Playing a cat and mouse game with a feline channeling Santa

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December 03, 2005|By ROB KASPER

In an impressive imitation of Santa Claus, the cat jumped up the chimney.

It happened Thanksgiving weekend when we were entertaining visitors, including the cat.

The cat, a 6-month-old black female, belonged to our 24-year-old son who lives in Chambersburg, Pa. Both the kid and the cat drop in from time to time, and have the run of the house.

One evening after Thanksgiving, a contingent of adults - my wife, my brother from Boston, his wife and two neighbors - was gathered in the living room. We were doing what we regard as fun: drinking wine, eating cheese and talking.

The cat came in the room and like a typical feline, paid little attention to people, but prowled around the potted plants and the fireplace. The living room fireplace might have been working at one time, but it has been retired for at least 30 years. There's an andiron and a couple of logs sitting in it. But the andiron and logs, like vice presidents, are never expected to do much work. They are ornamental.

I couldn't figure out why the cat was attracted to the fireplace. But then again, I can rarely figure out why the cat does much of anything. I grew up with dogs. So I was watching the cat out the corner of my eye when the cat disappeared. One minute she was crouched behind the logs, the next minute up the chimney she went with a bound. Cats, I later read, can jump seven times higher than their tail. If this cat were a basketball player, she would be described as having great ups.

Initially I reacted to the cat's disappearance with my usual crisis-management ploy - drinking another glass of wine and waiting for the problem to solve itself. But my wife strongly encouraged me to do something.

Being a trained husband, I surmised that since this incident constituted an animal crisis it fell in my jurisdiction. Somewhere in the domestic agreement it is written that husbands are expected to handle distressed animals, basement leaks and household trash.

Not being sure what the proper etiquette was when you have guests sitting in your living room and a cat lodged in your chimney, I smiled at the guests and got down on the floor. I removed the logs and andiron from the fireplace, and scooted my backside into the hearth.

I peered upward into the darkness. The flue was open. I was not sure why. Since we never use the fireplace, there was no reason to open the flue. The cat, no doubt, had felt a draft moving down the flue and that had aroused her curiosity.

I reached up the flue and ran my hand around the smoke shelf, a ledge about 3 feet up the chimney. I made some noise by banging the flue plate. Inquisitive, even when sitting in a chimney, the cat was drawn to the noise and stuck out her head, staring down at me with a quizzical expression.

She did not look distressed, certainly not as upset as my wife. I figured there was a pretty good chance that eventually the cat would hop down from the shelf and scamper out of the fireplace. I had heard stories of cats getting wedged in heating ducts and having to be freed by sawing holes in the ducts. There are also abundant examples in the news of cats getting stuck in trees and being rescued by firefighters. But in this case, I thought the cat had gone as far as she could go, unless she tried to travel up the chimney to the roof. Moreover, her exit was clear - the open flue.

Nonetheless, I also knew that the chances were slight that all would be calm in the household until I had removed the cat from the chimney. So I played a little cat and mouse with the feline, poking my hand up on the smoke shelf then pulling it back. I was waiting for the cat to reveal more of her body. When she responded to my tease, I grabbed her. I brought her into the living room, handed her to my wife, then closed the flue.

The cat was fine. I was a little dusty, but no one seemed to care. We drank more wine, ate more cheese and had something new to talk about. Now we have a new family tale, about the night after Thanksgiving, when deep inside our home, the only creature that was stirring was a cat on the roam.

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