Snuggling down under a large quilt in my rocking chair on a cold winter night felt so right. The best part of my self-indulgence was that my conscience was clear; I wasn’t being lazy. During the day I had washed two loads of laundry, swept, vacuumed, baked bread and cooked a nice supper. The furnace in the basement kicked in with a roar. I smiled. During the summer when I had had it installed; I worried it would be so quiet that I wouldn’t know when it was running. Ruefully, I reflected, “With it directly below where I’m sitting, it sounds like a jet engine revving-up to take off.”
As a new widow and fully responsible for my home, I had quickly become aware of the sounds in my house and what they mean. The old furnace was working right when; augers kicked in, pellets clinked down the chute and the noisy blower frequently started up with a roar. Well pump clicks told me when water was being drawn from the well. Snow falling from the upper roof make loud crashes, but apparently do no damage.
Sometimes I learned new sounds. One day I was in the dining room when I heard a loud thumping sound coming from the upstairs hallway. It sounded like a kid was running from one end of the house to the other. My heart pounded. I was home alone. Slowly walking toward the staircase, I spotted Louie my white and black cat on the landing. A few seconds later, Shadow the black and white cat joined him. They had been chasing each other. I picked Louie up. He looked soft and fluffy, but tipped the scale well over twelve pounds. Still, how did he manage to sound like an elephant heffalumping down the hallway? Pets make surprising sounds.
My daughter Tammie once exclaimed, “Isn’t it amazing that we have small predators for pets? They are so sweet, but are very efficient hunters. After I turn out the lights at bedtime, my Carla Cat often prowls through the dark house hunting. I know when she is successful. She makes a “Mrowr” sound that means her mouth is full. I think it’s sweet! Especially when the next morning I find her toy mouse next to my bed, like a gift offering.”
I laughingly responded, “You wouldn’t be so thrilled if you were the size of a mouse when you heard her on the hunt, or if some day she leaves you a real mouse!”
When my cats want a door to be opened, they will paw at it with the pads of their feet, making a very curious light rasping sound. There is no way to distract them until they get what they want. One frigid morning Louie wanted out. When I opened the back door, he stepped forward and came to a sudden stop. He lifted his head and sniffed the cold air with his eyes half closed, like a wine connoisseur considering a new fermentation. I sensed he knew everything worth knowing about the backyard from that one sniff. Then, backing away and shaking his paws, he turned and ran down the basement stairs.
One night recently, Niki and I left her four youngest at my place while we went out. Arriving home two hours later, the children reported being alarmed by strange sounds coming from the basement. I confidently reassured them, “That was just the cats.” We checked the basement. I expected to see things tipped and out of place. There was no damage to be found, but I looked up and spotted a small black and white face peering down at me from atop one of the large square heat ducts that carry heat from the furnace to all parts of the house.
Since then, I’ve been hearing bumps and thumps a few times every night. I never find anything out of place and can’t figure out what the cats are doing. I mentioned to Tammie what was happening. She commented with a wicked grin, “Some people have bats in their belfry. You’ve got cats in the basement.”