Monday, April 27, 2009
A Miracle of Lost and Found
Last Sunday, my cat Charlie, whom I've had since he was a kitten, disappeared. He is a 18 pound black and white mouser, that rarely leaves the yard. He does have a couple of nearby haunts, but as a rule he likes hanging out at the woodpile watching for mice, or lurking under the front yard bushes waiting for an unsuspecting leg to walk by! I have had cats for many years, mostly indoor/outdoor cats. What that means is anytime they are indoors, they want to go outdoors and anytime they are outdoors, they want to go indoors. Charlie has been with us for over five years, has always come when I called for him, has never been in any scraps with the neighborhood cats, and when he disappeared it was during daylight hours. (I ALWAYS bring him in at night). When he didn't come home that first night, I was frantic. By the second night, I had printed up fliers and stuffed them in all the neighbors mailboxes. I begged everyone to check their garages and sheds, just in case he had gotten in while someone had been doing yard work that Sunday. (The weather had been beautiful and I knew most folks had been outside cleaning up their yards.) When I came home from work at midnight, I walked up and down in the pouring rain with a flashlight calling his name. By the third night, I was resigned to the fact that he was gone. It had been pouring rain all day and night. All kinds of horrible thoughts ran through my mind. We do have a small coyote population here on the Cape. Last fall someone else in our neighborhood was missing a cat. Unfortunately, we believe that a coyote got to it and I was the one who called the Animal Control Officer when I found the remains. I was sick to my soul over Charlie's disappearance. I chastised myself for buying the cheap flea collar that wasn't of the break away design. I imagined him hung up on branches, or even worse. I cried, I prayed, I grieved. Yet, each time I walked outside I called his name. I walked all over the neighborhood searching for him. By the sixth day I was miserable. On the seventh day that he had been missing I received a call from a neighbor of mine two houses down. They had been gone all week, had just arrived home and had seen the flier. She called to tell me that she thought my cat might be in her attic! She wasn't sure, she said, but when she had opened her garage door, she had heard something moving around upstairs. When she went up, she caught a glimpse of fur as it disappeared into the eaves. My daughter and I raced out the door and down the street; hearts pumping, fear and hope coursing through our bodies! If it was him, he had been without food and water for seven days. What kind of condition would he be in? If it wasn't him, could I stand the disappointment? When we ran up to the house, the woman was waiting for us, but instead of just pointing us in the direction of the attic, she wanted to chit chat. Trying not to be rude, we asked her where the door to the attic was, and up we went into the hot, stuffy air. The attic was big, with lots of stuff piled all along the sides of the room. My daughter and I carefully stepped deeper into the room, calling Charlie's name.
"CHARLIE"!!! My heart was pounding in my ears, but I could still hear it....
"Here Charlie, here kitty"!
Out he scooted, from behind some boxes, somewhat skittish and looking for a way out. My daughter scooped him up in her arms, and down the stairs we went into the fresh, cool air. He was alive! We, of course said our thank-yous, then nearly-ran with him back to our house to check out his condition. He seemed fine, just a bit of weight loss, but as soon as he got in the door, he ate a bit of food then wanted to go out! We kept him in, to monitor how he was doing. I was concerned about dehydration. However, throughout the night, he ate both wet and dry food, drank water and had no problems holding it down. He used the litter box and as far as I could tell, he was one happy cat. He rubbed all over us, sucked up the attention we gave him, then settled down to sleep right in the middle of my bed! Can I just say, it felt like the weight of the world had lifted!
My daughter made the remark, "What's with our cats and attics?" It reminded me of how our last cat Whiskers, had done the exact same thing about eight years ago. She had wandered into a house being built down at the end of the road, gotten spooked by the construction crew, and ended up hiding in the eaves. By the end of the day, the crew had finished putting in all the windows and doors. She had no way to get out! I finally found her, six days later, by walking through the neighborhood calling her name. I heard the faint "meow" coming from the new house, and nearly tore off the eaves of a $450K house trying to get to her. When I realized I couldn't get to her, I had to wait until the crew came back to work the next morning to try and get her out. That required permission from the owner. Unable to miss a day at work while waiting for permission, I spent the next eight hours in pure torture. That evening, after the work crew left, my daughter and I entered the house with a bowl of spaghetti dinner, and sat down in one of the upstairs bedrooms. Whiskers was a very timid and shy cat, so it took some coaxing to get her to come out into the open. I'm sure the smell of food did the trick. Another miraculous reunion!
I'm still on the fence about restricting Charlie to staying in the house. I want to do what is best for him, but I'm not sure just what that might be. I would really appreciate your thoughts and opinions. For now, we will keep a close eye on him and try to take our cues from his behavior. The knucklehead.