My kitchen is currently a war zone. And the enemy is winning.
Okay, that scale is an exaggeration. But what the aggressors lack in stature, they make up for in numbers.
First, I spotted them trailing across the windowsill above the sink. Back and forth they marched, without any apparent source or destination. I frowned at them, confused. My sink and counters were sparkling and crumb-free. I grumbled as I wiped them down again. Then I dug out one of those square plastic ant traps and placed it right in their path.
They counterattacked by marching around it.
(I am convinced that those things are actually sold and marketed by ants. Perhaps to fund their exploratory missions in to peoples’ tidy kitchens.)
After a few hours, though, they were gone, and I went about my evening.
But that first attack was just a ruse. A distraction to pull my attention away from their true target.
Cat food. Irresistible to felines and insects alike.
And why not? Dehydrated meat molded into portable pebbles sitting conveniently on the floor. Still, I recoiled in shock when I went to feed Emmy and Parker that night and saw the bowl teeming with little brown bodies.
Enter the moat.
I cannot take credit for the moat: I learned of it from my cat sitter, and if you Google “how to keep ants out of cat food,” it’s all over the internets. But it’s pretty simple and brilliant. You put the food dishes in a tray of water. The cats can reach the food, but the ants can’t cross.
Not that they won’t try…a few hours after I installed it, I found several six-legged floaters in the moat. I half-expected the crafty little bastards to build a drawbridge, but they didn’t, and by the following morning, they had seemingly retreated.
But it was fleeting. An unlikely traitor lurked in our midst.
Back story: I’m not sure if I have ever described Parker’s unorthodox method of kibble consumption. It calls to mind an NHL forward practicing his slapshot.
First, he sizes up his target, flexes one of his giant paws, and does a hey-batter-batter wind-up.
Next, he smacks the kibble as hard as he can, spraying it everywhere.
Then he studies his work, picks out three or four pieces to eat, and leaves the rest scattered all over the floor.
Finally, he retreats to the sofa, a perfect perch from which to lick his butthole and observe, waiting for me to step on one of his rejects and swear aloud. (Seriously, have you ever stepped on a piece of cat food barefoot? It hurts more than you’d expect.)
Anyway. We don’t know why he does this but we’ve always just lived with it and made frequent use of the broom and dustpan in that area. The moat, however, complicated things, and I found myself emptying a rancid tray of water* filled with soggy bits of food every few hours.
Enter the island.
Okay, buddy, I reasoned with Parker as I introduced the new setup. I’m not going to fight you on this. You knock your food around as much as you want. I’m giving you a place to do it. Just keep it on the inside tray.
This worked beautifully for a few days. At every feeding I’d simply remove the island and dump the displaced kibble, while the moat remained (mostly) food-free. And most importantly, the kitchen seemed to be ant free.
Once again, we appeared to be entering an era of peace.
Until yesterday morning, when I came downstairs to find an unusually expansive array of scattered kibble. The moat was totally clogged and a few bits had even made it to the floor beyond. Upon those stray pieces, no fewer than ten thousand ants** had descended.
I was incredulous – both at Parker’s physical prowess and at the depth of his betrayal. I yelled up the stairs to my husband: “Come look at this! He jumped the moat!”
That little jerk face.
So that’s how I’ve spent my week. Battling an invading army of insects and a traitorous cat who seems hellbent on assisting them. I devise complex food-delivery systems to accommodate his bizarre eating style while keeping the floor clean. He repays me by peforming super-feline acts of strength, delivering the goods right into the enemy’s waiting arms. I’m not going to lie: I’m frustrated.
But…last night, I allowed him to snuggle right up next to me in bed. I rubbed his fat belly; his purr lulled me to sleep. I guess for the time being, I’ll cautiously grant him double-agent status. Cuddly, squishy, irresistible double-agent status.
And this weekend, I shall build a bigger moat.
*It is astounding how horrible dry cat food smells when wet. The first time this happened, I honestly thought something had died in our kitchen.
**Approximately. I didn’t count. Maybe it was more like 100. In any case, it was enough to be fucking disgusting.
Serious endnote to a lighthearted post: Thank you so much for your comments on my post about Boston. It was hard to write, and doubly hard to share something so personal, but every one of your comments made me a little more glad that I did. And as an update, we are doing fine. We finally got our luggage back a few days ago and it feels good to carry on with life without that missing pair of jeans or whatever serving as a daily reminder of what happened. Our friends have moved back into their home and are carrying on as well. We all continue to be extremely grateful for our good fortune. Thanks, truly, for all of your support.