Tuesday, October 9, 2018


We should have seen this coming earlier--like weeks ago.  But who could have predicted a bad situation would simply keep getting worse?

It all started so routinely, and mostly because Rob is known to love cats.  As for me, I’m not nuts about them . . . but yes, we’ve had a few I actually loved.

When I speak of “a few,” that’s because cats love being outdoors, and over many years we’ve enjoyed seeing our half dozen different pets chasing across the lawn and up and down trees, dizzy with happiness.  The best ever was Pretty Boy, who was too quick and strong to succumb to predators; instead, loyal to us even in his last hours, he died prematurely, age eight, of kidney failure.

On the other hand, we’ve seen pathetic “indoor” cats sitting in window sills, staring longingly outward into a heaven they’re never allowed to enjoy. We “get it” about those cats and their owners; we’ve learned to our sorrow that the outdoors, here in Orange County, is a dangerous place for felines. Suffice it to say, we’ve lost at least three to coyotes.   

After Pretty Boy’s cute little successor stubbornly refused one night to come inside and we never saw him again, we vowed No more cats.

That should be the end of the story.  It isn’t. 

For a year, now, Tracy has been urging us on. “I saw this nice story about a lovable kitten. Dad needs another cat for his lap.” We kept explaining why this has worked out badly in the past and how we don’t expect a different ending. 

Still, she came up with something new. “One of Dane’s employees is moving to Vermont and needs a home for the family pet.”  In spite of protestations about clawed-up furniture, frequent trips, and coyotes, she persisted, “Your furniture is already clawed. He’s eight years old and mature. He’s house-broken. He won’t be a problem.”

Reluctantly we said okay. With that, the grateful owner arrived—with new cat carrier, sparkling litter box, a carton of wet canned food, a self-serve container filled with dry food.  And a huge, less-than-beautiful tabby. Vaguely, I remember a questionable history: an understated mention of cat-found-on streets, all by a prior owner . . .    

When today’s owner placed his pet on our cat tower, it appeared all was well.  The man petted him a few times—no response from the cat—and soon the animal ran under the nearest sofa and disappeared.

As of now, five weeks later, nobody has ever petted him again.  That’s because you can’t pet something you never see.  Well, not perfectly true.  Rob has had a few brief nocturnal sightings, and two different evenings I’ve seen him streaking down the hall to god-knows-where, resembling an oversize rat. Yet thanks to cat-lovers assuring us this strange situation will be temporary, each night for nearly forty nights we’ve dutifully provided wet food and cleaned the well-used cat box. And each morning the food is gone. 

At first we located two different hiding places (into which we couldn’t reach), and begged him to come out. That ended quickly. For now we can only guess where he’s been holed up, though we’ve supposed part of the time somewhere in our very neat guest bedroom.  We both now want him gone. We’ve tried closing off parts of the house, just to corner him, but no luck.  We even laboriously took apart a suspect cabinet.  He once resided there, we knew,  and thought he’d returned.  But no sign. 

Yesterday we discovered the ultimate in bad feline behavior: behind the bed in the guest bedroom were five piles of cat poo.  Both of us exploded.  “He’s out of here!”  I shouted, and Rob agreed.  Tracy tried to be helpful.  “Just put his food outside and leave the door open.”  Well, that wouldn’t work in the daytime, during which we’ve never seen our phantom resident. So last night Rob propped open the back patio door and I carried out two kinds of food. Worried that yet another wild animal might eat the food, or even come in, we left on the outside lights and prepared for bed.    

Here I made the ultimate bad move. From long habit, I set the house alarm. With that, the fireworks went off, reminding me a major door was wide open.  Hastily, I punched in the code, a phone call from the alarm company rang only once, and the key pad read, “Police call cancelled.”  Rob said, “Who was that call?” and I said, “It’s okay. It’s all okay.”  I believed what I said, and still nervous about our open door, at well past eleven we went to bed.

An hour later, just as I’d fallen sound asleep, Rob suddenly stirred. “What’s that noise? Somebody’s in the house.”  I was instantly awake. It was more than just noise.  Outside our bedroom a bright light was more or less jumping off the walls.  I leaped out of bed, ran past the doorway.  And there in our bedroom hall were three men—all with huge flashlights, all wearing green uniforms.

“Our hall is full of cops!”  I shouted back to Rob, still in bed. 

“What are you doing here?” I cried, thinking,  And how did you get in?  

“What is your name?”  one of them asked,  and I was so shaken I could barely get it out. 

I began trying to explain about the cat.  But disoriented as I was, the words made little sense, even to me.

Now sternly.  “What is your birth date?” What has that got to do with anything? I mumbled dates, then went on about the cat, and why the door was open, and how I’d cancelled the alarm setting, and how yes, the patio door was thrown wide, and if you look, you’ll see the dish out there with gravy morsels.    

“We need to see your husband.” 

“He’s still in bed,”  I said.

The man pushed past me.  “We need to see him.”  What?  Do you think I murdered him? Insistently, he kept going, on toward the bedroom, and shined his torch on Rob—who, in his night shirt, was now standing in the doorway. My husband, always wise in bad situations, greeted him nicely.  

I swear, I was finally making sense about the cat, but that gang of uniforms didn’t leave for at least twenty minutes.  Afterwards, we found they’d opened every closed door—a good many blocking off cat-free rooms--and left us wide-awake, jangled, and me with a full load of blame.  

And how has it all ended?   Well, so far it hasn’t ended. Last night, significantly past midnight, we brought in the cat food, closed a few additional doors, and decided the wicked creature must be in the den—the “overflow room,” so messy it was the one place we hadn’t thoroughly searched.     

Sure enough, after a much-too-late bedtime and a too-early wakeup, the tempting kitty tidbits were gone.  We’re both exhausted, but worse, we’re still in possession of the world’s spookiest, ugliest cat--which Rob now refers to as “the rat cat.”  We think we know which room he’s in. But hey, that’s only half the solution.  How do we get rid of him . . . short of setting a house fire? 

Anyway, I hear firemen are really good with cats.

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