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There are times when the caretaker has a positively brilliant idea, such as setting up a monthly subscription for cat food delivery. And then there are other times. The Disco Tent falls into the category of “other times.” It seemed like such a good idea at the outset. The caretaker had been brainstorming ideas to keep the floor in the cats’ room from looking like the bottom of a snow globe (that is if the snow globe were filled with litter instead of dainty pieces of faux snow). She had seem some expensive pieces of furniture called “hidden litter boxes” with holes into which cats are supposed to saunter, take care of their unsightly business, and then saunter out again, fresh as a daisy. But given the size, age, and temperament of both Buddy and Bear, the caretaker figured that such a plan would result in having to ring up the fire department to use the jaws of life to rescue one or more furry victims from the throes of claustrophobia.

No, there was no point in paying hundreds of dollars for a glorified cat trap, but a suitable alternative seemed to present itself in the form of a small plastic tent intended for children ages 1-6. The caretaker thought she could shove each litter box into a separate tent, so that as litter was kicked about, the sides of the tent would hold it in. To be safe, however, she decide to order only one tent to make sure the plan would work.

Limiting the order was the only good decision the caretaker made in this fiasco. When the tent arrived and was unfolded, it presented three major problems:

  1. The opening in the tent is not large enough for the litter box to gain easy entrance into and egress from the tent.
  2. Even if the litter box could be squeezed into and out of the tent door, the sides of the tent are made of a lovely, breathable mesh material that would provide smaller pieces of litter easy entrance into and egress from the tent.
  3. Although designed for children ages 1-6, the tent is roughly the size of Connecticut. Two of them would fit into the cats’ bedroom only if all other furniture were removed.

In other words, the tent put the caretaker back to square one with regard to litter spillage, while subtracting more than a square yard from her already limited floor space. Even in the kindest terms, this solution would be labeled a colossal failure.

But the caretaker, having spent twelve dollars and ninety-nine cents for this disaster and having no desire to ship it back, was determined to find a way for it to brighten up the household. So she wedged it into the spare bedroom, lined it with a blanket, and tossed in all of the cat toys she had found when she swept under the sofa, et voila, a playhouse. Two of the toys she retrieved are spheres made of pointed strips of multicolored mylar that catch the light and sparkle like a disco ball.

Thus the naissance of Disco Tent.

Although Disco Tent was righteously snubbed by both cats during the first eight hours of its existence at Stratford Palace, it finally became the subject of Buddy’s undauntable curiosity. He would run through its door, sniff the tent interior from east to west and north to south, and then fly out the door as though he had been ejected.  His curiosity, you see, was tempered with a keen distrust that the tent might suddenly transform into a cat carrier and whisk him away to the vet’s office. (Please note that the caretaker has not entirely discarded this option, given the difficulty of getting Buddy to the vet.)

Bear, however, remained oblivious to the tent’s charms for two more days. But Tuesday morning, the caretaker passed by the guest room door and caught a glimpse of Buddy standing beside the tent looking quite forlorn—utterly discontent, one might say. His head hung down, and his face wore an expression that made the caretaker want to weep and giggle at the same time.

“Whatever is the matter, my darling boy?” the caretaker crooned. Buddy lifted only his eyes, simultaneously raising the level of tragedy that emanated from his countenance.

As the caretaker glanced around to find the source of his chagrin, she looked inside the tent and saw the distinctly ringed tail of a saucy tabby. The previously indifferent Bear had taken up residence in the Disco Tent, and her relaxed demeanor indicated that she would not vacate it any time soon.

Buddy’s once sacred space had been violated. He was afraid to enter the tent while Bear occupied it, so he had resigned himself to wait in mournful silence for her to leave.

The caretaker smiled and reassured Buddy that he would again be able to frolic in the Disco Tent after Bear finished her nap and moved on to partake of a post-nap snack.

The caretaker tactfully omitted that this was clearly a first-world problem and therefore did not merit as much sympathy as Buddy thought it deserved. Yet do not chide, gentle reader, for if you had only seen those eyes of woe, you would have wept with Buddy over a loss of even one second in the Disco Tent.

