Thursday, March 02, 2006

Kitty Crisis

On Thursday morning, I woke up to the aftermath of a kitty crisis in Duloc Manor. First, a little background: we have three kitties, two of which are normal, friendly felines and one of which spends 99% of his life hiding under the upstairs bed. The other 1% is spent eating, using the litter box, and being chased by Stitch and Farquaad (the normal cats).

Tooncinator, the crazy cat, comes downstairs late in the evening, at feeding time, and sometimes he sticks around until I go to bed. When I take my nightly medication, I open the fridge to get a bottle of water, and Farquaad immediately goes into his "starving kitty" routine, hoping to cadge some lunchmeat. Toonce caught on to that, and he stands off to the side looking pitiful, so I end up giving him some goodies, too. I like to reward him any time he shows the slightest modicum of social behavior.

Generally, once everyone has had their treat, I head upstairs to bed with the feline trio trailing me (Stitch is always underfoot, but he doesn't like people food so he's not around for the mooching). On some nights, when the voices in Tooncinator's head are particularly strong, he stays upstairs through dinnertime and the treat interlude. Thus, it's not unusual if he's not around at bedtime.

On Kitty Crisis eve, my husband went to bed before I did. As part of the nighttime routine, he shut the frontroom window and closed the french doors. In builder talk, it's actually a "formal room," but since I am from Chicago, it will always be the frontroom (pronounced frunchroom) to me. We don't use it a lot; it has a futon and rocking chairs and makes a nice sitting room, but we tend to gravitate to the family room in the back of the house. But we leave it open because there is a cat perch in the front window, and the cats love to watch people go by on our little cul de sac.

We close off the room at night, since it's the only carpeted area downstairs. For those who are not cat owners, felines that are going to puke (and believe me, they puke a lot) are inexpicably and irresistably drawn to carpeted surfaces. Also, most of our house is dusted with an inch or two of cat hair, depending on the season, so we like to keep at least one room in relatively pristine condition. That way, we can pretend that sometimes we actually live like civilized people.

I continued to work in the family room for a while, with Farquaad curled up next to me and Stitch at my feet. Suddenly I heard scratching noises, but they didn't alarm me. Tooncinator's demons often direct him to scratch on walls and doors for reasons that I can't begin to fathom. I figured he was in the foyer, scratching on the front door. Quaad heard him and galloped towards the source of the noise. I yelled, "Leave poor Toonce alone!" but he totally disregarded me, and soon Stitch had joined him in the front of the house.

When I took my pills, I noticed that all three kitties were missing in action. I figured that the other two had driven Tooncinator upstairs, but it's odd that they hadn't come back down. But it was 1 a.m., so my powers of reasoning weren't at their peak.

I reached the bedroom...no kitties. Usually if they head up before me, I find their little furry bodies sprawled out on the perches of their "cat tree," which is next to the bed. If I had been more awake, I would probably have done some investigation. But it my haze, I assured myself, "They'll come up when they're ready," and I collapsed into bed.

I was almost asleep when I heard a ruckus downstairs. Once again, I thought I should investigate, but my brain was already 90% into dormant mode. I heard another crash, and then I thought I heard the bird squawk. But it wasn't repeated, so I rolled over and plunged the last 10% into Dreamland.

My husband typically wakes up before me; he has regular work hours, but my schedule is flexible. He was up at 7 a.m., and I worked my way into consciousness somewhere around 9 a.m. He poked his head into the bedroom and informed me, "There's a little problem with the cats." I figured that someone had yakked up a few hairballs in the hallway or perhaps had overturned a litterbox. "Nope," he said, "I screwed up last night and locked Tooncinator in the front room."

My heart sank. Not the sole civilized, decent room in our chaotic household! "How bad did he trash it?" I asked, picturing shredded curtains, smashed lamps and knick-knacks, and a ruined carpet. Turns out the damage wasn't as bad as my paranoid mind had conjectured...but it was still a mess. In the absense of a litterbox, Tooncinator had used the futon for his potty needs. And it's not just a cheapie K-Mart futon; it's a high-end model with a pricey innerspring mattress and patterned cover with bolsters. Since the front room doubles as a guest room, we wanted it to be as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, the liquid had soaked through the cover and into the mattress stuffing. Ugh!

