Wednesday, November 02, 2005

It's that time of year again...

I could be speaking of Autumn, when the leaves turn scarlet and gold and there's a nip in the air. I could be referring to the time immediately after Halloween, when the office is inundated with candy unclaimed by beggars or stolen from cavity-prone offspring. Heck, I could be preparing to grumble about the start of Christmas ads.

But I'm not.

I am thinking of the semi-annual infestation of my apartment. Now, I don't mean the spiders or the earwigs or the multi-legged creepy crawlies that abound this time of year - all of whom are looking for a warm winter abode. I mean the invisible (to me, at any rate) beasties that invade in the fall and the spring and send my cat into uber-hyper hunter mode.

I've had entirely too many weird things happen to me to doubt the presence of the unexplained, but this kinda creeps me out. Sophia and I have lived in this apartment for a bit over 2 years, and every spring and every fall the same thing happens. We'll both be chillin' on the couch, her with her four fuzzy little feet sticking up in the air, completely oblivious to everything when suddenly, she's awake and alert. Ears up, whiskers quivering, tail twitching, ready to rumble alert.

From alert, she goes to stalk mode - slither to the ground, flat to the floor, hyper-focused, creeping closer... closer... almost there and then the chase is on! Careening around corners, leaping over obstacles, her claws scrabbling for traction on my wood-like floors until the critter manages to dart under the couch, bookshelf, some shelter. Then the siege begins. Sophia crouches waiting patiently, sometimes for hours, looking like a very fuzzy sphinx, utterly intent. Finally, eventually, the pressure is too much and the critter snaps and the chase is on again. Most of the time, the chase ends with a pounce and a death shake. Then kitty noshes on her catch and cleans herself after.

This happens on a fairly regular basis with spiders aka kitty crunchy num-nums and someday I'll write about our continuing adventures with George, the suicidal house spider. But this is different because THERE'S NOTHING THERE. No noise to attract her attention, no creature to stalk and chase, nothing lurking under the furniture, nada zip zilch.

The bright orange caution sticker on her cage at the shelter and the wide-eyed astonishment of the staff ("You want THIS cat?!?!? But we have so many nice cats.") let me know early in the relationship that she was different from other cats, and one day I'll get around to sharing that story as well. My philosophy at the time was that I'd probably make a normal cat crazy, so I may as well start with a psycho one. And the first few times she hunted down and bagged her imaginary snacks, I figured that it was just a small delusion of a mouse or something.

But I've really begun to wonder. This seasonal migration begins around Halloween and will go until a week or so before Christmas. It will begin again in the beginning of March and last about six weeks into the spring. This fall is the third time in three years, right on schedule.

Also, I filled her food bowl yesterday. Normally, this would last about three days. During the migration, however, this bowl of food will last for a week and a half or so. She's not losing weight - this spring she actually gained a pound over the course of the hunting season. So, if her prey are just her imagination, what is she eating?

Witnesses believe that it is not a coincidence that I've never lost a sock in the laundry. They claim that my cat has decimated the population of the infamous sock faeries and she's a hero to sock-lovers everywhere.

I have a theory wherein my cat exists in more than one dimension at a time. I think that, were she to exist solely in this plane, she'd weigh about as much as your average tanker truck. My belief is that the small eight pound self that she shows me is a ruse. As evidence, I present my bruised kidneys. No one who weighs less than an average bowling ball should be able to generate the force with which she lands on me. I do bruise easily, that's true, but my legs are constantly decorated with an ever-changing array of colorful, paw-sized bruises from her landings. This is not normal. I've had cats my entire life and none of the other ones - even the 25 pound Maine coon - caused this much damage.

So I kinda think that she's hunting down and eating creepy crawlies from another plane of existence. I can't help but wonder what she looks like in this other place. Still the fuzzy croco-cat that I'm accostomed to? (Croco-cat since her fangs are too long to fit in her mouth) And if there are other planes, what the hell else is running around in my space?? And that, my friends, is the thought that really makes me wonder.