As everyone knows, we rescue cats in our bookstore, part of a large operation called Appalachian Feline Friends. We took in six kittens around the same time our cat Owen was diagnosed with a serious health concern. Owen is used to going out when he pleases, but now he has to stay inside for a month while he convalesces. Owen does not like this. He lets us know he does not like it with subtle things like statement poops just outside the litter box and yowling at doors.
Owen has a brother, Bert the Elder, who is going for 16. Bert can’t see or hear, except the pop tops of cat food cans. These he can hear from two floors away even if I muffle it in a towel. Bert loves to lick out the cans after the cats have had their wet breakfast. (He gets wet supper, so don’t be feeling sorry for him.) Like all elderly men, Bert sometimes has a narrow window for personal dignity when it comes time to use the toilet. Bert has a dog flap in the basement, so all we have to do is keep the ManCave door open, and he goes in and out as he pleases.
Except, now Owen can’t go out so we keep the ManCave door shut, which confuses Bert. Isn’t this the way to the toilet? It was yesterday….
Then there’s Tooth, the two-year old spry little tabby who considers Bert her personal patient; she covers him with blankets when he lies down, cleans his ears, and actually helps redirect him when he walks the wrong direction by getting in front and turning him; Bert shouldn’t climb stairs for no reason but he likes to go upstairs because Owen’s special “get better” kitty food is up there, and when he can, Bert will clean out the bowl. And because Bert is getting up there in years, we decided we’d confine him to the basement while Owen was convalescing upstairs, so he wouldn’t be embarrassed continence-wise by the closed ManCave door.
Tooth isn’t much used to going outside; she came to us as a street kitten and she’s seen enough of Out There to last a lifetime. Nope, she’ll stand at the flap and watch Bert to make sure he does the needful and gets safely back inside, but that’s about it. So her, we left in the middle section of the bookstore, greeting guests and lounging in sunbeams.
And to make life simpler for Owen during his confinement, we built a catio off the classics room, basically a screened-in sunporch where he could soak up some rays but not wander off. To recap: Owen upstairs, Bert downstairs, Tooth in the middle: what could be simpler?
Who knew that forgetting to close the ManCave door, just once, could produce such vaudevillian theatre? ZIP! went a shadow sprinting for the door, moving so fast, I thought it was Tooth. But as I headed downstairs to find the elusive cat, Bert chugged past me going up. Since it’s hard to turn him mid-stair I called for Jack to grab him at the top and continued pursuing Mystery Cat.
Attracted by my cries, Jack arrived in time to see Owen dashing through the open door into the ManCave. He tried to pursue, but wound up closing the door to prevent Bert from turning around and going back down the stairs. Now Jack, two cats, and I were on the downstairs side of the door, Bert on the other. So far so good, we just need to catch the cats.
Unaware that both cats were now in the basement, I heard the dog flap go and rushed toward it–in time to see Owen sprint through just as I opened the outside basement door for humans. Concussed but unstoppable, Owen darted through the flap as Jack puffed into view yelling, “Stop him!”
This startled Tooth who shot out from under the bed into Jack’s path, causing him to fall across the bed. Shaken, Tooth followed Owen out just as I tried to close the human door. Her ribs will be fine; it only knocked the wind out of her.
Holding Tooth and fearing internal injuries, I said with my back to Jack, “We may need to take her to the vet.”
“You don’t say,” I heard, and turned to find my husband trying to right himself, having banged his knee off the side of the bed. As Jack limp-hopped toward the stairs, Tooth wriggled from my grasp and ran past him, knocking him sideways into the wall.
“You can go to the vet, too,” I offered, pushing past to check on Tooth. Behind me I heard muttered cursing.
Upstairs, Tooth was fine, but there was no sign of Bert. Shuffling into view behind me, Jack had just light bruising so we began a systematic hunt, opening doors and calling his name. Bert can get stuck in corners because he can’t see well enough to find the door out of a room he enters.
From upstairs came crunching. Yep, Bert had gone straight up and helped himself to Owen’s $5-a-bowl cat food. I hauled him back down the stairs, where Tooth began a thorough perusal to assess whether he’d been damaged, or had anything on his mouth she could lick off.
jack sat down and picked up his morning coffee. The phone rang. It was the tax office next door. Owen had knocked on their door and settled into his usual bed in the corner. They were happy to keep him for the morning, but wasn’t he supposed to not be going outside?
I sat down next to Jack–and felt something run across my foot. Looking down, I beheld fuzzy kittens careening in every direction. Jack followed my gaze.
“It’s an old house. When we were looking for Bert, I thought I closed the mystery room door back, but it must’ve popped open,” he mumbled. For good measure, he clutched his side. “I’m injured, you know.”
Kittens rounded up and returned to their nursery, Tooth and Bert piled into their bed together (no more separation; Bert could bark when he wanted to go out) and Owen next door doing his usual shift, we opened the bookstore. When a couple with a daughter wandered in, they admired Bert and Tooth snoring in the basket, then went into the mystery room. I heard delighted exclaiming over the fur babies.
A minute later the mother emerged and gave a contented sigh. “These two asleep here, the kitties in that cat tree, it’s like something from a storybook,” she said. ” A little peaceable kingdom.”