Cats cannot resist the gravitational pull of cardboard boxes. This is a slightly lesser-known corollary of Newton’s First Law of Motion: a cat will keep doing what it’s doing unless an external force — in this case, a box’s appearance on the kitchen floor — is applied to it. Until we were adopted by cats, I had known about this phenomenon only through old Garfield strips. Boy is it amusing to see it in action. Cookies demonstrates a few ways to work the box:
When Linus joined us, he was so shy and still so feral behaving that I didn’t think he would do domesticated cat behavior like hiding in boxes. Perhaps, on his own, he wouldn’t have. But the force is strong in cardboard boxes:
Such was the effect of box gravity on Linus that he couldn’t help but fall asleep:
As you can see from Cookies’ expression, this was not cool, inasmuch as ownership of the box had been clearly established the night before:
In other words, it was on like Red Dawn. When Linus was in the box, Cookies stalked over to him, stuck his face right in Linus’, flattened his ears and gave him a look that said something like “I pity the fool who sits in MY box.” Linus chirruped in response: “Wot?” Cookies immediately swatted him on the head (claws retracted, thankfully). No pushover, Linus swatted him back. And then they were literally at each other’s throats. It didn’t escalate to the point of snarling or other vocalizing, and since they are still working out their dominance hierarchy to a certain extent, I didn’t separate them immediately, but when it looked like it was going to get a bit too rough I said in my best Mama voice, “GUYS, KNOCK IT OFF!” They both looked sheepishly at me. Linus hopped out of the box and skittered away. Cookies got into it, muttering under his breath about it being “my box, dammit” and parked himself in it for the next half hour.
But this did not settle the question. Having judged that Cookies had had a long enough turn in the box, Linus came toodling up and rubbed his cheek and side along it and Cookies’ head, chirruping a “Please may I have a turn?” and cranking up the cuteness. Cookies swatted him, and once again it was on like Saigon. I took two steps towards them and said, “STOP!” They stopped. “We share the box, guys. If we can’t share the box it will go away. Do I need to recycle it?” (Can you tell I have a young child?) “No. Okey, sorry,” they said quietly, totally not meaning it.
Ultimately, the box needed to be recycled. As did a brown paper bag that received equal treatment. DS’s backpack then became the point of contention.
I stuck it in the closet for the night and hoped I would remember it the next morning.
Finally, there was a showdown over the catnip carrot that both of them had received for Christmas but that immediately became Cookies’ favorite toy. Linus has epic batting and chasing sessions with the toys and the catnip carrot was the perfect size for this activity. He was merrily engrossed with it when Cookies flew in from nowhere and smacked the carrot out of Linus’ paws. Another scuffle ensued, ending with Cookies again sticking his face in Linus’ face and backing him away from the carrot. Linus quickly got the point and will absolutely not play with the carrot now, even if Cookies is sleeping upstairs and it’s just sitting right there. He looks wistfully at it, and I’ve seen him touch it gently with his paw, but he has decided to let discretion be the better part of valor here and let Cookies have it to himself.
I realize that this post makes Cookies sound like a bully. He’s definitely not. He worked with us for a year to convince Linus to come inside (the full Linus story is forthcoming) and received him into his house and territory with much patience and grace. Integrating a new cat with the resident cat can be very tricky and take a long time, but thanks to Cookies Linus became a full-fledged member of the family within two weeks of coming inside. We’re not sure whether Linus ever actually lived with people since he wouldn’t let us near him for so long, and having to take care of himself out in the wild certainly didn’t leave much time for playing. So Cookies taught him about it. Cookies would bat a toy while Linus looked on, then pass it to him alley-oop style, and encourage Linus to play. In no time Linus was subduing all the toys, even Cookies’ former favorite — the catnip banana — with Cookies’ blessing. They will even eat from the same dish and snooze next to each other.
There are just a few things that Cookies isn’t ready to share yet: boxes, paper bags, DS’s backpack, the carrot, my lap and our bed. They will sort it out eventually.