86: Destructo-Cat

86: Destructo-Cat

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


You may own a cat, but cannot govern one.

~Kate Sanborn

Bogie has a knack for cuteness. He likes to sprawl across the carpet, turn his head completely upside down and put his paws up in the air. The resulting pose is adorable, and it never fails to make me smile. To look at him, you’d never guess that he was once a juvenile delinquent who almost set my apartment on fire.

I adopted Bogie as a companion for his littermate, Rumi. The first photo I saw of the little terror should have clued me in to the chaos to come. Bogie’s siblings were photographed sitting sweetly on the couch. Bogie, on the other hand, was tangled in a Christmas tree in his picture. He had originally been named “Rogue” because of his affinity for escaping from his room and leading the other kittens to freedom. Bogie was long, lean and elegant; he sported white boots and had large, bat-like ears. He was apprehensive around strangers and fiercely loyal and affectionate to those he loved.

True to his original name, he was a roguish explorer, and his astonishing intelligence, inquisitive nature and mischievousness were challenging to handle. Bogie chewed through wires and ruined them. He snacked on glue, which prompted panicked calls to both the vet and the ASPCA’s poison control hotline. After Bogie figured out how to open zippers, he filched a pack of birth control pills from my bag and left the crumpled foil sheet on the carpet. Some of the tablets were missing. Fortunately, he hadn’t ingested any, but I didn’t know that until I wasted a frantic half hour crawling around on the floor to locate every single pill. Bogie stole jewelry and hid it. I had to supervise mealtimes because he was so aggressive about eating that he scared Rumi. In sum, Bogie was a brat, and he forced me to continually upgrade the kitten-proofing around the house. No matter how much I played with him, how many toys he had or how many snuggles he received, he still behaved abominably. The vet gave him a clean bill of health, so he wasn’t acting out due to illness. Frankly, he just seemed to enjoy causing trouble. I started calling him Destructo-Cat.

When Bogie grew large enough to jump up to the kitchen counters, we entered an exasperating new era of destruction around the apartment. I frequently caught him tiptoeing gingerly around the drainboard, nosing into the fascinating items on the counter or walking around on the top of the stove. He liked to sit in a ceramic serving dish, where he rather resembled an overgrown Christmas ham. I started finding refrigerator magnets in odd places.

I tried to discourage this behavior, of course. The way Bogie got onto the counters made me very nervous: he used the knobs of the stove as steppingstones to boost himself up. Every time he leapt to the counter or the stove, I immediately picked him up and put him back down on the floor. After a while he knew he was not supposed to be on the counters, and a simple glance in his direction or a stern word from me were enough to make him scurry out of the kitchen. However, my kitchen did not have a door, so I had no way to physically bar Bogie from the area. I frequently came home to find paper towels, cups and other items strewn about, which made it crystal clear that Bogie was entertaining himself in my absence.

On the morning Bogie decided to turn on the stove, I woke up uncharacteristically early. I like to think that my guardian angels were looking out for me. All I know is that when I opened my eyes just after sunrise, it was with a sense of urgency. I knew had to get up immediately because something was seriously wrong. As I sat up in bed, I began to cough. The horrible stench of rotten eggs permeated the air. It smelled exactly like the gas from the stove, in fact. The stove! I bolted toward the kitchen. The odor of gas was overwhelming, and a small blue flame was merrily flickering on the front burner.

I knew without a doubt that Bogie was responsible. The oven had been safely turned off the night before. Nobody had visited the apartment while I slept. And since Rumi was still too little to jump to the counter, Bogie was the only one who could have reached the knob for the burner. For the next few days, Bogie slunk quietly around the house, refrained from his usual mischief and pointedly avoided the kitchen, which confirmed his guilt.

I was beyond grateful that nobody had been asphyxiated and that the apartment hadn’t burned down. I was also genuinely relieved that I was not going to have to describe the incident to my landlord or the fire department. It would have been embarrassing, to say the very least. How do you explain that it wasn’t your fault that the kitchen caught on fire, because your cat turned on the stove while you were sleeping? Let’s face it, nobody is ever going to believe that your sweet-looking kitten is a pyromaniac in training.

Once the apartment was aired out, I had to tackle the question of securing the stove from future cooking attempts by Destructo-Cat. I found knob guards intended for babies, but they would have been way too easy for Bogie to defeat. They were designed to stop little hands, not to withstand the ten-pound impact of a leaping kitten. I finally settled on a bizarre stove modification. I pulled the knobs off and taped pot lids over the bare handles. Whenever I used the oven, I fished the knobs out of the junk drawer and restored them. When I finished cooking, I replaced the “Bogie-proofing.” Friends who visited my apartment just raised their eyebrows and shook their heads when they saw my handiwork. Bogie never did turn the stove on again, though, so it served its purpose.

Strangely, the incident with the stove was a turning point for Destructo-Cat. It seemed to scare him enough to curb some of his more exasperating conduct. Perhaps he felt that playing with fire was a suitable grand finale to his life of crime. In addition, Bogie was diagnosed with a puzzling allergic condition called eosinophilic granuloma complex. As the EGC was treated and Bogie started feeling better, he gradually settled down and became less destructive.

Bogie is still being treated for EGC, but he is happy and healthy. He’s far more inclined to greet me at the door with a head-butt than he is to leave me a trail of debris. However, he is still a roguish, nervy Destructo-Cat at heart, and every now and then he needs to get it out of his system. It explains the shredded toilet paper, chewed up boxes and ransacked bookshelves I find every so often. At this point, I take it as a normal part of life. If I didn’t find a mess every so often, I’d worry that Bogie was unwell. And I’d worry even more about what he might be plotting.

~Denise Reich

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