Catster editor: “We’re looking for stories about how people clean or rearrange their homes and their physical space to accommodate their cats. Do you have any stories like that?”
Me: Gales of uncontrollable laughter, verging on hysteria.
Before we got our current batch of kitties, we spent days getting our home ready: getting a new cat condo, new litter boxes, and so on. The day we got them home, we spent hours following the little monsters around while they got into more and more trouble. As we hastily cleared off spaces it hadn’t occurred to us in our wildest dreams they could get into, we realized just how laughably inadequate our preparations had been.
Rearranging our space to accommodate our cats? We’ve rearranged our freaking lives.
Here are some of the highlights:
I am convinced that Apple has some secret formulation for their power cords that involves catnip. Or possibly tuna. Comet is obsessed with them. She is apparently convinced that they hold the secret to eternal life.
So the laptop, the iPad, the phones — everything has to be charged behind closed doors. I structure my entire writing schedule around how much time I have left on my laptop battery. If I want hours of uninterrupted working time, and I don’t want to shut myself in the bedroom with the power cord on one side and Comet on the other, I’ll often pack everything up and go work in a caf├® … just so I can plug in my computer without the cord getting chowed.
It no longer lives on the spool. The second day that Comet was home, she jumped on the toilet seat while my wife Ingrid was brushing her teeth, looked Ingrid straight in the eye … and grabbed the end of the toilet paper and ran off with it out the door. The toilet paper now lives on the shelves in front of the toilet. A very high shelf. (Comet can jump.)
Which means the simple act of sitting down to pee now involves thought and logistics, in which we have to remember, first, to get the toilet paper off the shelf.
We got very spoiled with our previous cats. Lydia and Violet were hungry hungry hippos, but they were also lazy oafs, and food left on the kitchen counter could stay there until it rotted for all they cared. Empires could rise and fall before Lydia and Violet would haul their fat butts up the three feet to the counter. No such luck with this batch. Comet is agile, athletic, adventurous, fearless to the point of stupidity … and ravenous. We can’t leave her alone with food for a second. We can’t even leave a burner on while we go in the other room — not since the time Ingrid saw her jump on the stove while water was boiling.
And it’s not just Comet. Houdini, for all her calm, self-possessed attitude, can get very sneaky — and very aggro — when food is involved. And Talisker’s most famous escapade involved jumping into a Pyrex dish of marinating tofu.
So when we make dinner, we dish the food out … and then we very carefully clean and put away everything before we eat. In fact, it often winds up being like that puzzle about ferrying the dog, the goose, and the corn across the river in a boat that will only hold two at a time. “You stay with the plates while I wipe the counter and put the leftovers away. The roasting pan is too hot to leave out, Comet will get into it, but if we put it in the sink to soak and cool off, Talisker the water baby will get into it. What if we store it in the oven for now? Can you carry the dinner plates in while I watch the butter dish? No, you can’t go get your phone from the other room, not until the counter is wiped off. Damn, we forgot to get the napkins! ABORT! ABORT!”
It’s like a freaking military operation.
Here’s the thing about flat surfaces, and about cats who will jump on any flat surface they can reach — especially cats who are agile, athletic, adventurous, fearless to the point of stupidity, and who can jump really really high.
Flat surfaces mean that everything fragile, everything dangerous, everything we don’t want destroyed, has to be in drawers, in cabinets, or behind closed doors. With each new flat surface Comet can reach, our apartment gets an increasingly spare, unornamented, Bauhaus feel — while the glassed-in cabinets and the shelves that she can’t reach yet get increasingly crowded. We even had to rig up a barrier in front of our liquor shelf because Talisker and Comet were getting into it. And we have one entire room that we’ve closed off, because we haven’t figured out how to catproof it — a room where, predictably, all the fragile and dangerous stuff is starting to get stored.
And “dangerous” doesn’t just mean “poisonous.” It means “things small enough for less-than-entirely-bright cats to swallow.” Things like, oh, say, refrigerator magnet letters. No more spelling cute messages to each other in fridge magnet letters. Not since we discovered Comet leaping up to knock them off the fridge — and then found the letter T in her barf.
Our days of “to heck with it, we’ll do party cleanup tomorrow” are long gone. The thought of what Comet would do with room after room of cheese plates and martini glasses and half-empty beer bottles … it makes me shudder.
So when we throw parties now, we don’t just have to shut the cats in the bedroom with a litter box and a water bowl before the party starts. Once the party is over, we have to clean and put away everything. Doesn’t matter if it’s 3 a.m. Doesn’t matter if we drank five Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and ate three pieces of chocolate pie. We wave goodbye to the last guest, we close the door behind them — and we sigh, and commence cleanup.
So yeah. We’re not just rearranging our space. We’re rearranging our life.
And it is totally worth it.
Every time I clear off a new shelf that Comet has just reached, every time I sigh about how long it takes me to get dressed in the morning because all my jewelry and shoes have to be kept in Fort Knox, I remember what our home was like after Lydia and Violet died, and before we got Talisker and Comet and Houdini. I remember how weird and wrong it felt to come home to an apartment with no cats. I remember how empty the place seemed, how lifeless. And I think about how full of life our home is now. I think about how much my heart bursts when one of them is nuzzling my neck or purring on my lap. I think about how we can’t watch TV for even 10 minutes without pausing it to marvel at our sweet and hilarious girls.
And it is all totally worth it.