Wednesday, July 28, 2010

COLUMN: Moving the Cats

It is official: I have moved. I'm not just a first-time homeowner, I'm now officially a first-time home liver-inner. All of my stuff is here, too, and appears to have made the journey relatively unscathed. Of course, 80% of it is still in boxes as I type, but hey, that's what the rest of my life is for, because Lord knows I'm NEVER going through this painful process again.

For all the chaos and hoopla that was my life leading up to moving day, the actual event was pretty anti-climatic. The movers I hired were careful and courteous and decent and efficient and I'd recommend them to anyone in a heartbeat, provided that Anyone was someone with lots and lots of money. Good work doesn't come cheap, and I'll be paying these guys off for a loooong time. Still, it was a fantastic decision.

But it made for a slightly awkward day. Their job was to pick up and lift all of my possessions from Apartment A to House B. My job in the affair was to stand there and play traffic cop, announcing "basement," "garage," "living room," etc. every time a bundle of boxes got heaved into the house. Even though I knew I was dishing out gobs and gobs of money for the courtesy, it was still pretty weird to not have to help or lift a thing.

However, there were two other residents of Casa Del Shane who were having a considerably more awkward time of things during the move.

I own two cats. Or maybe they own me. Let's just say we co-habitate together, occasionally willingly, through a mutually beneficial unspoken arrangement. I give them food and water and litter, and they allow me the privilege of occasionally scratching their heads. The problem was, though, I had foolishly made the decision to move without consulting my feline companions. I was hoping it would be a "fun surprise." Well, here's how it played out and you let me know whether it constitutes "fun" or not.

I suppose a good chunk of it was my fault. When the cats were wee kitties, I used to transport them together in the same pet carrier. Note to all: once your cats are fully grown, this is NOT an ideal scenario. My original plan was to take both the cats over to the new house and seal them up in the bathroom with some familiar blankets and toys. That way they'd get introduced to the new house quietly and with some smells of home in the air. Then, once the movers got everything else over, I'd open the bathroom door and the cats would jump out, eager to begin life in their awesome new abode.

So I woke up bright and early on moving day, got everything ready to go, and the minute that those cats heard me pull the pet carrier out of the closet, they were GONE. Cat wrangling is always super fun; imagine trying to do it in a maze of 100+ cardboard boxes. Eventually I managed to get one in the carrier, and she immediately started howling as though I were pulling her claws out one by one. I got ahold of the second one, but when I tried to put her in the carrier with the first, I heard a howl, felt a leap, and before I knew what had happened, both cats were gone and I was bleeding.

The movers were five minutes away, so I had to think on my feet. I decided to corral both cats into the apartment bathroom and then we'd worry about moving them later. I gave them a healthy supply of food, water, and litter, and managed to get them both into the bathroom. For this, I was rewarding with a duet of howls that lasted for the next six hours.

Now, I've had cats a few years, and I know their noises pretty well. Low-volume, high-pitch meow means "please pet me." High-volume, low-pitch meow means "please feed me." THIS noise I had never heard before, but its meaning was perfectly clear: "We are really, really, really less than amused to be in this bathroom, and if you don't let us out of here right this second, we WILL go all Discovery Channel on you, I swear to my cat god."

This non-stop howling went on the entire morning. Did you know that cats could get hoarse? I report it to you all now as fact. By the end of the day, my precious kitties both sounded like Brenda Vaccaro on a bender. It wasn't pretty. Once the apartment was cleared out, I opened the doors and let the cats out into the culture shock of a completely gutted, empty abode. Both of them immediately started hissing at the air, so I'm thinking that didn't go as smooth as possible.

After all my stuff was brought into the new house, the last step was to race over and transport the cats. Miraculously, I got them both into my oversized pet carrier without too much blood loss on my part. Then all I had to do was run the cats and their litterbox out to the car. I went with the litter first...

I had read somewhere that it's best to bring the current used litterbox to the new locale because it gives the cats yet another familiar smell to help them get accustomed to the new digs. I was halfway to the car when Epic Rainstorm o' Doom 2010 erupted over my head. By the time I could get to the car, the litterbox had turned into litter SOUP and things were flowing up and over my hands that I can't even stop typing to think about or else I'm gonna be sick AGAIN. At this point, I made an executive decision to stop on the way to the house and buy a new litterbox.

Which would have worked out fine had I not had a car full of two hissing, howling, hoarse kitties. And had the car not flooded out at the bottom of the first hill I encountered. And had I not been forced to leap out of my car and push it through foot-tall water to safety.

Eventually I got the car started again, but I was a drowned rat by this point. A lot of people that day saw me running into K-Mart, drenched from head to toe, buying cat litter like it was THE most important thing in the world, which at that point it was.

All's well that ends well, I guess. Well, kinda. The cats and I all made it over here safe and sound. They're still highly unamused but starting to get the hang of the place. We're 48 hours here and they're just now starting to explore. Sadly, they're mostly exploring how to hiss at each other and get territorial, but I'll take angry over hiding-under-the-bed-shaking-in-fear any day. Keep your fingers crossed.

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