I was sitting on the couch recently, trying to find something worthwhile on cable, when the cat came trotting into the room carrying a fresh “kill” in its mouth.

The kill was a roll of toilet paper.

Apparently, to a cat, a roll of toilet paper can be easily mistaken for a mouse or bird. I don’t see the resemblance myself.

So here’s this pure black cat with a roll of toilet paper and there are shreds of the stuff hanging down from its mouth. People will tell me I’m wrong, but I am positive that feline was grinning.

Upstairs, in the bathroom, it looked like Times Square on New Year’s morning. Either that or like an Egyptian mummy had disrobed and then left the scene. In addition to the shreds of TP, there were the abandoned cardboard rolls, and it was clear the cat had managed to gag itself on at least one of them. So some of the shreds were actually adhesively plastered to the tiles.

It was time once again for me to get out my happy hat, dust it off and put it on.

Like any father, my plan was simple. “I will train the cat,” I said.

My wife snickered at that one because she has owned cats before.

Cat training phase 1: Verbal reinforcement.

“No! No! No!” I said, while holding a toilet paper roll. “No! We do not eat toilet paper!”

The cat blinked once, mildly, and then looked from me to the rest of the family as if to say, “Is he talking to me?”

Talking to a cat is an extremely unsatisfying process. Sometimes it blinks or twitches its ears. Sometimes it swishes its tail around. People will tell you what a cat is thinking based on its tail movements, but I’ve been too lazy to learn its language beyond “purring good, ears flat bad.” I figure if Cleo is too lazy to learn English, I’m not bothering with American Feline Dialect.

As a parent I’m always using that phrase too. “We don’t use that word.” “We don’t hit.” “We don’t eat toilet paper.” “We don’t spill Cocoa Puffs on the carpet and forget to tell anyone about it for eight hours!” It’s funny how much time we spend doing the things “we don’t” do.

But I digress.

Needless to say, phase 1 was entirely ineffective.

Cat training phase 2: Water pistol.

Like any family of four humans and one varmint, we have an assortment of water weapons. We have big squirt rifles for outdoor use during the summer and little hand-held weapons as backup.

It was decided that one of these would be put to use in cat training. In addition to the paper shredding problem, I thought this might also help with the getting up on the counter and supper table issues.

Like anything I need, the water guns were not readily accessible. “They’re in the garage,” Christine informed me.

The question in our household isn’t so much what’s in the garage, but what’s not in the garage. We have it crammed with a grill that works, one that doesn’t, a bag of lava rocks from a grill we haven’t owned in six years, bags of bottles I’m too lazy to take to the redemption center, and roughly 4 million boxes of junk that we were going to sell in a lawn sale that we never got around to having last year.

So about a week after deciding I wanted a water gun, someone in the family went wading into that mess and came back with a tiny, purple squirt pistol.

This is now the cat’s nemesis.

The trick is to catch it in the act to get the cat to associate getting squirted with its poor behavior. This is the only hope of driving information into its little, nickel-sized cluster of brain-like head filler.

Now, every time we see the cat trotting around with a toilet paper roll, I holler “where’s the squirt gun! I need my squirt gun!”

The cat sees me coming with the purple squirt gun, drops the TP and cheeses it for the stairs. When I manage to hit the target, it shoots me that patented cat “How dare you, sir!” look. But I haven’t managed once in the past month to actually shoot the cat with water while it was holding the TP.

Phase 3: Training Dan.

At some point someone came up with the brilliant idea of simply keeping the bathroom door closed basically all the time. You would think that a 36-year-old man who seems to still have most of his faculties could remember something that simple.

“Mom! Dad left the bathroom door open and the cat’s destroyed the toilet paper!” Wesley likes to holler down the stairs.

“No one likes a tattletale,” I yell back.

We actually ended up running out of TP one night because of the cat-vs.-paper carnage. TP is that one thing that no matter what time it is, no matter what your financial situation, if you run out, you’re going to have to go and get some more. I’m surprised that its invention does not predate the wheel or pyramid. It is a necessity driven product. That’s probably why it’s so expensive. The companies are like, “What else are you going to do?”

You gotta hate those moments when you’re trying to get creative and you’re taking inventory of all the paper products in your house. “Hmmm, we have Darth Vader napkins left over from a birthday party. There are paper towels. Pages from that Dan Brown novel. Hmmm.”

Perhaps we could contract the cat out to companies that need to shred documents.

Something better give soon because training me to close the door is taking a little too long.

You know it’s bad when my wife’s waiting out in the hall with a purple squirt gun, and it’s aimed right at me.