Adventures in Catsitting
July 22, 2009 § 3 Comments
Pop quiz! How do you know when you’re at the end of a vacation?
When your suitcase:
a.) smells like it might walk itself to the laundry room
b.) contains coffee mugs from places with names like “Big Jim’s House of Taco-Flavored Pancakes”
c.) contains a humorous t-shirt that seemed much funnier when it didn’t belong to you
d.) along with its contents is being auctioned off in the alley next to the Best Western
Okay! That was an easy one. Here’s one that is much more nuanced: How do you know when you’re at the end of a relationship with your catsitter?
When you come home from a leisurely twelve-hour drive which involved crayon fights and championship whining to find:
a.) a trail of blood droplets leading from the garage to the kitchen
b.) a weird, distinctive, um… smell in your living room
c.) the furniture rearranged
d.) a weird, distinctive, um… guy in your living room (note: he will be the one eating your frozen dinner entree and drinking your beer)
Over the long course of my history of feline companionship I have personally arrived home to each of these scenarios in turn; I can therefore assure you with great confidence that each one is a very, very good indicator that the relationship you previously enjoyed with your catsitter is now… how shall I say it?… kaput. The responsible person in whose capable hands you left the care of your furry family members, not to mention every worldly possession you own, has suddenly morphed into someone you might not entrust with the care of your dead ficus plant.
I’m not exactly sure why it is, but it has begun to occur to me that all such relationships are doomed to this sort of messy, unhappy ending. It doesn’t seem to matter if the party in question is a “friend” or neighbor, heart-stoppingly expensive, awfully nice, highly recommended, or perfectly dependable for years… From my point of view, the end is always disturbing and usually involves paper towels.
For example, we returned home from our most recent family trip to discover a blood-curdling, nose-holding, toenail-yellowing s-m-e-l-l emanating from our living room/kitchen area. My god– what was that? Had something large and grotesque died behind the sofa- like a wildebeest, say?
We were mystified. Then I started to notice other things that were also odd: why were the water bowls bone dry- both of them? Our four year old picked up an unfamiliar object in her room which turned out to be put-that-down-honey-and-go-wash-your-hands-cat-poop. Huh? I checked the cat litter- phew! A different awful smell, but at least one I recognized. Our two elderly cats had been so thoroughly repelled by the saturated boxes that they had executed that age-old ladies-bathroom technique: hovering. Unfortunately for us, the ensuing results were also similar: a splatter-effect which would greatly dismay those to come after them.
This was getting weirder and weirder, and meanwhile the mysterious smell was demanding our undivided attention. I can describe it best as if a lovely and rather pungent blue cheese had been left on the table in our closed house.
For two weeks.
During a heat wave.
Next to a dead hyena.
With great trepidation, we called and spoke with our sitter on the phone- oh yes, everything should be fine, she assured us. No clues on the smell. Oh, and that package that was on the porch? We noticed it had been delivered four days ago– was there any reason she hadn’t brought it in as she normally did? Oh, golly, no.
Huh. I hung up the phone. And then, I did a terrible, terrible thing. I removed my “benefit of the doubt” hat and replaced it with my Nancy Drew detective hat. I went out to the trash bin. Just as I suspected- no changed cat litter (unless, of course, she took it home to be part of her extensive used-cat-litter collection.)
And then I did something even worse. I counted the empty cat food cans. There were ten cans. At two cans per day that equaled five days. Great. Except for only one problem- we had been gone for ten days.
I mean, sure, she smoked in our house, sure, she was re-mortgage-the-house expensive, but we had depended on this woman for every trip- large or small- we’d taken for the last five-plus years, with nary a problem. We’d traveled to Italy, Florida, Michigan, California, for family reunions, vacations, baby showers and weddings all without so much as a misplaced hairball. For half a decade, she had answered my nagging, worried cat-mom phone calls with patience and humor, left us countless “everything is still fine” phone messages, dispensed medication, scooped poop and cleaned up mouse innards. Once, she even disposed of a rather unfortunate mole. No problems. Okay, she wasn’t perfect, but it felt close.
As with the ending of any relationship, a tiny part of me was reluctant to let it go just based on the good history, and based on our universal, built-in reluctance for change. But adding up all the evidence made it pretty plain- the woman had suddenly, inexplicably, bloody $%*&@!-ing-well disappeared. She had, to every evidence, simply not showed up for four, or maybe even five days. Unless she had been hit by a garbage truck- a large one- this was one-hundred-and-ten percent not okay. How much longer would my poor little geriatric fur-friends even been okay for? I shudder to think.
So, like with the blood droplets, and the weird barefoot guy on the sofa and the rearranged house, I realize that yet another chapter in the ongoing catsitter saga has come to a close. Sigh. After this last, and perhaps closest call, I’m just awfully glad we still have cats to find a sitter for. That is, if we dare ever leave the house again.
Oh, and that smell? It turns out that’s what half-a-can of wet cat food smells like in July, after sitting out for four, or maybe even five days. I don’t recommend it, although it might be preferable to a dead hyena.