If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that cats are evil, vindictive monsters that have snuck into our homes for the sole purpose of exacting revenge for petty grievances.


Based on the collective gasps I just sensed, I feel there are some cat lovers in our midst.


Let me rephrase that. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that cats, while lovely and beautiful, will on occasion make vile attempts at retribution should they feel they have been slighted.


I was the steward of a cat for 16 years, and I found that we often were treated with contempt if we made such missteps as rearranging the furniture, going on vacation or having a child. Her most preferred method of showing her disdain was to find something we cherished and use the bathroom on it. You can dry clean a coat. You can steam clean a carpet. Slightly more effort with a newborn.


My house is now cat-free, as Delilah departed us in December, no doubt to get her tail in a knot over furniture moving in the afterworld. But my parents’ cat, Rita, carries the torch for all cats that have been wronged by their humans who have the audacity to do anything that does not involve the cat.


My parents celebrated their 50th anniversary with a trip to Hawaii. I think when you have logged a half-century of marital bliss, you deserve a getaway, and Hawaii is certainly one way to do it in style. Rita does not agree.


During their absence, my sister was watching the house. One day, Rita greeted my sister with a mouse. That said, it was not one mouse in one place. It was one mouse in multiple places. It was Rita’s way of saying, “Oh, they left? Perhaps you can entertain me by finding the mouse throughout the house.”


Rita also left a surprisingly clean litter box during my parents’ trip. The reason? “You there, back-up humanoid sent to tend me. Find my new litter box. Have fun.”


But her real coup de grace came when my parents returned. Determined to show that she had been wronged by the vacation, Rita made a most noxious statement … somewhere.


All of us were in different rooms trying to find Rita’s lovely surprise. My mom said she had mopped all the floors and was planning on steam cleaning the carpet. I suggested burning the furniture.


We then noticed a strong concentration of Ritaness coming from a floor vent in the corner of the den. I lifted the grate and put my head toward the opening. Based on my recoil, it was fairly evident that Rita had uncovered some HVAC plans for the house and, having studied it dutifully, learned spraying into an air vent could share her horridness throughout the house with one click of the HVAC system.


Once we covered the vent and turned off the HVAC, the smell abated. Next step was to eradicate the offending odor. My mom got a bottle of Nature’s Miracle, the single finest product mankind has ever produced, and that includes chunky peanut butter and root beer. She began spraying the product into the vent, thus solving the problem. And then it slipped. Down the air vent the Nature’s Miracle bottle went, sliding down well out of sight and reach.


My immediate thought: Challenge time. Let’s rescue this thing, MacGyver style. I first armed myself with a mirror and a flashlight. With a little fancy angling, I finally got sight of the bottle. I tried with no success to hook it with a coat hanger. I looked at the size of the vent and then the size of my 6-year-old nephew. I then saw my sister and realized dropping him in by his ankles would be frowned upon.


I decided for a new approach. The vent it was in sloped gently downward and could be accessed from under the house. I went under there, and, after an army crawl through dirt and beetle carcasses, I made my way to where the vent was. I tapped on it a few times until I heard something bounce. I was at Nature’s Miracle Ground Zero. A few well directed punches to the vent and I could move it back up to where it could retrieved from the den. About three shots later, I heard my dad say, “I see it!” Add some kitchen tongs, and the bottle was retrieved, and the cleanup process could continue.


My parents’ house has now been returned to pre-Hawaii status, and hopefully Rita will feel no more need to exact justice in her own cat-like way. That said, I’d highly recommend my folks keep the furniture where it is.


Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he can be reached at mwg1234@yahoo.com.