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When playing hide-and-seek with a 2-year-old, the child sets the rules and Grandma makes it as much fun as possible.

When it was my turn to hide, I went behind a door and, surprise, the toddler always found me. When it was time for the 2-year-old to hide, I could never find him, not even if giggles could be heard. Of course, the child wanted to play this game over and over, until Grandma was worn out.

Recently I was playing hide-and-seek but not with a child. This game wasn't so much fun. It was with our cat, Cruella. The cat set the rules, and she didn't play fair, or giggle.

We have a morning routine with our housecats and dog. After Bob and I get up and dress, it's time to feed our pets. If we humans don't move fast, the cats come and walk all over us. These alarm cats work much better than any clock we've ever had.

I usually set up breakfast for pets while Bob starts setting up toast and fixings for us. At this time, two black cats will be underfoot, Othello and Pete. The third cat, Cruella, waits by the dining room door so she can eat where the two brothers won't bother her.

Othello and Pete get their food on the back steps where the dog won't gobble their food. Our dog, Sunny, waits patiently for his bowl but always has hopes that some cat food might trickle down to him.

I set out three separate cat dishes and a dog dish this way every morning. Yes, we pamper our pets. It's easier living with them this way.

One day, Cruella didn't show up for breakfast. I called, 'Kitty, kitty,' but she didn't appear. After tending to the other critters, I went searching for our crazy cat. (This cat's really crazy. She has fights with her tail. The tail twitches, she screeches and runs away. Too bad for Cruella, her tail always follows.)

The first place I looked for the missing cat was the chair she likes to sleep on in the living room. No cat there. I also looked in our bedroom, but Cruella wasn't curled up on our bed either.

After that, I started opening doors, thinking she might be stuck inside a closet or another room. I even opened doors we hadn't been in that morning — if she was inside one, we'd never hear her. Her normal kitty voice is a teeny, tiny meow.

Odd thoughts popped into my head. Maybe she was sick. Maybe when a grandchild was playing with Bob's lift chair, Cruella got stuck and/or squashed underneath. Maybe she escaped when friends left the back door open. If she ran outside, I was sure we'd never catch her, and her survival skills couldn't be the best after living inside all her life.

I went to the living room and flipped the chair over, no cat, but I did find a loose bolt that needed fixing. I found nothing outside either — only barn cats looking for their breakfast handout.

Back upstairs I rechecked closets. This time I got down on all fours and peered under the bed. The underside cover of the box spring was sagging, and moving. I touched it, and something touched me back. I found her.

Cruella wasn't ready to come out of her cozy hiding place. I took food up to her, hoping to entice her out. I then planned on restapling the underside cover back on the box spring.

The cat didn't come out, so I left her and went down for my waiting breakfast of cold toast.

Sometime later, the cat snuck out and ate but then returned to her new nest. I'm sure she was just playing with me. She probably was getting even with me for scaring her twice with the vacuum cleaner.

Eventually, Cruella came out of hiding. She had won the hide-and-seek game. Anyone who plays games with this cat is sure to lose. Cruella is a tough competitor.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.SusanManzke.net

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