Saturday, March 25, 2017

At least it's not a van down by the river

Pumpkin, my cat, has been living in an Ikea bag for the past week. No, she's not out in the wilds of Virginia using a reusable bag for shelter. The bag is sitting on the floor of my apartment. Every night, she sits in the bag on some schedule that only she understands. As I write this, she's sitting in the bag, gazing out into the vast expanse of the apartment while ignoring me. Her new abode raises a lot of questions for me; we'll get to those in a second.
Day One
Here's how it started: I had a bunch of smaller bags to bring in when I got home from work last Friday. Since I have this oversized, reusable bag in my car, I put the smaller bags in it which makes carrying things to my apartment easier than struggling with multiple little bags. I put the bag on the floor and went about my evening tasks of feeding Pumpkin, making dinner, and going through the mail. I didn't immediately remove the smaller bags from the bigger bag BUT there was enough room for a tiny orange cat to shimmy her way into the bag. Which she did. She sat, nestled amongst the bags, for a solid 20 minutes. Eventually, she jumped out and ate her dinner. I went about emptying the bag but left it on the floor since I wanted to take it back to the car. It never made it.

Pumpkin kept going back in. Since last Friday, Pumpkin has spent anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour sitting or napping in the bag. I don't know if she spends time in it when I'm not home; I haven't become the person who sets up video cameras to see what her pet does when she's not home...yet. Sometimes she peeks her head out and watches me, either when I'm in the kitchen (directly across from where the bag is) or sitting on the couch. She occasionally lays down so I can only see the tops of her ears. On Thursday, she didn't go in the bag; she rubbed her face on it and sat next to it but didn't go in. My theory is she did this because I came home later than normal and she preferred snuggling with me on the couch than sitting by herself. However, she did get me up at 4:30 am by making the "I'm going to throw up in your shoes" gagging noise. She didn't actually throw up; when I got up to check on her she was laying in the bag. The move seemed to say "I just want you to know I do what I want and right now I want to live in this bag. I don't have to explain my life to you, Erin."

Which brings me to all the questions I have about this latest chapter in my life with Pumpkin. We've been a part of each others' lives for 15 years now. In that time we've lived in Honolulu, New Orleans, Alexandria (twice), Alameda, and Arlington. She's been in an airplane on multiple occasions and driven cross-country (not in a Toonces the cat sort of way). She's even evacuated form a hurricane like a freaking boss. She's undergone endoscopic surgery (she swallowed a needle and thread because cat's do stupid shit sometimes) and had to take kitty morphine once after having some teeth removed. Pumpkin has led a more interesting life than many humans. She's just that cool.

So what does the whole thing "I live in an Ikea bag" thing mean? Pet experts always tell pet owners that pets do odd things to tell you something; their food isn't right for them, they're not getting enough exercise or water or sleep, they're sick. Weird behavior can be a sign of trouble. Here's the things: cats are always weird. How is a cat "owner" supposed to know the difference between normal weird and weird weird? Cats have a very specific life philosophy that skirts the normal weird/weird weird line very closely:
  1. "If I fits, I sits."
  2. Nap for at least 18 hours a day, sometimes with your eyes open because you can and it creeps humans out.
  3. Sleep in ways that can only be described as cat yoga.
  4. Stare creepily at your human in the shower or bathroom not because they're planning anything bad but because you love your human as the intense staring proves.
  5. "All of your things belong to me, human. I will now rub my face on everything."
  6. Run around at odd hours of the night like something is chasing you. Look perfectly at ease.
  7. Hide when your human sneezes; she has offended your ancestors. 
I don't think her new behavior is a sign of anything bad; but because I'm me, I have to overthink her behavior and try to find some meaning in the behavior of creature who never makes sense. Here's what I'm wondering:
  • Am I a bad pet mom? Have I not provided you with adequate napping and living space options?
  • Did you pick up a love of modular, brightly colored Swedish furniture at some point in our journeys and the only way you know how to express that love since you can't go to the actual store is to spend time lounging in a reusable bag created by the same company? 
  • Are you still upset about moving? Are you trying to figure out your place in our new apartment?
  • Have you secretly been harboring a desire to construct furniture with only an Allen wrench? Do you know what an Allen wrench is?
  • Is the apartment too big? Our last apartment was on the small side and we lived there for awhile so I could understand if the space now is too much for you. Maybe the smallness of the Ikea bag is comforting. 
  • Do cats know how to interpret the instructions provided when humans buy Ikea furniture? Is this actually the cat plan to take over the world - reduce humans to sad, sniveling creatures curled in the fetal position because they can't construct a three shelf bookcase and then our cat overlords take over providing clearer instructions but only if we pledge our eternal devotion? Wait...I sort of already do that. When do I get clear Ikea instructions?
  • Is it the crinkly-ness of the bag what makes it so appealing? 
  • Does it feel like you're hiding but also visible at the same time? You can see me but I can't see you? (I can see you because you're terrible at hiding in a very large, blue bag.)
  • Did you want to give me a good story to tell people this week?  
  • Is this the cat version of an mid-life crisis? Is Pumpkin thinking: "I need change in my life but I like my toys and my food so I'll just add oddly cryptic behavior to my repertoire because I'm a cat and it's the only option I have"?
As the week progressed, her time in the bag got shorter. Maybe she's tired of it; maybe she realized I'm much more comfortable as a pillow than the floor is. Maybe she's decided to be less weird. I don't know. What I do know is that this is not over. Pumpkin is heading to her grandparents' house this weekend. We're going to try a little experiment to see if it's a specific Ikea bag or all Ikea bags. My dad has the same blue bag and we're going to put it out for her and see what happens. How far will Pumpkin's weird go?

Next week: Dispatches from the #misfittoysroadtrip2017 all the way from Music City. We'll talk queens of country music and there might possibly be a new chapter from my novel. 

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