As with most new parents, I felt inclined to purchase any new toy I thought Gracie might like in the days following her adoption. In my defense, she HAD been abandoned by the side of the road. She HAD been living in a tiny cage for several months. And, she HAD just recently been birthed from a couch. It was my duty to make up for these horrors by providing her with food, shelter, and TOYS.
I stalked the cat aisles in Wal-mart and Target in search of some new treasure. I haunted the local pet supply store in order to get the first look at any new cat items. And in typical teacher fashion, I went online and hunted down the toys that were supposed to provide the most mental stimulation.
My house looked like a pet supply store threw up cat toys in it. They were everywhere – which is why it was probably good that my husband was currently working across the state. The eight hours it took him to drive home gave me just about enough time to hide most of them.
Out of all of the items I purchased for Gracie, bonker balls and tiny cloth mice were her favorite. Rae and I would bat a bonker ball between us using only our hands. Gracie would jump up and try to knock it down while it was in midair. She would get so excited. Her pupils would dilate, her tail would swish aggresively, and her body would assume pounce position over and over again. It was a great bonding experience.
But as the months progressed, I began to notice that there were fewer and fewer bonker balls available to play with. The same seemed to be true for her favorite cloth mice.
Normally, we would see Gracie race through the house batting a cloth mouse along the floor until it was officially “dead”. Then, she would either dump it next to her food bowl or just leave it where it “died” on the floor. Regardless of her choice, they had always been around somewhere.
So, what was going on? What was happening to my beloved cat’s toys? Who else would want to play with slobbery bonker balls and chewed up cloth mice? (Admittedly, the names of a few of my present and former students did come to mind while I was pondering that last question.)
Unfortunately though, I didn’t have much time to dwell on this mystery since we were in full test prep mode at school. But, I didn’t want Gracie to be deprived of her favorite toys either. So, I kept buying more…. and more… and more of each – mice and bonker balls.
When the local Target finally stopped carrying bonker balls, I knew it was time to get serious about solving this mystery. My plan was to give Gracie a new bonker ball to play with. Then, I would stalk her until she inadvertently gave away enough clues to help me figure out what was going on.
The first part of my plan worked great. I gave Gracie the new bonker ball, and she seemed interested in it as usual. Yeah! After that, my plan completely dissolved. Gracie was on to me from the start. I don’t know how she knew what I was up too. But, she did. She looked at the new bonker ball laying on the carpet. Tapped it with her front paw just enough to build my confidence in the plan. Then she turned, put her nose in the air, and walked away with her tail sticking up like a candy cane. My career as a super sleuth was over before it began.
My only other option was to search the house one room at a time. It was a slow process and only resulted in the discovery of several small clumps of 2-3 bonker balls or cloth mice. After that, there wasn’t anything else I could think of to do about this strange situation. And, life was getting so hectic that I couldn’t allow myself to get too frustrated or obsessed with it.
So, the mystery continued to remain unsolved causing our supplies of bonker balls and cloth mice to continue dwindle. Too make matters worse, Rae and I started to notice that other items around the house were disappearing – such as hairbands and sticky notes. I was beginning to wonder if the house was haunted especially after watching Paranormal Activity.
Finally, (a year and a half later) Rae graduated from high school, and it was time to rejoin my husband across the state. We decided to leave a few pieces of furniture - mostly in Rae’s room - behind since they were quite old. But, we knew that they would have to be moved in order to clean the carpets before the house went up for sale.
Luckily, one of my daughter’s male friends was willing to move those rather large pieces of furniture so we could vacuum. Everything seemed rather normal until he moved the dresser in Rae’s room away from the wall. The yelling from the room alerted me that something out of the ordinary had happened – but I was not prepared for what I saw.
Shoved into the farthest corner under the dresser was a pile of bonker balls and mice – at least twenty or more. It looked like the dresser had just experienced a bonker ball bowel movement. I was stunned. Only squirrels stored stuff for the future, or so I had been led to believe. The truth of the matter hit me hard. My cat was going to need therapy or a reality show at the very least. Why? She was a hoarder.
With much trepidation, I waited for Rae’s bed and desk to be moved too. More and more piles of bonker balls and mice turned up under each. We were now well over a count of fifty. The cost for therapy bills continued to rise in my mind – both for me and Gracie.
We still hadn’t found any sticky notes or headbands yet. So, the newly energized search continued. The remaining pieces of furniture yielded only dust bunnies. But they didn’t really count since technically Gracie didn’t put them there on purpose. Her fur only added to them accidentally.
Just before giving up the search, I decided to quickly vacuum under the bottom of the refrigerator since it hadn’t been done in years. Yes – yuck! I know. Blah, blah, blah… Anyway, within minutes of turning the vacuum on, something clogged it up. It was one of many missing headbands. Slowly, we removed headband after headband from under the refrigerator. Some were hard to distinguish from dust bunnies since they had been under there for so long. Alas, still no sticky notes though.
Finally, the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Gracie’s toys, etc… was solved. But with it came the realization that my cat was as eccentric as I was. I couldn't help but wonder if there was a specific course of therapy for cat hoarders? It was going to be time to consult my numerous cat information manuals again as soon as we reached our new house - if I could remember where I packed them amongst all of my piles of stuff!
Until next time, remember ...
Perhaps it is because cats do not live
by human patterns, do not fit themselves
into prescribed behavior, that they are so
united to creative people.
- Andre Norton