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Not a good time to be trapped
Janes lovable cats are only slightly spoiled, shown here lounging on the cat tower that Dane built for them.

VERNON COUNTY - Maybe it’s the weather—cold one day, wet the next—that affects the deadbolt on my front door. After all, I’ve heard plenty of people moaning about their throbbing joints.

On and off all winter that deadbolt has been finicky. Some days it opens easily, other days it takes a lot of fiddling, whining, and swearing before it loosens and opens.

I’m claustrophobic, so getting trapped never appeals to me. Knowing I have the entire house, a telephone on which I can dial 911, and windows I could break to get out if necessary, I am less hysterical than I would be if I were stuck in a dark elevator. But still, the tension is unsettling.

No amount of WD-40, nor kicking the door, has helped.

You might be thinking, “Just use the back door.” Great idea—but after my recent visit to a pet store in LaCrosse, this is easier said than done.

I was there looking at cat towers when a lady sidled up to me, cupped her hand over her mouth, and whispered, “Chewy dot com,” then started walking away. I yelled, “Wait!”

At first, I thought she must work there; then I thought she was just a crazy cat lady who’d had too many whiffs of catnip. Soon, I discovered she was simply a customer who didn’t want to see me pay an exorbitant price for something she knew I could get for less.

I hastily made my other animal purchases and headed for home, where I soon went exploring on

When Dane came over a few days later, I mentioned that devil of a deadbolt. He’d heard me complain about that sticky lock all winter long and decided to have a look at it. While he was messing with the lock he spied a large box on my porch and went outside to investigate.

Dane bent down, grabbed the box as if to lift it, and pitched forward, exclaiming, “What is in here?”

“A cat tower!” I replied. As he staggered through the door with the heavy box, I explained my trip to the pet store, the whispering lady, and Chewy.

Deadbolt be damned. The cat tower had arrived! The lock could wait.

Dane immediately began assembling the tower. He wasn’t even halfway through screwing all the first-level pieces into the carpeted floorboard when he asked, “How big is this thing?”

“About this big, I think.” I raised my hand to my chest and added, “Seventy-two inches.”

I watched in amazement. Like a time-lapse film of an elm tree growing, the tower grew steadily from the floor to way above my head. My eyes widened as Dane screwed in piece after carpeted piece, with the end result featuring two deluxe clubhouses and three luxurious lounging pads.

The cranky deadbolt now completely forgotten, my biggest worry was where this cat palace would go. In a house that’s only 800 square feet and already full of furniture and whatnots, the choices were limited.

From the moment this Taj Mahal of cat towers was completed, my focus shifted to encouraging Farley, Monkey, Lorca, and Maurice to climb aboard and explore. I even placed Finnegan, my wiggly 15-pound rat terrier mix, in one of the clubhouses, but it wasn’t his thing.

Winter raged on, with snow and ice storms, some frigid below-zero weather, and days that fooled me into thinking it was spring. My cats loved their new tower; often I’d find all four of them sleeping peacefully on it. Finn spent much of his time as close to the wood stove as possible, with Téte nearby on the couch.

Then suddenly, one Monday morning, I’ve overslept, I’m late for work, and I’m already feeling stressed. The first thing I do is grab Finn and carry him down the steep staircase (he walks up just fine but can’t seem to master coming down). Téte is right behind us, followed by all four cats. Our little parade ends abruptly at the door where the deadbolt halts us and, despite all my attempts, refuses to turn.

I’ve gotta pee, Finn’s gotta pee, and there are 10 other eyes right behind me belonging to critters who also need to get outside. Téte is barking, the cats are meowing, and Finn is doing his best “I’m holding it in” dance, but I can’t get the deadbolt lock to budge.

I look straight behind me to the glass back door that leads out to my deck, but all I can see is that enormous cat castle, standing in the only place it would fit, blocking our escape.

Yep—I’m trapped again!