Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Escapist cat tales

I've taken control of house's Windows laptop to start with something apolitical and modest. I would likely give myself apoplexy if I resumed with anything political.

For those who missed the news, Mr. Spike, our cat of 12 years, died in his sleep November 14. His rapid decline settled the question of his illness--lymphoma vs. IBD--in favour of the former. He clearly had neurological metastases. Had he lived a few hours longer, it would only have been to take the last trip to the vet's. For a cat who hated vets with a snapping, slashing passion it was only justice that he could choose a box to hide in and check out on his own schedule.

All right for him, but it is still a jolt to be the one to find the body.

It didn't take long for the next awkward act of the tale to come onstage. My wife, who had said she wanted to hold out until she had retired and could have a dog, reversed herself and wanted a cat: now.
I found that hasty, what with the turmoil of Christmas facing us, and the subsequent turmoil of plumbers in the house. Further, in searching so soon I rather felt like someone whose coffee-maker had burnt out and was driven to replace it at once.

No matter. She and my daughter went online to search for a shelter cat. As usual, this could not be an ordinary shelter cat. It had to be one who appeared to be unadoptable. Spike, for instance, was the runt of his litter. At his best, he was a few pencils short of a box.

The women of the family targeted Cuddles, at a nearby shelter. Cuddles had had a difficult life in recent months, it said. Cuddles was a Maine coon cat. Cuddles looked cute.

We went for an introductory visit. Cuddles spent the entire visit either eying us from a cat perch across the room, or napping. On this slender evidence, and a written record that for me was far from encouraging, my wife decided Cuddles was the one.

I have to explain here that we have kept cats for over 40 years. We've had cats of widely varying personalities, and we know something about suitable protocols for introducing a cat to a new house.
We decided that my wife would go alone to adopt Cuddles, so as not to overwhelm her with new humans. I was out of the house when she returned, which is my bad, because I might have prevented what happened next. Instead of bringing Cuddles in the box up to the safe room we had set up, she lifted the cat box lid right inside the door in some sort of expansive "Be free! " gesture.

Cuddles bolted like greased lightning. I found her under the clawfoot tub. She slipped away from that and dove for the cellar.

Our house is about 115 years old. The foundation is fieldstone, and the cellar is rife with catly nooks and crannies. Cuddles soon vanished altogether. We would not have known she still existed, except for occasional visits to the litter box and rarer pauses to take a kibble or two from the food dish.

We began to think that she had somehow got outside. This meant we had the humiliation of reporting her AWOL to the adopting agency and the local animal control. We plastered the neighbourhood with lost cat posters. Two days later she had again used the litter box and left footprints as well as urine, proving she was inside. I began to think she was a cat from a parallel universe who had fallen back into her wormhole, which proved more true than I realised.

Eventually, we got the services of the shelter's premier lost cat recovery expert, who came over and pretty much turned the house inside out. While she found evidence of recent cat presence in a couple of cubbies, all of us wondered if she had gotten behind the insulating partitions inside the fieldstone. A great hypothesis, that, but it lacked evidence. The expert left, giving us a couple of tips on finding lost cats.

The next morning my wife tried one of them, sitting quietly on the cellar stairs and calling Cuddles. To her amazement the cat replied. They had an extended conversation without any human homing in. My wife thought the voice came from her right, and above. My daughter, who came in soon enough to hear all this, thought the sound came from behind the front partition, but again an examination showed nothing.

The cat whisperer came back. After a few minutes she asked whether the sound might possibly have some from outside. We doubted it, because we knew of no opening there that would allow the cat out.

I looked outside, all the same. To my surprise I found a woodchuck hole next to the foundation, under the front porch, and clearly leading into the fieldstone. When I had first opened the partition, I'd found loose dirt, but thought it had just come through the loose-laid stone. Two plus two seemed to equal a tunnel big enough for a cat to hide in.

I traded places with the shelter person and began to take the rest of the partition down with an electric screwdriver. I had just begun the third panel when Cuddles bolted out of the woodchuck hole and dove for cover. Fortunately, she chose a cul-de-sac, and the whisperer got her out and into the safe room.

Despite all this, Cuddles was only slightly dehydrated and not especially hungry. In the safe room she groomed, used the litter box, and began to show signs of plotting her next escape. Before we met her, Cuddles had had an eye infection, which ten days of stress had revived. We agreed that she should return to the shelter for a vet exam and treatment.

It is not clear just now whether she's coming back here. The escapade showed an unexpected taste for wild adventure, and two older people, still working, may not be able to keep the cork in this bottle. We're glad she's found, though. The Christmas season was beginning to look rather bleak.

Regardless of the outcome, I think we'll rank Cuddles as our seventh cat. Should she not return, we wish her the best. We also wish her a large modern home filled with very athletic people and predictable places to hide.

Meanwhile, Uncle has to try finding gravel in December and figure out how to fill this damned hole. A lost cat is one thing. A lost skunk would be far less entertaining.