We’ve officially crossed over into the the autumn season in the Northern Hemisphere. That means a shift toward cooler temperatures (in theory, anyway. Here in in Virginia? We rarely see that come to pass with any kind of consistency). As the sun spends fewer hours in the sky, the leaves put on more dramatic colors. You start seeing pumpkin spice EVERYTHING (I lost all respect for the trend when I spotted pumpkin spice cat litter on the shelf). And, in our house, the autumnal equinox signals the beginning of the Great Squeak Migration.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the culprit, but Squeak’s brain doesn’t work the same as other cats. Maybe the anemia did it (you need red blood cells when you’re a kitten). Or it could have been the extended fight with Toxoplasmosis. Coming as it did behind that anemia, his tiny body went through a lot. The cerebellar hypoplasia’s easy to understand. It sabotages his balance, causing him to wobble, stumble, and even fall at times. But you can’t blame that developmental error for his poor memory (the two use different parts of the brain).
And Squeak? His mind resets like Dory’s.
Okay, not EXACTLY like Dory’s. He needs about five minutes, and then he starts with a fresh slate. It works nicely when he’s gone through something “traumatic” (like getting his nails trimmed or visiting the vet for his monthly B12 injection). He grooms his fur, looks around, and all’s forgiven. His doctor and the technicians and assistants that work with him know the habit, and they’ve learned to work with him. As pitiful as his squeaks and cries get, they pet him, wait for the reset, and then he loves everyone again. It’s how things work in the World of Squeak.
But there’s one curious exception to that short-term memory.
For the past four years, Squeak has performed a “migration” through the house. (Basically, since moving from an apartment into a house – offering him more space to roam and explore) At designated points in the year, he chooses a new spot to curl up and sleep. Despite his five-minute reset, he unerringly makes his way through the same rotation at those times. It doesn’t matter if he’s forgotten about them the remainder of the year. As soon as the Earth spins to an appointed spot on its rotation, Squeak moves to his new place in the house. (You can set your…well, not your watch, but you can set your calendar by it)
And trying to nudge him away from that chosen sleeping spot? Yeah, it doesn’t work. He might sit somewhere for an hour or so, but as soon as you turn your back, he’s off in search of the “proper” place to curl up. (Forgetting, at least, that you tried to sabotage him)
During the warmer months, he stays in the dining room and living room. ONE chair in the dining room remains his favorite. We can’t figure out what it is about that chair that calls to him, but he’ll pick it out from the others – even if we pull it away from the table. And if someone’s occupying the chair (something that can happen during Game Night), we get a disgruntled cat.
He then moves over to the living room. And we witness the gradual shift from the Ikea rocking chair to the arm chair. That transition occurs in mid-summer. Both chairs sport fleece blankets (a necessity when you have shedding felines), so there’s no difference there. They’re even beside each other. But something compels him to move from one to the other. (That’s a new migration route, too, as the arm chair belongs to my husband, and it only entered the house two years ago)
We’re entering the cooler months, though. That means Squeak will start his “long” trek into the Den. Then he’ll take up residence on the couch until the holiday season. As soon as we shift the leather chair over to make room for the Christmas tree, though, he’ll decide it’s the better option. And then the cycle will start all over again. It’s a constant in our lives. And when we’re not sure where Squeak is? It’s just a matter of pausing and considering where we are in the migration pattern.
Of course, the battle for the couch creates SOME problems during those first autumnal months. Juniper likes to sprawl in Squeak’s “spot” against the pillows. And that “homing instinct” is strong. He’s not about to choose somewhere else for the winter. (We sighed in relief when he decided to add the leather chair as a migratory stop, as it ended his frustration)
He adapted to the obstacle nicely, though. As long as he gets to remain in the same “region,” he’s content. It soothes the part of his brain that remembers he’s supposed to be out in the den during those winter months.
It also gives us hope that – provided we replace it with another piece of furniture in that spot – we’ll be able to swap that couch out with another down the road, if we so choose. WITHOUT troubling Squeak’s brain.
Our special little guy doesn’t remember when I clean his ears. And he wakes up crying now and then for reasons WE don’t understand. There are also those questions as to what he manages to hear (the garbage truck outside) and what slides beneath his auditory range (telling him not to walk on the freshly mopped floor). But his brain gets him through the geography that is one wing of the house just fine.
And it reminds us what seasons it’s supposed to be – even if the weather doesn’t always agree.