A short story about one of our cats...
|Buffy goes A.W.O.L
When you have outside cats, you get into a certain routine. You take inventory. We call it “catventory”.
During the course of any given day, there are two official catventories, and multiple unofficial counts. In the morning, during breakfast, we take the first count of the day. At night during their last meal of the day, we perform the second official count. Ideally, all cats are present and accounted for at one or both of the musters. This is usually the case.
Occasionally, one or more of the cats might not be around for one of the meals. When this happens, our telephone conversations during the day go something like this: “Did you see Carrie, this morning?” “Yeah, she was here for lunch.” “Good, I won’t worry anymore.”
A couple of the cats are more likely than others to miss an occasional meal.
Buffy is one of those cats. Her hunting territory extends a little farther than the other’s. She is often seen in the woods across our quiet street. She hunts there, and sometimes she sleeps there.
So, when she misses a meal, there isn’t really any cause for alarm. When she misses two, we start to get a little nervous. When she misses all of her daily feedings, the first alarm bells start to ring. When she misses all of her daily feedings and two consecutive breakfast feedings, the alarms are blaring.
We always call them for their meals, and if they are within earshot, or in the mood, they’ll come running – well, strolling. So when Buffy missed a full day’s feedings, and then missed her second breakfast, we started looking for her. Obviously, there are places that all pet owners look that they hope not to find their missing animals – like the roads and the ditches next to them. Fortunately, we didn’t find her in any of those places.
We spent quite a bit of time patrolling the woods and calling for her to no avail. We looked in the trees, and we listened for the sound of a cat in distress. Nothing. She was nowhere to be found.
At one point we thought that she might have run into the garage (that is normally closed) to find a warm spot on the hood of a car. Our garage isn’t exactly HGTV’s Dream Garage, but it isn’t a mess either. There aren’t any fancy cabinets to store bug spray, and there are no pegboards with painted outlines to show where the tools go, but two cars can fit, and when I need a wrench, I can find it – most of the time.
So, we looked high and low in the garage, but we couldn’t find the cat. We did find a couple of things we hadn’t seen for a while, but we didn’t find the cat. Figuring that there was a (pretty good) chance that she was still hidden somewhere, we decided to put out some food and fresh water just in case.
This went on for three days.
We performed multiple catventories.
We made repeated searches of the garage.
We patrolled the woods endlessly.
On the morning of the fourth day, as I was leaving for work, I opened the garage door and noticed something out of place. A large towel that I use to dry the cars after I wash them was on the floor near the garage door. It had been hung up on the other end of the garage.
Something, or some kitty, had dragged it from one end of the garage to the other.
Buffy had to be here.
I spent as much time as I could looking for her, but she wouldn’t let me find her. Even though we live in a quiet neighborhood, I don’t like to leave the garage door open when I leave, so I closed it, believing that at least she was safe, and not hopelessly lost.
When I called home later in the morning and reported my findings, Deb’s optimism was renewed.
Now, if you have ever looked for a cat, you know that they can hide when they want to. They can practically hide in plain sight, remaining perfectly still in a shadow until they almost become the shadow. Give them some nooks and crannies to cower in, and you can look pretty foolish looking right at them four or five times before finally seeing them. When this happens, the cat ends up looking pretty smug realizing that they have made you look silly searching for them.
When cats are scared, they can take hiding to a whole new level. They tend to lose whatever commonsense they may possess, often climbing higher into trees, or refusing to take a clear path to safety, preferring instead to wait out the danger (perceived or otherwise) in some hiding place
By the time I got home, Deb had actually seen her dart from one corner of the garage to the other, but she hadn’t seen her come out.
So, let’s review.
We had looked in the garage several times during the first few days of this episode. I had spent about 10 minutes looking for her in the morning. Deb had looked for her on and off all day. I had come home from work and spent about 15 minutes with Deb, looking for her again. Deb had gotten a glimpse of her, and knew that she was in the garage, but we still couldn’t find her.
So, we looked in every corner of the garage, again. We opened the hood of the car, we looked under the wheel wells – we looked everywhere, but we couldn’t find her.
Finally, after looking everywhere for the fifth time, we found her cowering under the mower deck of the yard tractor. Even though we are the only humans in her life, our calming voices weren’t enough to coax her out. She had been trapped for four days, and if she had her way, she was going to stay trapped.
She was not going to have her way. I was able to squeeze myself between the tractor and the wall, getting my arm under the mower deck just far enough to give her a little push on her backside. That’s all it took. Buffy darted out from under the mower like she had been shot from a cannon.
A couple of zigzags, and she was free, running for the woods at full speed. You’ve seen it before; the frantic cat run where their rear end is going so fast that it almost passes their front end..
We worried for a minute that the poor girl might be so traumatized that she might hide in the woods for a while. We shouldn’t have fretted.
After a few minutes, she sauntered up to the deck, none the worse for the wear. She ate a big “welcome home” meal before calmly grooming herself as though nothing had happened.
Life has returned to normal for her, except that now, whenever the garage door goes up, Buffy goes the other way.