But never think that Buddy is down forever. The caretaker could have sworn she heard him humming “I will survive” a few minutes ago.

Like Buddy’s curiosity, Disco never dies.

 

 

 

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A few months ago, an announcement was made regarding the addition of palace staff. This arrangement has worked out extremely well for all concerned. Buddy is especially glad to have another source of adoration, and Bear is pleased that an additional can opener is now available. This week, however, the new staff member has added skills to his resume. Upon emptying a rather large box that had contained a shipment of kitchen supplies, he turned the box on its side and set it on the floor so that Buddy could play Cat Fort whenever he wants. With his recovery complete and the return of warmer weather, Buddy has spent many happy hours holding down the fort. And as a side benefit, naps are even better in the safety of a cardboard haven.

Last night when thunderstorms started to rumble, the caretaker lined the box with a comfy blanket so that the fort would be a comfortable refuge for anyone who might be frightened. Buddy insisted that he was not afraid, but he also felt it would be a shame to waste such an inviting bed, so he spent several secluded hours while the storm raged. Then tonight, when storms threatened again, the caretaker decided it was time to produce the fabric mice she had been hiding and use them to distract the jittery king, who jumped a bit higher into the air each time the thunder roared.

The first fabric mouse was received in the hallway and promptly found its way under a closed bedroom door. Buddy immediately flopped onto his side and repeatedly shoved his paws into the crack under the door, but was never able to retrieve the mouse. The second mouse did not get away so quickly. Rather than play with it in the hallway and risk a repeat of his previous tragedy, Buddy brought the mouse out into the living room and set it behind one of the box top flaps. He then proceeded to stalk it with all the gusto of an NRA member hunting a deer. Biding his time and pouncing quickly enabled him to sneak up on it, subdue it, and gather it gently into his mouth. He then approached the box and dropped the mouse on the lid that was serving as the fort’s front door.

Now if anyone in the world has his priorities straight, it is a cat. Naps are all well and good, but when a dainty blanket gets in the way of stalking wild game, something has to give. The blanket was unceremoniously shoved out of the very same box where it had served as a mattress only fifteen minutes earlier.

Fort Cat

Fort raided, mouse held for questioning

The temporary calm captured in the illustration above was shattered soon after the photo was snapped. The box began to shake, rattle, and roll while Buddy and the fabric mouse fought a duel to the imaginary death. To borrow an overused and virtually meaningless media phrase, “details are sketchy” regarding the exact nature of the battle, but thankfully Buddy won the day. He emerged from the box bearing his prize between his teeth, sauntered to the food bowl, and plopped the vanquished foe into the bowl.

Buddy’s motto is “Eat or be eaten.” Bear’s motto is quite similar, but more succinct: “Eat.”

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The cats are more than a little confused this afternoon. The caretaker came home from work early, fixed herself a glass of tea, sat down, and put her feet up. That’s right. Before doling out cat food and water, before asking the cats if they had a good day, before making sure the litter boxes were clean . . .

She sat down.

And put her feet up.

After the initial shock, each cat decided to deal with this unnatural occurrence in his or her own way. Bear chose to occupy a post halfway between the caretaker and the food bowls, making sure the caretaker had a perfect view of her very unhappy kitty face. She lay on the cold, hard wooden floor for almost an hour staring at the caretaker with THAT LOOK, occasionally turning her eyes longingly toward the food bowls, each glance weighed down with an aura of fading strength. She remained silent throughout this tragic scene, but like many silent film stars she was able to dim the world ever so slightly with her pathos.

Buddy, on the other hand, was a bit more direct in expressing his displeasure. Jumping up on the chair arm and placing his face directly in the caretaker’s face, he assumed his best “woman-your-whole-purpose-for-living-is-to-take-care-of-me” attitude. (He is not very good with punctuation at times like these.)  As he sniffed her lips to find out if she had been eating something she hadn’t shared with him, he was startled by a strange noise at the door. It was a combination of large footsteps and low singing tones. That’s right, a song was being delivered to Buddy’s front door, and the thought pleased him immensely. He extracted his nose from the caretaker’s face and jumped down to wait for the song to enter the house. But as he stared at the door, he only heard a metal box clanging, and then the song began to fade away. He remained there staring at the door until all hope of receiving his very first singing telegram was gone.

