On Wednesday, shortly after noon and just before having lunch, I let our cat, Chia, outside for a little exercise. Chia was born in a barn and lived most of her life in the country -- she's definitely an outside cat. In fact, she rarely uses a litter
box in the house; instead she will cry at the door until you let her out. If you won't come to the door, she'll start to follow you around the house, yelling at you to let her out.
Unlike our other cat, Blossom
(God rest her soul in cat heaven), Chia has a gentle personality. She loves to be petted, she "talks" to you all the time ("Do you want to go outside?" "Me-ow"
"Do you want to eat?" "ME-ow"
"Where have you been?" "Me-OW
") She has a fun collection of toys and likes to play "monkey in the middle." In the summertime, she'll play "fetch" outside with a stick. It's the funniest thing to watch this little cat dragging a stick behind her after I've thrown it. When Shannon is away (like she is now), Chia sleeps cuddled around the top of Lju's head in bed with us. When you call her name, she comes running, sometimes as if she'd been shot out of a cannon. Doesn't matter if she had been in the deepest sleep - if we need to know where she is, she'll let us know she's there.
After I let Chia outside on Wednesday, I ate lunch and then took a nap on the sofa in the family room. Usually, when Chia wants to be let back into the house, she appears at the sliding glass door near the family room and meows 'til we let her in. She wasn't there when I got up from my nap.
I did a few things around the house, upstairs, downstairs, every time I walked past either the front door or the back door, I opened it and called for Chia. She never came. Made dinner, no cat. Lju came home as I was getting ready to go out for the evening - no Chia. He followed her footsteps from in front of our house down past the neighbour's garage, but it was too cold and dark to go looking for her.
It was late by the time I got home -- Chia still had not come home.
Now, you may recall that Wednesday was extremely cold (by this winter's standards). The temperature was forecasted to be -12 and Chia was outside, alone, and had been for almost 12 hours.
I tried to go to sleep -- but I was too upset. With the help of an extra strong dose of sleeping pills, I settled down to sleep. I woke up an hour later, having dreamt that Chia was at the kitchen door waiting to come in. I got up and paced back and forth between the front door and the back door, turning on the lights, opening the door and calling her name. Eventually I fell back asleep, only to wake again a few hours later. This time I dreamt she had frozen to death. Again I went downstairs, opening both doors, calling.
Thursday morning and she still hadn't come home. I worried that she had frozen to death somewhere in the neighbourhood. Or been attacked by an animal and unable to make it home. I asked my husband to take a different route to work, to make sure she hadn't been hit by a car and left on the side of the road to die. On a hopeful note, I told myself that perhaps a well-intentioned neighbour had brought her into their home for the night. Knowing that cat, she'd be at their front door first thing in the morning, crying to get outside. I waited for her to appear. I practically wore a path with my pacing between the two doors.
Now, I am usually the first one to laugh at people who anthropomorphize
their pets. I love animals and once seriously wanted to be a veterinarian, but to me animal lives do not have the same value as human lives. Animals are not a substitute for humans; your puppy is NOT the same as a child and should not be treated as such. I would never spend thousands of dollars for chemotherapy treatment for a dog with cancer, even if the dog had saved my own child's life. My vet accused me of being an unfit pet owner because I would not fork over $600 to have our cats' teeth cleaned.
Chia is a symbolic cat. She was one of Lju's first gifts to Shannon when he and I first started dating almost ten years ago. She was the first thing that brought the two of them together (when she was 14, she's now 24!). Chia represented the common love that united the three of us together. When we first got her, she was small enough to fit easily into the palm of Lju's one hand. Shannon loved her first cat, Blossom, in a special way, but Blossom had a unique and well-established bitchy cat personality. Chia was all love, cuddles, kindness. Shannon loves Chia more than she ever loved Blossom because Chia returns that love.
How would I -- how COULD I -- tell Shannon that Chia was missing? The last time Shannon went away, her cat died. What kind of irresponsible mother was I? Leave me alone for a few days with a cat and look out cat!
Even though I pretended like I wasn't all that fond of her, secretly I love her and all she represents.
I spent all day Thursday calling the Human Society, Animal Control, posting her picture and description on Lost Cat websites. I made up a poster with her picture on it, printed 60 copies and went out in the -10 weather to distribute them door-to-door on our street. I taped Lost Cat notices on all the mail boxes, hyrdo boxes, lamp standards. I made sure that, coming or going, walking or driving, you'd see our Lost Cat sign. One neighbour came out after finding the notice on her door. "I see your little cat all the time," she said. "She likes to snoop around between our houses and sometimes I see her running from across the street. I'll call you if I see her. Good luck," she said.
Another neighbour was not as nice. After I taped the notice to the window of her front door, she made a big scene about coming out, tearing it off and ripping it to shreds. "I don't care" she yelled at me. I was in front of the house next to hers, taping notices to the lamp standard. I continued on my way and when I came past her house again, I saw that she had ripped the notices from the lamp standard, torn them up and thrown them into the snow. "I'm looking for my cat," I said. The neighbour looks like an old Italian widow, always dressed in black. "Gata mia," I said. "Why you asking me anything?" she barked at me. What I said next wasn't very neighbourly.
I posted 57 of the 60 notices within a two block area of our house (the old bubba tore down 2 and I ran out of tape after posting 59). I went home and waited for the phone to ring.
I paced back and forth constantly between the doors. I thought about what I would tell Shannon. Last night when I had spoken with her from Florida, she was all happy and excited and luckily, didn't ask about her cat. I knew tonight if she called, I'd have to tell her the news. It did not look promising.
I tried to take my mind off it, but it didn't work. Lju was trying to be strong, but I think he loves that cat even more than I do. He was preparing me for the worst. By this time, she had been lost in the cold for more than 33 hours.
I stood up and yelled to the universe that I wanted that damned cat to come home. Lju answered that if she wanted to come home, she would. I snapped back that if she COULD come home, she would. We settled on the fact that it was in God's hands.
He got up to make a telephone call. Again, I went to the front door and opened it. THERE SHE WAS!!!!!!!!!!!! COMING UP THE FRONT WALK!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She was moving a little slowly, it was icy, but she looked fine! Her fur and her paws were not all that cold or wet.
I screamed from the front door, "Chia! You're home! Come here, girl! Come here! Where have you BEEN?" Lju screamed from the family room where he was waiting for his friend to answer the phone. "Don't do that," he yelled. "Don't play games like that!" "She's really here!" I called back. He couldn't come or see from where he was on the phone. He stretched around the corner, pulling the phone away from his ear, just as his friend answered. "Oh my God! She is home!" he yelled into his friend's ear.
I was almost hysterical. The fear, stress, guilt I had been carrying all day flooded over me. I would NOT have to give Shannon the bad news. No, in fact, this was a happy news story.
Today, I shall go and collect all the Lost Cat notices from the neighbourhood. I'm pretty sure that she'd been taken in by a well-intentioned neighbour who then saw the Lost Cat sign and knew we must be missing her.
Chia was pretty happy to be home. She wanted lots of love and attention. Of course, she slept last night wrapped around Lju's head. Oh, how I wish she could talk - I'd love to know where she had been those 33 hours she'd been gone in the dead of winter.
We've let Chia know that she's grounded. She's not going outside for a long, long time.
Labels: Cat, Chia Pet, Humane Society