We have an ongoing game at my house. It's called Find the Cat.
Like most cats, ours is a creature of comfort. She's spent most of her 14 years finding the coziest places in the house to snooze away the evenings, mornings, afternoons.
She wakes for food breaks (which she loudly and impatiently announces) and to bat around a toy or demand a lap to sit on. Mostly, though, she sleeps. And not just anywhere.
At night, she likes to nestle down either on the back of my head (she must be going for heat, not comfort) or behind my husband's knees.
During the day is when she gets creative.
My husband built her a clever little nesting box that fits over a heat register. For years, that was her No. 1 hideout.
Since we've been at home almost all the time, she's become more creative.
Whether it's to dodge us or be closer to us, she's largely given up her heated box. Instead, I'll discover her buried in the bottom of a basket of blankets, beneath the covers in a fully made bed in the guest room, or nestled under the duvet, which was being aired on the back porch.
She's also been known to burrow into a basket of laundry, still warm from the dryer. (Of course, I can't fold it then. I have to wait the Katzenjammer out.)
When the cold snap came, playing Finding the Cat got a whole lot harder.
We cranked the thermostat up a bit but still had to layer on sweaters and rely on blankets to keep warm. We kept blankets at the ready on almost every chair and sofa in the house.
That's when the cat seemed to be nowhere and everywhere. I wouldn't catch a glimpse of her for hours. But when I'd go to plunk down on the sofa, I'd hear a yowl as our suddenly ferocious feline announced that this space was occupied.
We learned to look before we sat. Sometimes, just looking wasn't enough. We'd have to poke a pile of blankets to see if it meowed.
On the rare occasions when we actually went somewhere, we'd do a room-by-room search — poking blankets, shifting baskets and lifting duvets.
Once disturbed, the cat might stumble lazily out of her lair, yawning and stretching and looking as if she had been sleeping off a bender. (Hence the nickname Katzenjammer, an old term for hangover and one of the many terms of endearment we have for her.)
When the weather warmed and the blankets got folded up, it was somewhat easier to find her. As long as the sun was shining, we could track its passage through the windows and usually find her sitting in a patch of sunlight.
If you've never had a cat, you might not understand the preoccupation with knowing where it is.
Unlike dogs, cats don't announce their presence unless they want something. They slink and sneak — out the front door, into open dryers, I've even had a kitty crawl into a refrigerator crisper drawer once.
Determining the location of the cat is just something cat owners do. I guess it gives us a little peace of mind, knowing that all is well, at least in the cat world.
Luckily, Lucy FrankLynn (her real name) greets us at the door when we come home, so we don't have to go looking for her.
Since I started working at home during the pandemic, I find myself indulging in a round of Find the Cat more often.
Sometimes I'll go in search of Toonces (another nickname) just to get a glimpse of her lounging peacefully in a chaos of blankets or stretching in the sun with complete abandon. Seeing her never fails to make me smile.
Occasionally, I'll pick her up, put her on my shoulder and pet her. She'll start to purr. As I listen to her low, rhythmic rumble, I can feel my heartbeat slow, my jaw loosen. A sigh escapes.
When she starts to squiggle, I put her down, she looks at me for half a second, stretches and goes off in search of a sunspot.
She is indeed a creature of comfort: mine.
Connie Nelson • @StribCNelson