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.