day I can sleep in. He'll wake me up any number of ways...clawing at my feet, knocking a variety of items off my desk, crying in my ear, licking my face, attacking the underside of my bed, walking across various parts of my body, etc. And if I kick him outside, he'll sit under my window and howl. Yep, I've given up sleeping in.

I have yet to figure out how to change the setting on such cat-clocks. Some cat-clocks seem to have a defective setting for 5:00 am, which unlike regular alarm clocks, seems to be unchangeable. I have also discovered that cats make lousy VCR timers, and are very unreliable about turning the VCR on and off.

Domestic cats do remarkably well maintaining a clear sense of time cycles despite the fact that they live in houses with electric lights. Studies have shown that the various "internal clocks" (circadian cycles) that run in human beings are profoundly affected by light.

I find that Dai-un, the ancient Persian cat who lives with me, also seems to have a nicely tuned sense of larger cycles. I have days that begin at different times depending upon what I need to do. He knows the difference between Friday and Sunday.

I usually wake up when he walks into the room. His hind legs are much longer than his fore legs (arms) and so he walks with a badger-like gait. Fairly loudly too. I sleep on a futon on tatami mats so I often wake up looking at him advancing on me. If this does not work he sits by my head for a few moments. If this does not work he touches my face a few times.

Occasionally, he decides to take a day off and just sleep in. No explanation. No apology.

And so I have to agree with mattbw that a cat is not to be relied upon for working the VCR.

When I was young, we had an older tabby cat named Muir. She was a big, wonderful mama-kitty, and for some reason we never figured out, she purred 24 x 7. Even when squaring off for a spat, she purred. She couldn't breathe without purring. The quietest she ever got is when she was unhappy; she could tone it down to a low, mumbling purr - but it was still there.

Anyhow. She was the best cat alarm clock I've ever seen. Not because of her timing - as we can see, most cats seem to have that in spades - but by her methods of waking up her humans.

Step 1:

Purr. Really, really loudly. She'd pad into the bedroom at around 6:40am and sit Sphinx-like at the foot of the bed and purr to beat the band. If this didn't work, she'd go to

Step 2:

Chest Press Purr. She'd move up to sit on your chest, face inches from yours (or on your shoulders if you were face-down), and continue to purr like a cement mixer with indigestion. The problem, of course, is that to a cat-familiar human, a ten-pound self-warming fuzzy pillow sitting on your chest making soothing rumbling noises tends to put us back to sleep unless we're really ready to get up anyway. So, that meant she'd have to go to

Step 3: The Killer

This was the nuclear weapon of wakeup calls. She'd make sure you were lying on your back (and believe me, if you don't have a cat, they can dictate your sleeping position) and then sit on her haunches at the top of your chest, still purring. This didn't work by itself for the reasons given in Step 2. However, then she'd take her right forepaw and extend her index claw (and only that claw) one millimeter.

Then she'd place the paw on your closed left eye so that the slightly-extended claw was just palpable, touching your tear duct.

Then she'd purr.

Instant wakefulness. Damn survival instinct.

I miss you, Muir. I hope you're getting good kippers up there wherever you are, and looking in on me once in a while. I swear I can hear that purr occasionally when lying in bed, and I think she is.

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