Back in July of 2006, I wrote about how my cat Tidget came to live with me instead of the local Humane Society. Since that time, we developed into a fairly comfortable rhythm of life together. She has a few little quirks, but so do I, so we’re even.
Her favourite thing, other than food, is cuddling. After the first week I got her, not a night goes by without her spending a few minutes licking either my nose or my ear, whichever is closest, and then purring away loudly for about five minutes before falling asleep with her head resting on either my hand or my arm.
She’s not much for sitting on a lap, though. She’ll visit for a minute or two if I’m sitting on the couch watching television, but then she’ll go find something else to do. She hates the vacuum cleaner, and at the slightest hint of a thunderstorm, she runs under the bed and stays there for an hour or so. I have never been completely able to convince her to use the scratching post instead of the carpet on the stairs, but she never used the furniture. No one’s perfect.
She’s not a particularly needy cat, like some I’ve had, but when she wants loving, nothing will stop her from planting herself firmly against my chest, one front leg on either side of my neck, head tucked firmly under my chin, insisting on being petted and rubbed and even squeezed. She purrs so much she starts drooling. It’s kind of gross, but in an endearing way that probably only another cat person would understand.
When I got Muushuu in January of 2007, she quickly accepted him, or at least his physical presence. They’ve never become best buddies, but they will often both be sleeping on the back of the loveseat – on opposite side of it. She’ll accept him grooming her for brief periods, but I’ve only ever seen her take a half-hearted lick at his forehead once. She has no problem sharing the litter box, and she delights in cleaning up his food bowl if he leaves some behind. All in all, it’s been a fairly happy little family.
On Monday night, when I came from work, I was met at the door by only one cat, Muushuu. This isn’t particularly unusual, especially if Tidget is sleeping downstairs. I usually just go about my business, which will ultimately conclude in them getting fed a bit of wet food to supplement their regular diet of dry, and usually she’ll come upstairs when she realizes what is happening and sit waiting semi-patiently for me to open the can and prepare their bowls. That didn’t happen this past Monday, though. I kept thinking she’d come up any minute, but Muushuu was already eating and still no Tidget. I decided I better go get her.
She wasn’t sleeping on the bed, where I would normally find her. She wasn’t in the office, under the desk, where she would sometimes have a nap. She wasn’t in the storage room where I keep their litter box. She wasn’t under the bed, where she would go if something startled her. Something wasn’t right. I looked in the bathroom, and even checked the tub. No Tidget. Back upstairs I went. Not on the couch or either of the chairs. Not by the radiator that runs under the credenza in the dining room. I looked behind the couch, in case she’d fallen and got wedged against the wall. Nope. I looked behind the wall unit where I keep the tv, thinking maybe she’d gone back there and got tangled in some wires. I made another round of the whole house, checking all the closets and hidey-holes. Nope, no Tidget.
And then, I remembered.
That morning, I was running just a little bit late. Not much, only about five minutes. The day before, I had picked up some granola bars to take to work in case I got the munchies. After I’d closed the door and gone down the front steps, I remembered that I’d left them inside on the window ledge, where I’d put them while I was putting on my shoes.
So, I went back into the house, walked the four steps to the ledge, grabbed the granola bars and stuffed them in my pocket, then four steps back to the door. Then I saw that the door had swung open. I saw it and it registered on my consciousness because I always, always, always push it shut so it clicks, even if my arms are full of groceries coming in or garbage bags going out or whatever. I always shut it till it clicks. But this time, I hadn’t. It was open for the time it takes to take three steps in and three steps out -- less than five seconds. Muushuu was asleep on the couch, and Tidget was asleep downstairs on the bed, and I was five minutes behind schedule. A glance at the front porch revealed nothing amiss, so I locked the door again as I left and went to work. Except … Tidget must not have been asleep on the bed downstairs.
I realized what must have happened. At this point, I’d been gone for over 12 hours, and who knows where she could have went. She’d been strictly an indoor cat for the last three and a half years and certainly wasn’t street smart. I put on my coat and started searching, walking the neighbourhood and calling her name, but the chances of seeing a small greyish-brown cat somewhere in the dark were pretty slim.
I was up early the next morning, and as soon as it was light, I was out again. I widened my search, but you know, in the average suburban neighbourhood, there are a LOT of places that a cat could hunker down for a night. I didn’t find her. I went back home and made up some “lost cat” posters to put on the power poles and assorted neighbourhood posts. Tidget was wearing a collar, with tags, and she was micro-chipped. Someone would find her and call me. I alerted the Humane Society in case someone turned her in.
It happened on Monday, and it’s now Thursday night, so Day 4. Someone might have taken her in, but it’s not likely. I still might get a call from the Humane Society, but that’s even less likely. It’s getting colder out there, and now it’s raining. She survived being a stray once, but I somehow doubt she’ll get lucky again.
Please don’t comment and tell me what a crappy pet owner I am. Nothing you could say would make me feel worse about myself than I already do. My split second of inattention has more than likely had the most serious of consequences for an animal that I undertook to care for and to love. I failed her. Over the past 30 odd years, I’ve had five other cats besides these two, as well as three dogs, umpteen birds, lizards, fish, etc. I am well aware of pet safety and care, and I have been proud to say that all of the animals in my care have had a full, long and rather spoiled life. Until now.
The anguish I’ve been going through for the past few days is nothing compared to what Tidget must be experiencing right now, if indeed she is even still alive. I haven’t been able to accept that she is gone yet, and I will never be able to forgive myself for causing this to happen to her. I failed her, and she is paying the price for that failure.
Why am I writing this post? I guess it’s because I was due for a reminder. And if I was due, maybe somebody else is too, and maybe I can save them from going through something like this.
Here’s my public service announcement for today:
Please, whoever reads this, remember the little things we do to keep ourselves and those in our care safe. One tiny moment of inattention can have far-reaching consequences for ourselves, our children, wife, husband, friends, neighbours, or our pets. Please, even if you’re late or tired, even if the dog is barking or the baby is crying, even if its raining or snowing or the person driving the car in front of you is going too slow or someone is talking to you or whatever the distraction, please, just be careful.