Feline perils in the urban jungle

Posted by Marlinee on May 6, 2011 in Houses |

Compared to barn cats, you would think that city cats pretty much have it made. They don’t need to catch their own food, they can sleep in a warm bed at night and they have indoor toilets. In reality the order of magnitude of peril increases the farther downtown you go.

I once had a house way downtown in a neighbourhood best described as transitional, meaning if we could only get the street entrepreneurs and homeless shelters to move somewhere else we’d have a wonderful place to live. The attraction of the location was the wonderful Victorian houses and proximity to the benefits of the inner city like the ability to walk to virtually everything. Victorian houses were built with slate roofs, which turned out to be a very wise idea in some ways since the slate roof on my house was still intact after 100 years and required only minor (but very expensive) maintenance when bits of slate fell off. The roof also had a very steep pitch which may have contributed to its longevity. Unfortunately it had a negative impact on the longevity of cats.

When a critical mass of snow accumulated on the roof it triggered an avalanche, signalled by a huge rumble from the third floor, which landed in a huge pile in the courtyard in the front yard. It tended to land disconcertingly close to the front door. One winter we had quite a bit of snow and the avalanche pile lasted well into spring. My neighbour got fed up with the glacier and shovelled it out so it would melt more quickly. That’s when he knocked on my door to ask if I was missing any cats. All three of mine were present and accounted for, but someone else’s cat wasn’t so lucky. It had been directly in the line of fire of the avalanche sometime during the winter and met the last of its nine lives.

My house was completely open concept, including one of the bathrooms, which was very disconcerting to some guests. There were about four doors in total, including those on the closets. On each of the three main floors there was a railing and then a one foot gap separating it from the open stairwell. If you wanted to, you could drop something from the third floor all the way to the basement. Fortunately none of the cats ever attempted the vertical suicide leap.

Originally the entire house was carpeted in the same semi-industrial beige broadloom. This may have made a bold understatement during the modern 1908s renovation, but ten years it had lost all of its original appeal. We decided to put hardwood on the main level. We bought prefinished maple in a medium gloss that looked great. The cats made themselves scarce during the installation. Once the room was reassembled they emerged to view the new living room. None of them had ever seen a wood floor before and they were well trained to the traction ability of carpet. One after the other, they raced from the living room towards the kitchen. And one by one they tried to stop, slid right under the railing and landed in the basement in a heap of claws and fur. It was months before any of them ventured back into the living room.

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