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Thursday, May 8, 2008

When kitty doesn't show up for supper

Our girl cat, Lola, is enjoying her first spring on the planet. She's discovered that the yard is a great hunting ground. Over the past few weeks, we have found evidence of some of her exploits in the grass: little spreads of feathers, and even a squirrel's tail and feet. Everything else from the victims' bodies was gone, and our own "fur creature" seemed to have a smug look on her face.

Now, we didn't catch her in the act. It could have been her brother, Bill, who did the killing -- he was seen joining in on the squirrel lunch, and one time last year we watched as he actually snagged a hummingbird. But lately, our gut instinct (if you'll pardon the expression) has been that this was Lola's work.

Along with the occasional warm snack, the yard also provides heart-stopping danger at times. Just the other night, a neighbor's dog came charging at Lola while she was out in front of the house. She took off like a shot into some hiding spot or other in the back, and she wouldn't come out for hours -- even through dinner hour and our many calls for her at the door.

Now, it's always a worry when a cat doesn't show up at his or her food bowl on time. We have always been able to set our watches by our cats' hovering for food at (or a little before) meal time. When they're not begging for their grub, it means that something's wrong.

Lola eventually came inside for her vittles, but while she was gone, our memories drifted back to the night years ago when our prior man cat, the late and beloved Ralph, failed to appear as scheduled for supper. Ralph never missed a meal -- never -- and so when he wasn't around for chow, we knew he was in trouble.

And we were right. That evening, Pinky (as he was also known) used up one of his nine lives.

It was 5:00, then 6:00, then 7:00, and no sign of Ralph. We walked all around the block, calling him by all of his names, especially "Man." No answer. Very disturbing. He was around earlier in the day. Now, he was nowhere to be found.

Being a Jersey guy, I have a fairly dim view of human nature. I always think the worst at times like these. He must have been cat-napped. Handsome fellow that he was, maybe he was scooped up by someone who liked his looks. Heck, somebody had just swiped an empty recycling bin from our curb a short time before -- maybe they decided they'd like a cat, too.

The Mrs. had an alternate theory. We were in the midst of having some plumbing work done in our master bathroom, and to do it the workmen had to cut a hole in the wall. Maybe Ralphie had gone in there, and gotten himself walled in. The tile guy had just drywalled up the hole that afternoon.

It sounded like a dumb idea to me. But what the heck, we went over to the spot where the wall patch was still drying, and gave out a few of our favorite Ralph calls. No answer.

The Mrs. called the drywall guy on the phone. Was there any chance that our cat could have gone into the hole in the wall? No way, he said. The hole had been carefully covered when it was not being actively worked on, and it was not left open and unattended for more than a minute at a time.

That pretty much exhausted all our theories of where Pinky might be.

We were both in shock. Our human children had not arrived yet, and so our kitties were our kids. We used to hold them in our arms like babies, sing them lullabies, the whole works. Now Ralphie was gone.

After a glum evening, the Mrs. turned in, and I headed off to the den to think about what we were going to do next. All I could think of was flyers on telephone poles. And those hardly ever turn up anything, do they?

Lying in bed, the Mrs., who is not a highly religious person, started praying. She prayed to everyone she knew to pray to, especially her mom's mom. Prayed and cried.

After a while, something told her to go back to the wall where the plumbing hole had been. She did so, and resumed calling out to Man. After a few such calls, she heard what seemed like a faint response. It was Ralph! More calls, more responses.

"Honey!" she yelled out to me. "He's in the wall!"

"Get him out!" I yelled back.

The Mrs. tried cutting the hole back out with a pair of scissors or a screwdriver, but it wasn't working. "I'll get a hammer!" I cried. And I did.

I forget which one of us struck the first blow on that drywall, but pretty soon the hole was knocked back out, and there emerged the dirtiest cat either of us have ever seen, before or since.

Over 95 years or so, a house with the original wood siding leaves a lot of room in the walls for dirt and dust to settle in. When Ralphie came out, he had grime on him from 1915, along with some real estate formerly known as Mount Saint Helens. He was so flithy that we took the extreme step of placing him in the bathtub for a shower with the hand nozzle. He hated it, as always, but he was so shaken up that he let his "mom" do it.

After a thorough dousing and some gentle towel-drying, Pinky soon resumed his pampered life. He would still be our baby for a while longer. We'd still cradle him in our arms, snuggle him in bed, sing him songs.

And of course, like clockwork, twice a day, we'd meet him at the food bowls. He never missed it again.

Comments (13)

Great story with a happy ending. Who ever called you a curmudgeon?

Our one-eyed cat, Popeye, disappeared the morning we moved from our apartment to our newly built house. We did the move ourselves since we had access to the wife's employer's large truck. After looking for him for three hours all over the old neighborhood until it was quite dark, we decided that there was nothing more we could do that night and drove the truck away with the last load of stuff. It was a pretty somber drive. We got to the new house, opened the roll-up door on the truck, and had the cr*p scared out of us as Popeye came flying out like a rocket. Needless to say, the cat was smarter than we and probably figured we'd forget him, so he packed himself up early for the move. It was Halloween, 1985 and, though Popeye's long gone, I still smile at the memory.

