Cat in a box

by Debbie Carini


If you were a cat, and had the choice between napping on virtually any piece of upholstered furniture in a warm, cozy home and sleeping outside in a cardboard box, which do you think you’d choose?

I’m guessing most people—and cats—would say the upholstery. Perfect for kneading, maybe a couple of scratches.

That’s why I’m perplexed by my daughter’s cat, Edgar.

Edgar likes to sleep outside in a cardboard box, turned on its side. It’s like a little “lean-to” on the back patio from which he can watch the yard and stalk his arch-nemeses, the squirrels.

And for some reason, that vaguely hurts my feelings.

On these recent cold and wet days, I’ve pleaded, “come inside! C’mon, it’s cold out there,” to no avail.

On an average night in the United States, the ASPCA estimates that there are approximately 70 million cats (just cats!) living on the streets—I’m guessing 69,999,999 not by choice.

My daughter adopted Edgar at a shelter in New York City—actually she went to the ASPCA with a friend who was looking to adopt a kitten, but she started playing with Edgar, a ginger tabby. When the attendant opened the cage, Edgar jumped right into her lap. One thing led to another and, before she knew it, she had a cat. Edgar and my daughter have since come to live with us and though he was once a city cat, confined to a small, studio apartment, he now enjoys the free-range opportunities of the suburbs.

I’ve seen him lolling on the neighbor’s front porch, prowling the alley and swigging water from the indentation of a plastic chair in the yard. In his travels, he’s been side-swiped by a car, and possibly attacked by a coyote, and still we can’t get him to appreciate the comforts of a 1925 French Provencal with incredibly comfy, forced-air heat.

And then there’s the living in a box thing.

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite books was The Boxcar Children by Gertrude C. Warner, which tells the story of four abandoned children who live in a railroad boxcar. Even though their lives are hard, they have each other and an independence from adults that seemed very appealing. Whenever my parents were bothering me with rules about bedtime, or eating vegetables, I dreamed of the boxcar life with my sister. I was pretty sure we could find some sort of part-time jobs that would sustain our simple lives of buying candy at 7-Eleven, attending matinee movie and, once a year, chartering a bicycle-built-for-two from the local rental facility.

Edgar simply has that same wanderlust and he lurks about with the tenacity of a postal worker, to paraphrase, through rain or snow or heat or gloom. Edgar’s inner “lion” stalks the yard. And his box, just large enough to have once held a case of beer, is his lair. But on these cold January days, I want him to be inside, curled beside me on the couch as we watch reruns of Law and Order. I’ve tried hard to help him think outside-the-box. And guess what? When he comes inside, he has found a place he likes to cozy-up: the cold, damp bathroom sink. When Disney is ready for a remake, Edgar is ready to be That Darn Cat!


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