71: My Interior Decorators

71: My Interior Decorators

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That!

My Interior Decorators

Everyone carries his own inch rule of taste, and amuses himself by applying it, triumphantly, wherever he travels.

~Henry Brooks Adams

I walked into my kitchen and noticed a small corner of my brown grasscloth wallpaper below the chair rail was pulling away from the wall. No big deal. I rummaged through my junk drawer for a tube of wallpaper sealer. A small dab and the corner was flat again.

The next day, another bit of wallpaper was lifting off the wall. Another dab and the problem was solved. I ran my fingers across the wall, but the rest of the paper seemed firmly fastened in place.

The third day I found a small strip of paper fluttering, barely attached to the wall. I knelt down for a closer look. The paper was sheared away in a series of ragged slashes that looked suspiciously like cat scratches.

With three cats in the house, I was pretty sure I could narrow down the suspect pool to them. Unless, of course, they’d brought a mouse into the house again. No, the paper was ripped too high on the wall for rodents to take the fall for this. Definitely a feline felony. But which one was the culprit?

While I puzzled over the problem, Thomas came up behind me and head-butted me. Aha! I thought, my first suspect. Time for Interrogation Techniques 101. All my years of reading mysteries and watching police shows was about to pay off.

I sat down on the floor and put him on my lap facing me. He immediately turned around and bunched his back legs in preparation to leap off me.

“Not so fast, Thomas. I need to see your eyes while I question you, not your behind.” I gave him a quick spin and held onto him. “Listen carefully. No, don’t lick me, just listen.” I wiped my damp hand on my pants. “Thomas, did you or did you not tear a strip of my wallpaper?”

Thomas gazed into my eyes but didn’t answer. I wasn’t sure if that meant he was refusing to talk without his lawyer present or, as usual, wasn’t listening to a word I said. I repeated my question. He repeated his silence. Realizing we weren’t getting anywhere, I let him go, but not without a warning. “Remember Thomas, I’m watching you.”

When I tried interrogating his siblings, I got the same results. However, I noticed that when I glued the strip down again, he was the only cat watching. Just to be on the safe side, I said, “Thomas, this is wallpaper. It’s not a tree. Ripping wallpaper is bad. Very bad.” I raised my voice loud enough for his siblings to hear. “That goes for the rest of you, too. No ripping of wallpaper.” Thomas blinked and headed off to the sofa for a nap and possibly to cogitate on what I’d said. Or not. The others didn’t respond at all.

By the end of the week, I had re-glued three more strips of wallpaper. Although I still didn’t know who was guilty, I was ready to throw all three cats in jail. I restrained myself, partly because I’d miss them and partly because I worried about what bad habits they’d pick up while behind bars.

Instead, I decided to play detective. I choose the bottom step of the stairs just outside the kitchen for my stakeout. Not exactly a comfortable spot, but I was running out of wallpaper glue and patience, not necessarily in that order.

Just as my behind was getting a permanent indentation from the stair, I saw an orange-and-white paw stretch out toward the kitchen wall. I jumped up and raced into the kitchen.

“Aha!” I said, just as Thomas’s claw sliced through the paper. “Caught you red-handed! Or is that orange-handed? Doesn’t matter. You’re busted!”

Thomas stared at me for a moment, then calmly licked his paw as if to say, “Who me? Certainly not.”

“Don’t play the innocent with me.” I shook my finger at him. “Bad boy. Do not rip the wallpaper. Do it again and you’ll find yourself wearing stripes.”

Thomas looked at me, looked at the wall, and then sauntered off.

For two days after our talk, the wallpaper stayed where it belonged — on the wall. I began to wonder if I could get a job as a cat whisperer, since I was obviously pretty good at getting cats to listen. Must be my no-nonsense tone of voice. Or maybe the threat of wearing stripes got through to him. Either way, I chalked this up to a triumph of man, or in this case, woman over cat.

My pride, like my wallpaper, took a pounding on day three.

As I walked toward the kitchen, I saw not one, but two cats industriously pulling the paper off the wall. Thomas had co-opted his sister Sammy as his accomplice in crime. Tiger, cat number three, was ensconced in her usual position on top of the dining room table, ignoring her lesser siblings.

Mesmerized, I watched as Thomas stood on his hind legs and ripped from the chair rail down. Sammy, who’s considerably smaller, worked from the baseboards up. If it weren’t for the fact that they were wrecking my house, I might actually have been impressed by their teamwork. When Thomas ripped off a particularly large piece, my momentary paralysis vanished and I found my voice. “Stop!”

Before I could say another word, the feline felons raced past me heading for the basement. I was tempted to chase after them, but was too awestruck by the sight that greeted me. Between the two of them, they’d managed to pull most of the wallpaper off a three-foot section. There wasn’t enough glue to put the tattered remnants back up.

As I wondered what the world would be like if Noah had barred cats from the ark, I gathered up the curls of paper on the floor. Then, almost without thinking, I sank to the floor and pulled off a few slivers still left hanging in that section. Then I pulled off a bit more to the left of the section, and then a bit more.

Half an hour later, there was no more wallpaper under the chair rail. Knees creaking, I stood up to see how bad it looked. It didn’t. The entire kitchen looked lighter and airier without the dark brown weighing it down.

By then, both cats had slunk back upstairs and were crouched at the entrance of the kitchen, staring at me. I stared back.

“The only thing between you and the Big House is the fact that the kitchen looks better. But you only get one ‘Get out of jail’ card. Next time, you won’t be so lucky. I’ll be watching you.”

Neither cat seemed impressed with my warning. Thomas gave Sammy a lick on the head, and they trotted off together for a long nap, no doubt dreaming of future felonies.

~Harriet Cooper

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