Poor kitty! I'm so glad he was alright that time.

Mine came home with a big bump on her tummy a few months ago. She had a terrible hernia. The vet said it seemed as if someone had kicked her very hard. She's sweet and small and well mannered. Sometimes I hate people.

Where I live, the average life span of a cat allowed outside the house is 18 months. Our cat lasted twice that before he became dinner to the local coyotes.

Now, we just enjoy the feral population, but we can't cradle or snuggle with the feral cats.

Cats are okay for a while, but dogs last longer where I live.

Cats should not be allowed to run loose, period. They decimate local wildlife and live much shorter lives.

I've never understood why folks seem to think that dogs shouldn't be allowed to run free, but cats are somehow "special".

It all depends on your definition of "run loose", now doesn't it?

My hunting dog 'runs loose' when I walk out in the country (40 acre parcels per house), but is always under voice command. It instantly obeys voice commands to 'come', 'stay' or 'lie down'.

My former cat, not so much. But cats are like that by nature (and I wasn't gonna invest thousands of dollars in training fees for Taffy). So I let Taffy 'run loose' outside in my fenced yard, rather than stay inside 24/7 staring out the window longing to be outside. That level of freedom does have a cost, and Taffy paid that price, but at least enjoyed his life while he lived it. Let's just say that Taffy enjoyed the 'local wildlife' before the 'local wildlife' enjoyed him. They both benefited.

And I thought the PETA folks were against caging up animals 24/7. Go figure...

What the heck. Let's stir up the pot:

We are on the south side of the hill below the big "KGON" tower. We are awoken often at night by groups of 4 or 5 coyotes crying and yelping. Can't even tell you how many cats we've lost in this area. Remember opossums? There was a move a few years back to try to declare a swath of the privately owned forest land above us a non-developable area to allow coyotes access to a trickle of a creek. I've literally chased them off my yard and down the street. This is not a remote neighborhood. But they enjoy rights much more strongly respected and enforced that those that my neighbors and I are fighting for now. Of course, we've only been here since 1953, 1955, 1960 and 1968. Too bad we walk on two legs, I guess.

"I've never understood why folks seem to think that dogs shouldn't be allowed to run free, but cats are somehow "special"."

Uh... When's the last time you stepped in a pile of cat sh.., I mean poop?

Gee Max, do you contribute to LUW or just read it a lot?

Jack - Great story. The relationship my fiancee and I have with our cat is much the same. We live too close to busy streets to let him out at home, but we take him to her parents house and he loves us for it. But when he doesn't come for dinner, we always assume the worst. I'm hoping we never have to rescue him from between the walls, but cats sure are curious.

"Being a Jersey guy, I have a fairly dim view of human nature. I always think the worst ..."

Some are like that; surveys find them; and when the data correlations are sigmatically standard-deviated, and statisticals are significated, it seems that where you're born/raised ain't as much of psychiatrick as the month when you're born, world around ... some folks just are pessimistic in their outlook, being gloomy, depressed (and depressing in their interactions with others. They can also be emotionally cold and inhibited. The prudent and cautious side of their nature can be taken to extremes resulting in the unsociable ....)

I can so relate. My husband and I got a dog a couple of months ago, and the second day after bringing him home, he charged our cat! Kitty was so scared he tried to jump from the fence onto the neighbors roof, but missed and fell, and then went missing. No kids for us, so kitty was like our child! He finally turned up 2-1/2 weeks later, with a broken paw, and was skin and bones from being dehydrated and having no food. Well, kitty goes to the vet today, 9 weeks later, to get his cast taken off. He and the dog are now "friends", in the sense that they can at least tolerate being in the same room together. We are finally a harmonious, happy "family"!

Ralph was a splendid looking feline. Reminds me of our "B". He was a gorgeous, sweet, funny Main Coon mix. Here is SW area, it's coyote heaven. And "B" never came home one night. We are alot more careful with current kitties. Luckily we have large deck, 19 feet off ground, up in trees that backs to greenbelt so they are content to loll out there. Safely.

While most days you drive me a little crazy - especially when you rail on my girl Cyreena's mail - your kitty story touched me. I have two babies, Lusaka and Helsinki, who are so special, sweet cats. I get scared when they sneak under the deck, through holes in the house and over the fence. I relate to your story and I'm glad you found your kitty. Best wishes for all your animals and buy your wife some extra flowers this Mother's Day.

"...especially when you rail on my girl Cyreena's mail."

Is she 'your girl' because of her:
1) major policy positions, or
2) because she is also black, or
3) because of her great GQ or Vogue perfume ads (okay, Macy's ads)?

As for me, I am voting for her because she looks hot!


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