Researching With Kittens 101

Imagine…’If you are thinking of coming to Anglia Ruskin to study for our MA in Publishing, please consider our newest module: Researching With Kittens 101.’ PhD student, Lucija, recounts her experiences and takes an amusing look at why this could be a great addition to PhD training.

Course Overview

When you’re a PhD student, Anglia Ruskin offers you all sorts of training imaginable. Ethics, presentations, mixed methods, designing a poster and plenty of other things, just to give you a clue how to do things properly at a PhD level. I’ve done quite a considerable share of the workshops offered, and they were for the most part very interesting and informative, but none of them were quite as intense as living with my kitten Imoen.

Mode

A way of life

Key Skills*

Multi-tasking

If I’m lucky, the day starts with Imoen curled up next to me, blinking sleepily. If I’m not quite as lucky, it starts with a furry ball of energy bouncing off every surface in my tiny apartment. Imoen doesn’t care if I need to rest or study; she wants my attention and she wants it right then and there.

After two weeks of kitten hyperactivity, I was successfully able to entertain Imoen with a toy while reading a book at the same time. With practice, I moved on to intermediary level – typing whilst playing. I’ve yet to master the advanced level, which constitutes of wiggling my toes under the blanket in the middle of the night so Imoen pounces on them instead of my face. I have no problems with toe-wiggling; it’s the ‘staying asleep during toe-wiggling’ part that eludes me.

Organisation

For some reason, Imoen loves the folders in which I put various articles related to my study. If I leave them within her reach, she will try to sneak up on them, pounce on them and then poke them uncertainly with a paw to make sure they are thoroughly dead. I quickly learned that she likes to chew on paper, so I have to make sure that I put each freshly printed article into a plastic sleeve and insert it in one of the folders. This latter step is necessary because Imoen is delighted by the sound the plastic sleeves make when mangled, but doesn’t always prevent damage…..

The dangers of studying with kittens

The dangers of studying with kittens

Creative Typing

Kittens love keyboards; ‘it is known‘. I managed to train Imoen NOT to walk on the keyboard while I’m trying to work, but she still likes to stay in close proximity, poking her paw under the keyboard when I’m working on my PC and batting at my fingers while I’m typing. Sometimes, she will fall asleep on my arms or wrists and I will have to get creative with my typing in order to not wake her up. Other times, I will have to gently nudge her head from ctrl or tab button.

Imoen the cat laying on Lucija's laptop keyboard

Creative Typing – Typing with a kitten on your keyboard

Work/Life Balance

When Imoen decrees that I’ve had enough of study, there is nothing to do but comply. She makes me take breaks to feed her, give her some fresh water, clean the litter box, play and cuddle with her. She will fall asleep when I’m clearly engrossed in something, but she will go ballistic and roll all over my papers when Tom comes home. And it’s a good thing – if I don’t take regular breaks, I tend to lose my focus after a while and spend hours aimlessly surfing the Internet. It’s much better to have a kitten climb onto your lap, curl up and demand cuddles.

Student Feedback

All in all, I’d say Researching With Kittens 101 has greatly improved my life as a PhD student at Anglia Ruskin, and was immensely beneficial to my emotional, as well as mental well-being. Being an advanced course, Researching With Kittens 101 can be a bit frustrating – for less experienced students considering this course, I’d suggest ‘Researching With (Older) Cats 101′.

 

* NB: This entry looks at the fun side of being a cat owner, but there is one more aspect that’s extremely important: responsibility. Imoen is not just being provided with fresh food and water, she is vaccinated, microchipped, spayed and insured, all within the first 6 months. It’s an incredibly important part of owning a cat.

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Lucija has travelled all the way from Slovenia (which is actually not that far) to become a PhD student at Anglia Ruskin and researches trends in speculative fiction publishing. In her free time, she is an avid reader, SFF fan, gamer, owner of an overly enthusiastic kitten and a cautious twitterer at @lucijadacic.