Yesterday was my sister’s birthday. When I went to her house, I made sure I brought presents for her cats as well: the boxes that her gifts originally came in. Both Puddy and Zoey sniffed at them, went inside them, and Zoey took a giant bite out of one. (She does enjoy chewing on cardboard. Perhaps it has something to do with her early days on the mean streets of Madison, Alabama.)
By the time we came back from lunch, they had fully claimed their boxes. According to my brother-in-law, they fought over them. (Puddy lives in eternal jealousy of Zoey.) Once he had made his decision, Zoey used hers as a hiding place.
There is something about a box or a bag that appeals to cats. They feel safe. They know they can’t be attacked from behind. Maybe they think the rest of us can’t see them when they’re in a box.
We all need such a place. I suppose it should be our homes, but that’s not always true. I’ve had friends at the end of marriages who found their home the last place they wanted to be, feeling that an emotional attack could come at any time. And even when our home is a safe place, it’s not always convenient to go there when things go wrong.
One of my safe places during a stressful day is either a fast-food place or Target where there is wifi. I sit, read Time and The New Yorker, and occasionally gaze out the windows. Surrounded by people, I am, for some reason, less likely to dwell on my problems. But since none of those people knows me, I can allow myself time to relax and get some distance from my anxieties.
I’m sure it would be more poetic if I went for a walk, visited a museum, or just sat under a tree.
But, hey, that’s my box, where I feel comfortable and safe. I hope you have one too.