Crestfallen, Buddy ambled down the hallway to hide under the cot. These two disappointments following so closely upon each other’s heels provided more data than he was equipped to handle on a Friday afternoon. Perhaps after a wee nap the world will regain its former luster. If not, he shall simply have to get another hooman, one who isn’t so self-centered, one who will feed him mounds of fish with gravy and then order him a singing telegram.

That doesn’t seem too much to ask.

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Lest the previous post leave our gentle readers with the impression that Stratford Palace is a pigsty, Buddy and Bear would like to stress that the caretaker has a cleaning regimen which takes up a substantial portion of every Caturday and is extremely distressing to the cats on many levels.

One of the main problems is the matter of the caretaker’s missing lap. When she is sweeping floors and emptying garbage cans, her lap might as well have an “out of service” sign on it. This situation is much more of a grief to Bear than to Buddy because when the caretaker is home, Bear’s goal is to stay as close to her as possible, but both cats are distressed by the extra noise and commotion they must endure until cleaning is complete.

Buddy’s main concern when he finds the caretaker standing and working instead of sitting quietly is that he assumes that her motives are the same as his: scoping out mayhem to pursue. For example, when she wields a broom to rearrange the various bits and pieces of dirt on the floor, Buddy expects his life to end at any moment by “blunt force trauma.” (He really must stop watching so many crime mysteries.). The missing lap/walking caretaker is also a problem during laundry time, and unfortunately that process has not changed much since the days in the Seafoam Cottage (See “An Open Letter to Hunter Van Pelt.”)

However, there is one particular laundry day that must be chronicled here, as it created the greatest distress Buddy has yet seen at Stratford Palace. Our gentle readers may not be aware that the cats have their own room, complete with a supply cabinet, litter boxes, and a small, quilt-covered cot, pictured below.

Fort Cat

Fort Cat/Cot

Hoomans would, of course, be tiresome and say that a cot’s only appropriate purpose is to be slept upon, but the underside of the cot provides the perfect place for Buddy to play his favorite game, “Hide-and-Go-Sleep.” The caretaker has learned to look here first whenever she is getting ready to leave the house and needs to make sure he is not locked away in a closet.

It is not so much the cot itself that Buddy loves but the quilt that turns it into a cat fort par excellence. It did, that is, until that fateful day of 14 July 2012, which shall forever more be called “Laundry Day” instead of “Bastille Day.” (Except, of course, in France, because the French are selfish and have absolutely no perspective on what constitutes a real problem.)

And what, the gentle reader might ask, made this laundry day so fateful? It was nothing less than the washing of the quilt, preceded by the removal of the quilt, which left the soft underbelly of the cot exposed. There are no words to describe the look of betrayal and alarm that emanated from Buddy’s face when he walked into his room and found his cat fort dismantled. Doctors may get along just fine without borders, but there is no way a cat fort can be useful without walls. He walked under the bed and looked out at the caretaker accusingly, daring her to point out that she could now see him.

Trying to process the loss of both a porch AND a fort, Buddy wandered nervously around the house during the wash cycle, and finally found a place to nap fitfully while the quilt was drying. Then he followed the caretaker to the clothes dryer, watched carefully as she hoisted up the laundered quilt, and then escorted her to his room, hoping against hope that his beloved fort could soon resume its proper form. Like any good manager, he stood to the side and watched her imperiously as she centered the quilt on the cot, smoothed it out, and checked to make sure it hung straight on the side. And like a good manager, he ran forward to point out all the mistakes she had made. As soon as she left the room, he ducked under the bed to make up for lost time and was not seen again for several hours.

Of course, the observant reader will have already noticed the miracle that is described in the previous paragraph. Under normal circumstances Buddy runs frantically away from anything to do with laundry. But on this day, his fear of pelt sorting was eclipsed by his great need to restore order in his fragile universe.

But rest easy, gentle readers, for order HAS been restored. The picture of the cot above was taken after the quilt was washed. God’s in His heaven. Buddy’s under his cot. Bear has been fed. All’s right with the world.

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