As soon as we arrived back in Los Angeles, we started packing for our ski trip to Mammoth. Mewwwww. What was that? The sound was coming from the heating vent. “I think there’s a cat in our basement,” I told Bryan. Down there, he found Pepper, a cat we’d seen roaming the neighborhood before. (We’d previously called the owners because we thought Pepper was lost. Oh no, we were told, Pepper just gets to roam at will. Don’t get me started on “outdoor cats.”) Bryan didn’t see any windows or doors open. Instead of being mean or desperate, Pepper was strangely friendly, rolling on his back so Bryan could stroke his belly. He called the owner, who said Pepper had been missing for six days. Pepper must have slipped into the basement when I was doing laundry on a rainy Christmas day! How did I miss that? It didn’t seem in keeping with the Christmas spirit, but the owners said they were going to have to return the other cat they’d adopted because they thought a coyote had eaten Pepper. I hope they didn’t follow through. I am a little afraid now to explore the nether reaches of our basement. A cat can’t be down there for six days without pooping, can it?