A week and a half ago, I had ant exterminators at my house. Because the ant population was so out of control, they needed to spray inside and out – which required all humans and pets to vacate the property for several hours. For my fiancé and his dog, this wasn’t a big deal – as a guitar player, he happened to have an out of town show to play that weekend, and his brother happily took his dog, Sushi, and babysat her. Getting the cats out of the house was a much bigger production. In spite of the exterminator’s assurances that the poison wasn’t that big of a deal, I didn’t want any of it on the cat’s toys or their litter or litter boxes. So not only did I have to get the cats out of the house, I needed to take most of their belongings too.
Fortunately I have a friend who lives only a few blocks away who regularly rents out part of her house to travelers, and I was able to stay at her place with all three of the cats and their stuff. To make sure the poison was completely dry – and because my friend is really fun to hang out with – I decided spend the night. This was great for me, but the cats behaved as if I had done the worst thing in the world to them. And I guess, in a way, I had. I had totally disrupted their whole world.
At first, I didn’t realize it was that big of a deal. After all, the space in my friend’s house includes two nicely-appointed rooms and a pretty, Mediterranean-style bathroom. The bed was comfy. I set up two litterboxes for the cats and brought up a couple of their scratch loungers (the rest of their things I parked in the garage). To me, it looked like a mini-vacation from the clutter and familiar surroundings of my own home. And to my cats, that was exactly the problem – they were used to their home’s clutter and familiar surroundings. It was their clutter! Their surroundings! This was not their home. And they did not let me forget it for the 22 hours we were there.
While my cats are not the best of friends at home, they were downright hostile while we stayed at my friend’s house. They growled and hissed at each other and each claimed an area as her own territory. Binga went into the bathroom and meowed nonstop. Sparkle crawled under the bed and stayed there for much of the visit. Boodie was so scared that one of the other cats would attack her that she crouched behind one of the scratchers and refused to move. Finally I had to remove Binga from the bathroom and put Boodie in there, since I was worried that she needed to use the litter box. Fortunately, once everyone had their corners, the hissing and growling stopped, so after I fed them, I spent some time in the den, enjoying nachos and margaritas with my friend.
Peace did not reign when I went to bed that night. Binga had commandeered the bed and I was the only living creature allowed to join her. Every time Sparkle tried to come up, Binga growled angrily at her. Sparkle wound up spending the night sitting on the nightstand and looking pathetic. Nobody got much sleep, including Boodie. When she saw that no one was paying attention to her, she happily explored the rooms, cheerfully meeping and peeping. At least someone was enjoying herself.
I packed everyone up the next morning, hungover and a little sad. I felt like I had failed my cats. I wanted a little vacation away from home with my best feline friends, and all I got from them was acrimony. I looked at the now-filled carriers. The cats were all quiet, perhaps realizing that they were on their way back home.
“I can’t take you guys anywhere,” I told them.
And clearly, they like it that way.