Jessica Gerson-Neeves and her wife, Nikii, are really looking forward to using their new Vitamix blender to whip up smoothies and soups. In fact, the highly anticipated Black Friday purchase has recently become the focal point of their kitchen at home in British Columbia, Canada.
There's just one problem: They can't actually unpack it.
"It arrived in the mail on Dec. 16, and I brought it inside and set the box down on the kitchen floor for just a quick second," Gerson-Neeves says. "And that was a month ago."
The cardboard box has become the site of a weekslong turf war between the couple and their three cats, in a saga that has garnered thousands of invested followers on social media.
Gerson-Neeves has posted near-daily updates on the cats' Facebook page (warning: language), documenting their hilariously formal changing of the guard, ever-shifting alliances and misadventures involving decoy boxes.
The posts read like dispatches from the front lines of a high-stakes battle, documenting the trio's every move and their humans' unsuccessful attempts to disrupt them.
The youngest troublemaker is Max, a tuxedo cat with the alias "sentient soccer ball." Then there's George, Destroyer of Worlds ("that's what's on his tag," Gerson-Neeves says), also known as "sentient potato." Rounding out the group is Lando Calrissian, who moonlights in the posts as "questionably sentient dust bunny" because, according to Gerson-Neeves, "he has a lot of fluff and very few thoughts."
The cats' page has grown from 64 followers to some 25,000, as people around the world learn about the story.
Gerson-Neeves stressed in a phone interview that the cats aren't literally holding the Vitamix hostage. They could, of course, be hoisted off the box at any point. But she says she and her wife aren't in a rush to end the stalemate since it's providing some much-needed levity.
"Certainly we could relocate them. They don't weigh a ton. It would be very easy to pick whoever's on the box up and put them on the floor and open the box," Gerson-Neeves says. "But why would we end something that is bringing us so much laughter? The cats are having a good time, and so many other people are enjoying this as well. I think we all are very much in need of something that is silly and low stakes right now."
It all began, Gerson-Neeves says, when Max hopped on the Vitamix box as soon as she put it down that fateful December day. Like any besotted cat owner, she thought it was adorable and snapped a picture, which she posted to a cat-lovers Facebook group.
"I posted it with a tongue-in-cheek caption about how this was breaking news, which clearly this was not, and by the next day I think about 10,000 people had interacted with the post," she explains.
She wrote jokingly in the original post that she would provide updates if the standoff continued, and members of the group held her to that promise, even as days turned into weeks.
Here's a snippet from Jan. 4, or "WEEK 2, DAY 7":
"At the cusp of the third—yes, THIRD—week of Appliancegate, we return to the saga to find that the Questionably Sentient Dust Bunny has settled in for the night shift atop the Vitamix. While no video evidence was caught of the unfortunate incident, his occupation of the annexed territory was immediately preceded by possibly the single least graceful dismount in the history of felinehood (felinity? Whatever), which somehow involved the sentient soccer ball first smacking headfirst into a wall immediately prior to pulling a fly-you-fools, briefly hanging off of the side of the Vitamix box."
Gerson-Neeves says she has been particularly moved by the comments that their growing audience leaves on Facebook, both the hilarious and the heartfelt.
Those include people experiencing seasonal depression, exhausted health care workers and even one woman "who said that her husband had been profoundly depressed for a long time and this was the first time she'd seen him smile in months," Gerson-Neeves recalls.
"It is silly and ridiculous and very low stakes and not an actual problem and just something that people can laugh at," she adds. "Everything is so overwhelming and so painful right now that people are desperately in need of things they can just laugh at."
Gerson-Neeves says it's not uncommon for her cats to investigate new objects brought inside the house, but they generally lose interest. But for some reason, this box has held their attention.
Over time, commenters have taken it upon themselves to offer the owners — bemused and blenderless — some action plans.
Some jokingly suggested tunneling underneath the box to extract the blender from below or buying three more blenders so that every invested party could have its own.
While the household certainly didn't need four Vitamixes, Gerson-Neeves realized it could potentially use four boxes. So she wrote the company on Facebook, thinking it would give the company's social media manager a laugh.
Vitamix itself responded with action — it mailed the couple three empty boxes.
They stuffed the first box with clothes and blankets and set it up in the kitchen. Gerson-Neeves says there's "a reasonable chance" that once all the boxes are assembled, there will be an opportune window for a blender rescue.
Gerson-Neeves told the cats' followers that she and her wife would work on setting up the other two boxes the following day. But she says they were "inundated" with comments imploring them not to cut the story short, and they decided to oblige, at least for now.
As Gerson-Neeves put it, it's hard to ruin the fun of thousands of people in favor of a kitchen appliance.
"I think in the world that we live in right now, this kind of humor and whimsy is a lot harder to come by than a blender," she says.
Of course, the standoff can't go on forever. Butternut squash soup beckons. When that day comes, what will be Gerson-Neeves' first Vitamix creation?
A margarita, she says. "I think we've earned one."