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An unsatisfying crunch underfoot, and the strange habits of cats

Columnist Dan Conradt says the mess made by a pair of felines was impressive in its own way.

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I was hoping to hear an affectionate mewing and feel the cats rubbing against my ankles when I stepped into the house.

Instead, in the fading light, I caught a glimpse of two shadows disappearing into the bedroom.

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I set my suitcase on the floor and something crunched where nothing was supposed to crunch.

A cautious step brought another crunch, then another.

Behind me, Carla asked, “What IS that?”

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I reached for the light switch.

The kitchen looked Times Square on New Year’s morning.

“We’re going to need the broom,” I said.

It was our first overnight trip since adopting two cats, and we’d made sure they’d be well cared for while we were gone – we’d topped-off their food dish just before we left home, set out an extra bowl of water, filled the litter box with fresh gravel, and retrieved the catnip mouse from under the couch.

As homes go, ours was a pretty good place to be a cat – open space for running, “His” and “Hers” cushions, food guaranteed to reduce hairballs, and plenty of sunbeams for napping when eating became too strenuous.

And we quickly learned that few feelings bring more contentment than having a purring cat on your lap.

Then we walked into the house and something crunched.

“What’s all over the floor?” Carla asked, stepping gingerly into the kitchen. The room was a wreck, but an impressive wreck … like when someone does an especially good job of adorning a tree with toilet paper. And like a magnificent job of TP’ing, it’s more entertaining when it happens at the neighbor’s house.

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“It kind of looks like …” I reached down, picked a crumb off the floor, recognized the ridges and popped it into my mouth: “… potato chips.”

It prompted a search for the bag of chips we’d opened two nights earlier. When we saw it last, it was on the kitchen counter; we found it behind the couch. A Chip Clip was still attached to the top, but the rest of the bag … one of those big pillowcase-sized “Family Value” bags … had been shredded from top to bottom. And now, it was empty.

It was hard to tell how much the cats actually ate, but judging from the chips we collected around the house … most were in the kitchen, but we also found them in the living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom, the hallway and halfway down the basement stairs … they were more of a plaything than a meal.

Carla encouraged me not to eat them, and I reluctantly agreed.

And I also noticed that the cats ignored the package of rice cakes on the kitchen counter.

Hmmm.

Cats, I learned that night, are a lot like kids: about the time you think you’ve got them figured out, they do something to prove how little you really know.

But on our next overnight trip we put the potato chips in a cabinet the cats couldn’t reach.

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The rice cakes are still on the counter, and the cats haven’t touched them.

But I’m still hopeful.

Dan Conradt, a lifelong Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.

Related Topics: PEOPLEDAN CONRADT
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