With a nine- and a seven-year-old at home, I thought my days of baby proofing the apartment were pretty much behind me. No more ugly corner guards stuck to end tables, cabinet locks, finger protectors, power strip covers, kitchen gates, and non-slip bathtub mats. And then we adopted two young cats, Harley and Ranger, with a penchant for mischief, and suddenly it was like having toddlers all over again.
Soon, every framed photograph or slightly precarious tower of books or papers would be knocked to the floor. Tchotchkes on desks and other surfaces were batted about like toy mice, and food crusted all around their bowls on the floors. But those minor messes were nothing compared to the possibly life-threatening (and panic-inducing) situation they created for residents of my East Village apartment building over Labor Day weekend.
Away with my family for a week, I figured I was taking extra care by having both my kids’ babysitter and our upstairs neighbor checking in on the kitties. The neighbors came in the morning and the sitter in the evening, so they never went long without fresh water, food or company.
All went well for much of the week and then a day or two before we were scheduled to return to the city, I started receiving emails:
“When are you home?”
“Can you call me?”
“Have to tell you something …”
My neighbor and I are good friends and we can spend a good deal of time chit-chatting, so I figured whatever she had to tell me could wait, until this message arrived: “Your gas was on all night. We found out this a.m. Fire dept. came and Con Ed, too. A real mess …”
As unlikely a situation as it may seem, one of my cats—I suspect Ranger, the larger and slightly more clumsy orange male—had apparently jumped on the stove and landed in such as way as to turn on the gas at the same time. Neighbors soon began to smell gas and over the course of an evening and night, the fire department was called twice and, eventually, ConEd, too. (We live a few blocks from last winter’s deadly gas explosion, so I imagine my neighbors were frightened.) Oddly, neither the FDNY nor ConEd could locate the source of the leak. The super even went door to door in search of the smell, but since we were out of town, nobody bothered to check our place.
By the time my neighbor arrived in the morning to look in on the cats, the stove had been leaking for 12 hours. That distinctive rotten egg-like odor upon entering the apartment was overwhelming. Fortunately, the windows were open and the cats had been hanging out in the back bedrooms, unharmed. The stove was turned off and by the time we arrived home the next day, the only lingering smell was emanating from the litter box, not the kitchen.
Still, I did what any responsible new parent would do: I headed to BabiesRus and stocked up on stove knob covers (problem solved for $9.99). While I was at it, I grabbed some electrical cord keepers, too, because the last thing I need is a floor lamp or the TV crashing to the floor if either cat should get tangled while tearing from one end of the apartment to the other. When you have pets, it seems, the job of parenting is never quite done.
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