Kitty Alarm System

by Tina Blue
January 10, 2004

          In 1975 I took care of a cat for my friend Janet while she was away on vacation.  Cleo was a gorgeous 5-year-old Maine Coon Cat.  Janet had another pet, too--Tosca, also gorgeous, a white Afghan Hound.

          Tosca had gone to a kennel to spend the two weeks that Janet would be away from home, but as I am a cat lover and lived just one building away from Janet, I gladly took care of Cleo for her.

          Cleo came over to my apartment late in the evening of the day Tosca went to the kennel.  In fact, Janet brought her over as late as possible--just before getting ready to go to bed.

          She had to leave early in the morning to catch her plane, so she had to take care of her pet arrangements that day, but she told me how reluctant she was to go to bed with absolutely no animals in the house.

          "I feel very vulnerable," she said.  "That's why I kept Cleo so late."

          "What good would Cleo do?" I asked.  "I know Tosca would bark or even attack if someone tried to break into your apartment, but what could Cleo do--meow loudly and hiss?"

          "That's not the point," Janet said. "With Cleo in the apartment, I would know if someone was trying to get in, even if I didn't hear them.  She would go to the door or window, or at least look at it in a way that would tell me someone was there."

          I didn't think any more about that exchange until last year, when I realized that without really noticing it, I have been, like Janet, using my cats as an alarm system.  In fact, I have become quite dependent on them.

          My deafness is progressive, and it has been some years since I was last able to hear a knock at my door. But even now, I always know if someone is there.  I will be washing dishes in the kitchen, or working in the bedroom on the computer, totally unaware that someone is knocking at my door, when suddenly, my cats will go on alert. (They always hang around wherever I am in the apartment.)  They sit up and point their ears forward, and then they hustle out of whatever room I am in to stand by the front door, looking at it expectantly.

          If it weren't for my cats, my friends might knock forever without getting my attention.  But with my highly efficient kitty alarm system, I can always tell when I have company.

          Now if I could only train them to answer the phone and take messages for me.

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