—From EF—

Our cats are quarantined.

Maybe not the right word. (Segregated? Gerrymandered? Red-lined?) Whatever, our bedroom is upstairs and we don’t want them bouncing on our bed. Unfortunately, in our house there was no door to the stairway, so when we got kittens I had to make one. The stair construction didn’t make that easy, but that never stopped me. I built what was more or less the bottom half of a Dutch door and for a while that was adequate. It didn’t have a latch; it fit in its frame snugly and that was enough.

Not for long. They are brother litter-mates, but Shadow is slim, soft and fluffy, and Garfunkel is a big fireplug with a bulldog butt. As they grew, two things worked to make the gate obsolete. Shadow, intense and lightweight, eventually leaped entirely over the damn thing, and Garfy could snake his paw into the corner and wrench it open. More carpentry.

A second higher plywood panel was added, which took care of Shadow, but latches were required to defeat Garfy. Now there is a little barrel-bolt on both the inside and outside. When we retire for the night, the inner latch is closed. At first this resulted in banging, rattling, and howling, but in time they grew philosophical and more cunning. Shadow is the sneak expert; you can swear he’s nowhere near but as soon as you open the gate on the way up he’s streaked through and stands there on the landing, laughing and preparing to bolt the rest of the way up and get under the bed. We have developed strategies to deal with this.

It also takes craft for a human to come down through the gate. I used to be a night person, but gradually that has shifted. Now I’m lucky if I sleep until 6 AM; Conrad’s alarm is set for 7:30. I have grown to love seeing the golden dawn, and mourned the days when the smoke made it invisible. When I come downstairs, I unlatch the inner bolt, open the gate just enough to wriggle my foot through, and sweep Shadow to one side. Bam, I’m through, close the gate, and bolt it from the downstairs side. Replenish kibble, change water, de-turd the cat pan, skim online news (not unlike the cat pan). Then when Conrad comes down the stairs, he halts and yells “Yo!” and I come let him out.

I always find this funny for a moment, which is sweet—letting your man out of his kennel—then when the bolt is closed again we have the long, long full-body close embrace that begins our day together. There’s a traditional Native American morning prayer—”Thank you for this beautiful red day you have given us, and thank you for our lives”—and mine is a variant. “Thank you for another day that we can have together.” I don’t know what the cats think.

I used to wonder what they did with the whole downstairs at their mercy all night. After all, cats are nocturnal. One night I was not only sleepless but twisty-turny and came downstairs to sleep on the couch. I found out what the cats do: not a damn thing.

They are philosophical about their quarantine, knowing it comes to an end. May we all take comfort from this.


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