Why, you ask, am I so crabby today? Well.
So easily I had fallen asleep last night, drifting away, away, away. So abruptly did I bolt upright at the unmistakeable sound of something tumbling down the stairs. A small child! my terrified heart told me. No, not quite, said the brain. I bolted out of bed, woke my backup, and scrambled to do a head-count. Kids: all there. Dogs: check. Stairs: mysteriously devoid of anything that could cause such a racket. Puzzled I was, so confused. The sound that had woken me lived mostly in that foggy interstice between asleep and awake, that mysterious place which makes us question whether what woke us belonged to our dreams or to the dark shadows of the house. This might have been one of those instances in which I dismissed the noise for a dreamt one, had it not been for the delayed, last clunk of the thing that I was sure I heard, then fully awakened by the preceding tumbling. It was then that I remembered the other set of stairs in the house, the ones below the upstairs set I had checked for evidence: the steps leading down to the basement. “Ooooooh,” I said aloud, to my backup, “it came from the basement.” I ran to the top of the basement stairs, pulled open the door, turned on the light. The evidence lay before me as simultaneously I heard the unmistakeable sound of the cat door’s magnetic closure. Startled by the light, something was leaving the basement and was now long-gone into the night. It was the cat’s water dish traveling down the length of the stairs that had woken me a minute before. And I was sure that it was not the cat that was to blame.
I walked back up to bed, riddled with a sickening deja vu. Last summer we experienced a similar phenomenon, whereby the water dish appeared repeatedly at the bottom of the stairs, the bin of cat food upturned and pillaged. Like an idiot, I had blamed the pugs, who certainly would jump at the chance of a kibble buffet. Then, after losing Lucy and retaining only a blind Svejk who we were sure could not find his way into the replenished food bin, we realized we were dealing with a different animal entirely. It took us over $80 of cat food, the most expensive bags we purchase at the feed mill, to realize that, like fools, we had been feeding a neighborhood of raccoons. Sonofa.
All of this ran through my head as I tried in vain to get back to sleep last night. Violated is how I felt. It, or they had been right there, parading through my basement. Again. Details emerged as I replayed the scene in my restless mind. So much fumbling at that cat door as I turned on the light: I’ll bet it was more than one. Sonofagun.
Still bristling this morning, it took two cups of coffee to connect the thin powder of fresh snow that had fallen last evening with the opportunity to don my sleuthing cap. A would-be Nancy Drew, I headed out back looking for paw prints. But who the hell knows anything about prints? I asked myself. Not me. Still, I noted both 4- and 5-toed footprints, headed to and fro the cat door. And this brings me to my opening question: How many toes does a cat have? Four. 5 toes hath raccoons and possums. And one box trap hath these foolish farmers. One box trap and one much, much smaller cat door. Son.of.a.bucket.