Robert Galvin: RG the Cat Guy dusts off a memory

·4 min read

Jan. 23—We'd had a run of pleasant days — buds were poking their noses out, mallards were pairing off to do what mallards do, and the urge to get to decluttering projects we didn't get to last year had tapped on our shoulders.

Well, not so much an "urge" as it was a honey-do list.

We dragged a box out of the bottom of the pantry; the type of box that is always there, always moved with other belongings ... and always left unopened for years thereafter.

It was a collection of family flotsam and jetsam: The bill of sale for the house in which I grew up ($11,500 in 1954). My kindergarten report card ("Robert tells a lot of stories," Miss Taylor wrote, "but he has trouble finishing them.") Obituaries, diplomas, the results of our pre-marriage blood tests (neither of us had syphilis).

At the bottom of the box was another box ... this one filled with photos, and atop the pile of pictures in this particular box of pictures was a picture of a box.

Specifically, a box that once contained a small refrigerator for the tiny apartment we lived in 40 years ago. Well, actually half the box; we had cut the container in half like some apprentice magicians and placed one end of it beneath our bedroom window.

On top of the box ... sat the cat.

We do a lot of head-scratching things for our cats ... but in the 40 years (and the six cats) we've had since that photo was taken, I can say with absolute certainty that this was the only time we sawed a refrigerator box in half to create a bedroom window perch.

I think.

I read this past week, by way of explanation, that 1 of every 4 cat owners think of their pets as children — which is funny, because 4 of every 4 cats think of their owners as staff.

The cat on the box was named Bogey ... since we lived in a farmhouse apartment adjacent to a golf course, and I was going through an optimistic phase ... but he took it to mean that he could order us around like Captain Queeg.

When the landlord replaced the apartment fridge, the box lie dormant on its side long enough for Bogey to make himself comfortable atop it. We tried to move the box ... and he stared us down like Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada."

(You could ask why we didn't just move him ... but then we'd just have to laugh at you.)

Finally, with a Bogey-sized portion of Turkey Parmesan as a distraction, we started to deconstruct the box. For a cat whose breath often smelled of tomato sauce, Bogey moved decisively — leaping atop the box as though someone was stealing his strawberries, then staring at his dish until we put it up there with him to finish dinner.

He saw, he conquered ... and then we sawed.

We've had other cats that had a thing for boxes — although most used them as playthings. Something to jump in and out of; something to pound with a paw.

We had one cat who would wedge herself into the boxes or cardboard containers of every conceivable shape — inside a holder for a six-pack of ginger ale, for instance, or the packaging for the "Don't Worry, Be Happy" singing Billy Big Mouth Bass ("Get Off My Lawn" and "Southern Oregon Journal" ... When Worlds Collide.)

The attraction to boxes (except those belonging to Erwin Schrodinger) is so strong that a 2021 study on feline psychology found that a cat would be drawn to sit in an empty space simulating the shape of a box created using something called a "Kanizsa contour illusion."

Bogey spent hours on his refrigerator perch, sleeping or watching the barn and taking stock of what he imagined was the entire world.

The love affair was not to last, of course, as we were to move and there wasn't room in the U-Haul for even half a refrigerator box. I'm certain he never forgave us.

Bogey went with us to Florida, then to Seattle, back to Florida, back to Massachusetts (and the same farmhouse apartment, actually), then finally to Oregon ... before his patience with us gave out and he'd had enough.

His cremains were returned in a box, which we then packed in another box along with some of his favorite things — including his Turkey Parmesan dish and his favorite Enya tape — and shipped him back to that farmhouse ... whereupon our landlord buried him at the corner of the barn facing his window.

Decluttering experts tell us if there's a box stored away in your home that you never open and/or can't say for sure what it contains, just throw it out without looking inside.

Speaking as 1 out of every 4 cat owners, though, I say they're wrong.

Mail Tribune columnist Robert Galvin has trouble finishing his thoughts at rgalvin@rosebudmedia