My good friend Major Mishap kindly took on this question about a loud cat and the neighbors who mock it. I am mostly excited to have an excuse to spam you all with photos of my cat, who I think you’ll agree, is the world’s cutest animal.
Dear Captain Awkward,
I guess I’m apparently the most annoying neighbor ever, because this is the second time that I have to deal with something like this.
Just yesterday, I was walking up my apartment building’s stairwell when I heard what could only be mimicry of me and my cat coming from the apartment directly below mine. My cat has a very distinctive and easily mimicked meow, and I’m certain that the neighbor was mocking various things that I usually say to her when I walk in the door every day. My boyfriend had also preceded me up the stairs, so I’m sure the neighbor heard him up there, assumed I was with him, and was probably anticipating my normal greeting.
I am by no means a noisy or shitty neighbor, and my cat is only loud when I get home and at feeding times, but this is a problem I dealt with once before where a previous downstairs neighbor started periodically mimicking my calling to my cat. My response was to pretty much stop speaking in my apartment at anything above a whisper, but he still progressed to frequently mimicking her meow and then mimicking my laughter, which he rarely would have heard. That was the last straw, and I confronted him about the passive-aggressiveness. I told him that, if he had a problem with me, he should tell me to my face. He denied mocking me and refused to tell me what, if anything, I was doing to piss him off. The next day, I overheard him complaining to the apartment manager about my cat, which she dismissed as something outside of her and my control. The mimicry did at least stop until the day he moved out.
So now it’s two years later, I’m living in a new building on the other side of town, and I’m dealing with this crap again. It’s been my experience that passive-aggressive people like this hate being called out on it. In my dealings with my former neighbor and others, I’ve found that they will not own up to the behavior, although calling them out on it can sometimes make it stop. Do you have any suggestions above and beyond what I did last time? I really don’t want to deal with this at all, but I also can’t live in another hostile situation again.
Thank you so much in advance.
Dear Cat Fancy,
I suspected that answering questions for an advice column was going to be difficult. I was correct; your email is a doozy. But Major Mishap is into challenges and so I will do what I must to deconstruct the problems at hand here.
1. You live in a community but you think that your neighbors aren’t going to be assholes. Major Mishap moved last year. Why? There were many reasons, but chief among them were my neighbors. Their list of attributes included yelling at me from their porch every time I went outside and I do mean every time; walking in my house when I accidentally left my door unlocked to ask for a ride to the store/cup of milk/to borrow my dryer; getting offended when I built a privacy fence (“what, you don’t want to see my anymore?”), and so on. Why did prehistoric man scatter to the four corners of the earth? Because everyone else is annoying and getting far away from them is the only remedy. You can probably see the problems inherent in the hermit’s life, though.
2. You expect privacy when you and your cat aren’t offering any. Just last week Major Mishap visited a friend, and as I walked into the house I heard a disturbing scream from what I thought was an infant. This concerned me. When my friend opened the door it was the first thing I asked about. My friend was obviously quite irritated when he replied that it was the neighbor’s tropical bird, oh how much he hated that bird. The thing I want to say is that even though your cat is inside and, seriously, it’s just a cat meowing every now and then, who would ever have a problem with that? It’s just a cat! Some people are so sensitive!
Except it’s not just that. It’s a loud noise that has found its way through the walls and into someone’s ear canal. It’s a loud noise produced by your cat. It’s a noise that cannot be stopped and isn’t a great big deal in the grand scheme of things, but neither is your neighbor hollering at you every single time you drive home after a long day’s work/take out the trash/pick up the newspaper. I can imagine that you wish I had not compared the occasional meowing of a cat to annoying old people, but I could not avoid it. Every living soul on this planet is obnoxious, sometimes.
3. You do not understand why others might make fun of your cat. When Major Mishap sneezes it sounds like a goose is honking. It is unattractive to say the least, and has been pointed out many times over the years. I spent so much time being offended when people laughed at my sneeze that I forgot: my sneeze is really…memorable. Eh, what can you do? You learn to accept it. My sneeze is weird. Your cat is loud and obnoxious. If anyone has a problem with either of those things, then they can write a book about it.
I want to issue to you a challenge. The next time you come home and you hear your neighbor mocking your cat’s meow, I want you to ignore it. Your neighbor is trying to make a point to you and it obviously worked because you’re irritated. Let them blow off a little steam and keep living your life like it never happened. Can’t live with that? Put a NICE sticky note on their door that says, “Sorry about my cat! Fluffy sends his warm regards.”
If that doesn’t work and the mocking continues, prepare to move. This issue either resolves right now or it turns into a screaming match between you and your neighbor in a year’s time, probably with restraining orders and witness accounts. So, try killing this problem with kindness first. And let me know how it goes.