The best laid plans of mice and men are often totally wrecked by cats.
I like cats. I’m allergic to them, but I like them. I grew up with a cat; I also grew up with running eyes and a snotty nose. So when the lovely little calico tabby brought her three tiny kittens to live under our water tank last April, my darling husband (who also likes cats) and I went all awwww-y (as you do), but decided that they needed to stay feral cats. When one kitten disappeared a couple of weeks later ( it was adopted by a loving home and not run over by a Hummer, and please do not disabuse me of my fantasy), we thought they might all move on, but no, they stayed. I put out water for them, but that was it. Feral cats need to learn to hunt. Then just after they were weaned their mother disappeared and they got terribly thin, so I started to feed them. Feline Friends told me to feed them just two or three times a week in different places at different times so they wouldn’t get dependent, and I duly did just that – for about two weeks. Then the piteous mews emanating from their scraggy faces started haunting my dreams, and I gave in and started to feed them every day.
For the first part of the summer, they were just “Teh Kittehs”, and I watched them play outside and that was that. I figured they’d eventually move on, as cats do. But then I started looking for them and worrying about them. And then--- well --- as Mike told Sully in Monsters, Inc: “Once you name them, they OWN you.”
Tux is gun-shy. He will come to be fed and he will actually come into the house if the door is left open, but he will not tolerate being handled or even touched. I can’t even catch him to get him to the vet. The Redheaded Bouncer, on the other hand, is a right little tart and will cozy up to anybody who looks good for a nuzzle or a petting. She always wants attention and desperately wants to be an indoor cat. In the heat of midsummer, I occasionally opened the door for them, and they came straight into the cool. They would park themselves under a stream of air conditioned coolness and revel in the comfort of The Indoors. Eventually, Bouncer figured out that if she asked (yowled at the side door, sat on the kitchen windowsill, met my car in the driveway), she might get lucky and get inside. And she might get really lucky and get a hot dog or other similar feline-approved treat along with a good petting and a chance to sleep on the couch under the AC.
However, these two are just a couple of feral critters living under my water tank and off my largess.
Or so I thought.
This morning, I left for work at 5:30 because I was too tired last night to finish the prep for the six hours of classes I have on Thursdays. I thought I’d get in, finish writing my handout, make the photocopies, have a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of tea, relax and be ready for the 8 a.m. start to my day from hell. Before I left the house, I went outside to feed the cats. Normally they hear the chow bag rustle and come running, but this time: nothing. I heard some yowling and figured it was a turf war with the neighbor’s cat, so I poured out the kibble and got into the car. And as I pulled away from the house, I glanced back and thought I saw a cat on the roof. “Ridiculous,” I thought. I’m hallucinating,” which is something I sometimes do as a byproduct of migraines. So I drove off and then thought – wait: my hallucinations are nearly always sounds or smells, and they are the last symptom before a migraine goes full blown – I don’t have any of the lesser symptoms. But the cat couldn’t GET on the roof. Could she? I turned around.
And when poor Bouncer saw me, she started running frantically along the edge of the roof, yowling, It was that awful, pitiful sound of a cat in trouble, not just her “I want some petting” mewl. I was terrified she was going to jump down to me since she trusts me and frequently jumps up on me in her attempts to get into the house. I ran to the back of the house to go up to the roof.
Let me say here that I do not like vertical ladders. I fell off one on board a ship when I was a little kid, and though a nice sailor (or maybe it was my Dad) caught me, it has kind of lurked in the back of my mind ever since. Nevertheless, Bouncer needed me, so up I went. Let me say here that when I say “don’t like” I actually mean “petrified of”, and I got part way up and my hands locked into claws. Back down I went. The neighbors didn’t answer their door (it wasn’t yet 6:00) but I found a gardener, and managed to communicate to him that I needed help. Poor man. I gave him a canvas bag to put the cat in, and up he went. He couldn’t catch her. I made it halfway up the ladder again with some food, but she wasn’t buying it. After a while, he came back down, catless. I gave him some money which he tried to refuse, and then called my boss, who lives down the road. He said he wasn’t fit to climb around roofs, but he listed the guys who also live nearby. Fortunately, I had Rob’s phone number, and I called him. It was nearly six thirty. “Hi it’s Cynthia, I’m sorry if I woke you but I need a knight in shining armor.” “What for?” “ThecatisstuckontheroofandIcan’tgetherdowncanyouandJudycomeoverandhelpus?” “Judy’s on her way to work, but I’ll come.” Relief. But I knew this was a two man job, so I headed back up the ladder. By this time, Bouncer had figured out I was close by and was sticking her head over the parapet, yowling. The neighbor stuck her own head out the window – apparently Bouncer had awakened them this morning – and said her husband was in the shower, but he might be able to help later. Too late. I was already back on the ladder.
Once I actually got in sight of the top I realized that If I could even manage to get onto the roof, I would never be able to get back down. The step over the parapet was way too high, and I’d never ever manage it backwards. When Rob arrived, Bouncer was looking down at me in panic, I was clinging to the rusty old ladder with one hand and dialing the phone to call my husband (in an earlier time zone, btw) for moral support with the other. Oh, and having a complete, hysterical meltdown. Which is something I do about once a decade.
Rob was going to have to get her on his own. I got back down ( and did indeed fall off the last rung of that accursed ladder) and he went up. (Young, strong, fit guys are really useful at times like these.) As he reached the top, who comes racing around the corner but Bouncer?
I made poor Rob look around and figure out how she got on and then off the roof. The tree next to the house has wispy branches at the top – surely too fine to take the weight of a cat – but apparently there was one a little thicker than the others that was resting in one of the crenellations in the wall. The little madam had climbed the tree, waltzed over on the branch, and then chickened out about coming down. I think she figured that when I was so close and did not save her she was on her own, so she went back down the way she came up.
So there I was: exhausted, tearstained, embarrassed to be seen in such a state by a colleague, nearly late for a class that I wasn’t totally prepared to teach…and the damned cat – who’d eaten an hour and a half of my morning and dragged at least three people out of bed – had managed to save her own sorry self. Did I throttle her, as she so richly deserved? Did I. I picked her up, took her into the cool house, petted her, fussed over her, gave her some water, then reluctantly turfed her out only because I had to get to class.
I am so totally owned.