I shop at Trader Joe’s a lot and they use paper bags with paper loop handles on them, one on each side. I place a TJ Bag on the floor near my front door and use it for paper recycling.
My nine month old cat, Jacquez, finds these bags fascinating. I often hear the paper rattling and find him half in the bag, rummaging around for something to play with. Usually, I will later spot a wadded up piece of paper, in the living room next to his other favorite toy, my Yoga mat.
After sculpting the mat into an artistic pile of hills and valleys, he crawls under it. There he waits daring anyone to recognize that the lump in the middle of the floor is him, until my four year old cat, Ben, pounces on him and the mat turns into a roiling ribbon of activity.
My Yoga mat was beginning to look like a cheese grater covered with little cat paw prints. So, I started rolling up the mat and storing it safely away from their little claws, while having a pang of guilt for robbing them of their fun.
Then I realized that kitty prints don’t actually reduce the mats usefulness for Yoga unless there is some rule of Karmic Law against caterized Yoga mats. I made a note to Google this someday, just in case, and left the Yoga mat unrolled for their feline felicity.
Likewise, I used to get annoyed and shoo him away from the TJ Bag though I could not think of any particular reason for doing this except that it disturbed my sense of law and order.
A kitten, I have found, is terribly persistent. I eventually realized I would either have to put the bag out of his reach, thereby making it less convenient for me, or take a breath, (the Yoga mat is a good place to do this) and let him have his fun.
I never expected the bag to fight back.
One morning, I was doing my book keeping when I heard a cacophony of rattling paper. I walked into the kitchen and looked for the TJ bag, expecting to see Jacquez’ butt sticking out. The bag was nowhere in sight and I jumped as he raced past me.
I walked into the living room to find Jacquez at the top of the cat tree. I asked him what he did with the bag but he just looked at me with huge eyes, like he was saying, “It wasn’t my fault. It tried to kill me.”
Around his neck was one of the paper handles attached to a shard of paper bag hanging down like a bib.
I removed the handle from around his neck, though it wasn’t choking him. He appeared just a little shaken up by his encounter. I stroked his head at few times and listened until his motor started up again indicating that he was fine
Which left the question; where was the darn bag.
After two minutes of head scratching and searching, I found the bag twenty feet from its original position by the door, caught on the handle of my vacuum sweeper which was sitting in my second bedroom.
He must have gotten caught in the bag’s handle and run (in panic, I am thinking, cats do not like things around their necks) until finally the bag got caught on the vacuum and tore.
I am sure he was traumatized by this as he did not come down from the tree for nearly an hour. It will be interesting to see if he now approached the TJ bags with greater respect, knowing that they can defend themselves.
I restored the bag to its post, tearing off the other handle, just in case, while reflecting on the deeper meaning of this experience.
I had to ask myself “Why have a kitten, if you are going to kitten proof your domain, thus missing all that kittenish behavior that makes kittens so much fun?” I do draw the line at Jacquez climbing onto my kitchen counter, prying open the cabinet door where I keep my cereal and crackers, and helping himself. A small hook and eye has solved that.
On the larger scale, when we fill our lives with rules and restrictions (“Yoga mats should not have holes in them” or “Cats should not be allowed to redecorate the house with paper.”), we do little to make our lives better. We just add more stuff to worry about.
Fewer rules mean more freedom to accept the little catastrophes that life hands us with a laugh rather than a wrinkled brow.