Friday, April 5, 2013

Cats Have to Change Too, Especially When They Move

When going through with a move like our January downsizing, it’s easy to forget that another member of the family also experienced a lot of change, even though she couldn’t talk about it.  Mystique is our part-Maine Coon cat, about 10 years old, with long gray fur.  She’s “our” cat because our son, who brought her home from his job one day, left her with us when he moved out.  She’s called Mystique because she’s a mutant with six toes on each forepaw and nine claws between the two.  As a kitten, she also had a large M on her forehead, just as every good superhero should wear. 

Mystique weathered the run-up to the move pretty well and did not seem much concerned about the packing of boxes or the sound of the tape gun.  Strangers coming into her house and wandering around also did not faze her.  On the day of the move, I boarded her with the vet so that she would get her anti-seizure medication reliably and no one would freak out if she did seize.  (She has a brain tumor. We think. We declined to pay $1,000 to confirm the diagnosis and opted for meds instead.)

I had to pick her up and bring her back to our new home before the movers had left, however, because the vet closes early on a Saturday.  To keep her safe amid the coming and going of large men and bulky pieces of furniture I put her carrier in the walk-in closet and closed the door.  When I finally opened the carrier, over five hours later, she wouldn’t come out.

Cat in a box, Mystique
In a Box of Clothes
Eventually Mystique emerged and started to explore her new home.  Cats are territorial so this kind of upheaval is very stressful for them.  The old, familiar territory was gone and she had to learn a whole new place.  Once she discovered where her food and the litter box were, she began to prowl.  Upstairs, downstairs, into and out of rooms, back and forth she went.  Her goal was to find the best places to hang out and to sleep, of course.  Cats are solar powered, so finding sunny places was a top priority.  Fortunately for her, we bought a south-facing unit with a three-season sun room so cloudy days present the only difficulty.

Another opportunity also opened up for kitty, however. 
Cat in the sun, Mystique
Solar Cat Inside

Although Mystique was never allowed on the table in our old house, that changed once it was staged and on the market.  Our dining room table was set for a dinner party, so we didn’t actually eat there from the end of May to the day we moved out.  Weather permitting, we ate on the deck and otherwise used the coffee table in the family room.  Kitty had always jumped up there and she saw no reason to stop just because we were having dinner.  Worse—much worse—we began to feed her little tidbits from our plates, thus training her that it was OK for her to eat with us.

Cat at the windown, Mystique
Neighborhood Watch
Once installed here, Mystique discovered that the kitchen table gave her an excellent platform for watching what was going on in our condo community.  Every morning she would jump up and watch the parade of cars, people walking, and dogs being walked.  When it snowed, she would keep an eye on the plows, the team of Bobcats clearing the driveways, and the workers on foot snowblowing the walkway and shoveling the stairs.  And we can’t forget the FedEx truck, the daily US Mail truck and the trash pickup on Wednesdays.  So much to see—and all of it visible only from the kitchen table.  We gave up on pushing her off and instead left a piece of newspaper for her to sit on, usually The Wall Street Journal’s Money & Investing section. 

Cat in the sun, Mystique
Solar Cat Outside
Now that the warm weather is here, Mystique is venturing outside and finding the best places to soak up the sun while breathing fresh air and keeping one eye on the returning birds.   

For some reason, she is drawn to the south-facing unit that’s one building over and hangs out on their porch.  I used to think she was just confused among the similar-looking units but I have watched her head out our front door and run right over there.  If she's out after dark, I take a flashlight and walk over to fetch her.  Kitty is always happy to see me and trots right on home.   

I’m not sure what will happen, though, when those folks return from Florida and find a strange cat at their door. I suppose that will be a change for them.

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