27 September 2019

Trapped by a Robovac!

Welcome back. Today’s blog post is a warning, especially if you’re a cat.

Seven years ago, I released a blog post, Vacuuming with Cats. The post was an account of how our different housecats reacted to my weekly vacuuming.

You may remember the cats from that or other posts or from my e-book: the cerebral Lassie; the phantom Rex; Boss, the speedy cat of lesser intelligence; and the star of today’s post, Henry the Alpha cat, who boarded with us for a year when our son, Noah, and his college roommates moved to a no-pets apartment.

At the time, I described Henry as being as smart as Lassie but without Lassie’s manners or capacity for forethought. He genuinely liked and wanted to be with Noah; no carrier case was needed. Although he accepted me and his circumstances for the year, he was torn whenever Noah came home on college breaks.

Years ago, Noah was in college, and Henry was his new pet.
Henry never stopped being Henry. Days before being retrieved by Noah, he so intimidated a professional pet sitter she refused to enter our house to care for him and Boss.

Today, Henry is not just older, he’s tired. He’s had to contend with a younger cat, Timothy, initially thrust upon him as a hard-charging kitten. Nevertheless, his devotion to Noah hasn’t changed.

Setting the Stage

Henry, Timothy
and robovac in
the new apartment.
Noah and spouse, Cassy, with Henry and Timothy, recently moved to a new 2-bedroom apartment. They took along the co-star of this blog post, their 4-year old autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner (Roomba model 770).

For regular cleaning, they’ve programmed the robovac to operate on Mondays and Wednesdays, beginning at 12:30 PM.

In their absence, the device vacuums the living room and whatever additional areas it can accommodate before returning to its docking station, placed under the TV stand. Fully charged, it should run for up to two hours.
The robovac programmed to operate on
Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:30 PM.
Although the device usually makes its way into the bedroom or guestroom, they run it in those rooms on weekends with the doors closed to ensure a thorough cleaning.

“Bump me again,
and you’ll never
vacuum again.”
Neither cat fears the robovac, yet it is noisy and bothersome. Like his old self, Henry occasionally stands his ground until it bumps him, then he angrily moves aside.

Action--Scene One
On the fateful day, Henry was already sad to be without Noah when the robovac turned on and began its task. He didn’t need the aggravation. To escape the roving machine, he walked into the guestroom, where there’s an empty box, perfect for catnapping.

Half asleep, he paid no heed when the robovac came through the doorway and began vacuuming the guestroom. The sound of the closing guestroom door did get his attention, but he was too sleepy and the device too noisy to pursue the matter. When the robovac eventually shut down, Henry realized he was trapped.

Action--Scene Two
Hours passed. Noah got home first, about 7:00 PM.

Pet owners normally recognize signs of their animal’s distress, and a cat’s meows, wails, groans and the like can be quite distinctive and informative. Hearing Noah’s arrival, Henry screeched a mix of anger and plea for help!

(Noah had heard that same screech the first morning in the new apartment. Whatever Henry had been sleeping on atop the clothes dryer slid off, wedging Henry between the dryer and wall.) 

The robovac in
the guestroom,
door open.
Noah quickly traced the screech to the guestroom, opened the door wondering why it was closed, and watched Henry fly by to the litter box. The robovac sat there.

In addition to his characteristic screech, Henry has also found a way to announce an unsettled stomach that presages retching. While on his phone a few minutes later, Noah heard that low belly, deep, loud groan 3 or 4 times with the expected consequence.

Wrap Up
Poor Henry. The freak accident he suffered is indeed a warning. Their previous apartments had barriers to confine the robovac. Letting the device wander freely and unattended through the new apartment was probably unwise; still, who expects it to shut doors?

Hearing of this incident, I immediately sought internet guidance. You might enjoy a few examples of the cat and robovac videos I’ve appended. I doubt Henry would. Thanks for stopping by.


I am indebted to Noah for relating Henry's ordeal and providing all photos but the first.

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