I am very picky and didn't want to even attempt to clean the mattress. The cover had absorbed most of the liquid, but if even a little bit had made it through to the stuffing, I knew that the unpleasant aroma of "litter box" would permeate the frontroom forevermore. Worse yet, if the cats could smell it, they might well decide to add to the mess, thinking that it was a new, cushy potty area. I could smell the odor overtaking the little room already, so my husband and I dragged it out to the alley (thankfully, it was garbage day, and the truck hadn't come yet).

Hubby, eager to fix his faux pas, found the futon store where we had originally purchased the set. Back in those days, when Duloc Manor was brand spanking new, we rarely had any idea of where we were going to pick out furniture. We'd locate a likely store in the Yellow Pages or online, run directions on Mapquest, and set off blindly on a new adventure. We didn't have any sense of direction, so we had no idea whether we were near Orlando or some boofoo suburb. We just did what the internet told us to do to get from Point A to Point B.

Now, I see that the futon store is out near downtown Orlando, not too far from where we bought our hot tub. My husband tried to call them to make sure that they had the same innerspring mattress in stock (and possibly the cover), but he kept getting an answering machine. Finally he decided to head down I-4 and take his chances. He tossed the soiled cover into Canyonero, too, so he could either match a replacement or drop it off at the dry cleaners.

As I waited for him to return, my mind slipped back to our early days in Celebration. That futon was one of the very first pieces of furniture in our home. We had ordered other pieces while Duloc Manor was being built, but they hadn't been delivered yet. We needed a place to crash that first night, so we searched out futon stores and started our quest. I remember how overwhelmed we were by all of the styles, colors, and covers.

My husband and I have diametrically opposed taste, so it took quite a while before we could come to an agreement on a selection. He likes wild, gaudy prints, while I wanted something a little more sudued. After all, it was for the formal room. Finally, we compromised...I chose a light wood frame and a cover with a bright but tasteful and soothing leafy print for the front room, and he chose a black frame an gaudy beige, black and purple oriental print for his office upstairs. For both of the futons, he insisted on an innerspring mattress rather than the usual uncomfortable bag of stuffing.

We found our way back to Celebration in our rental SUV and proudly carried in the first of our furnishings. I'll never forget my first night in Duloc Manor, sleeping in the frontroom (or rather, trying to) on that futon. I was restless in this new, strange place, breathing in the new-house scent and struggling to identify myriad unfamiliar sounds. My husband can sleep like a rock virtually anywhere, but it takes me a while to get used to my surroundings. When I finally drifted off, I was awakened abruptly by the sound of the sprinklers. Now, of course, they are a meaningless background noise to me, but it took quite a while for a Chicago girl to get used to them.

Now, the mattress on which I spent that first night was heading off to a landfill somewhere. A bit of Duloc Manor was slipping off into the annals of history. We ended up keeping the original cover, though, because of course the futon store was out of that particular pattern. Hubby toyed with buying a new one, but we already have pillows and bolsters to match the original. The dry cleaners assured him that they are experienced at dealing with pet "accidents," so we'll see when we pick up the cover on Tuesday.

The cats, meanwhile, were upset at being locked out of the room during daylight hours. When we placed the new, coverless mattress, we left the doors open, and they immediately had to rush in to explore the change in their environment. Once they marked it up with plenty of hair, they were content.

I remember the early days of Duloc Manor, when the cats were still in Chicago. Everything stayed pristine and lovely, with nary a trace of cat barf on the carpet, nor any cat hair tumbleweeds floating lazily across the floor. We didn't have to worry about locking felines into rooms or closets or cabinets, and our furniture remained as pristine as the day we had purchased it.

But in those days, the house was so lonely. There were no kitties to greet us in the morning with furry, purry bodies perched on our chests. There were no warm, fluffy critters to lie next to us as we worked or watched TV. There were no starving cats to remind us in high-pitched wails that the refrigerator contains milk and lunchmeat, both of which are essential to feline survivial. Yes, it was a pain in the butt (and expensive) to mitigate the damage of the kitty crisis, but the rewards of cat ownership are well worth it.

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1 comment:

Kathy Holmes said...

Loved your kitty crisis story. Your 3 cats sound like ours. We made the mistake of buying dining room chairs made out of chenille - kitty's favorite scratching posts. :)