Saturday, September 19, 2020

Lost Cat

A little under four years ago, we took in a stray cat. It was November, and this little gray cat had been wandering around the neighborhood for days looking hungry and cold. Nobody seemed to know who she belonged to, but she kept meowing at people’s doors, asking to come inside. One morning I opened the garage door to leave for work, and the cat ran over from across the street, meowing the whole way. She was obviously getting desperate for some food and a warm place to stay. We decided to let her in the garage and give her something to eat while we figured out what to do.

At some point—I’m not sure if it was that day or a day or two later—Ruth decided we needed to take her to the shelter. She needed to take the boys somewhere too, and when she opened the van door, the cat hopped right in and sat down between the boys’ car seats. They petted her the whole way on their errand, and she purred and fell asleep. Ruth decided to hold off on taking her to the shelter and see if we could find her owner herself. We didn’t want the owner to have to pay to get their cat out of the shelter, and Ruth had heard horror stories about lost pets being euthanized before their owners could pick them up. But we did check to see if she was chipped, and she wasn’t.

We gave her description to the shelter and posted in Facebook groups for lost pets to see if anyone recognized her. Nobody did. Meanwhile, one of the boys decided to call her Luna. After a couple of weeks of looking for her owner, we concluded that nobody was looking for. She was well-behaved and litter-trained, so she clearly wasn’t feral. We don’t know whether her owners had given up looking for her or had abandoned her, but we decided to keep her.

Luna settled right in and seemed grateful for a home, though she wasn’t content to be an indoor cat—she wanted to go out frequently and loved to chase bugs in the flower bed or hang out under the grapevines in the back yard. She loved to roam the neighborhood too, sometimes catching voles or mice in the field near our house. I really didn’t want an indoor-outdoor cat, because I know there are too many things that can happen to a cat out there, but there wasn’t any stopping her. Sometimes she seemed to go a little stir-crazy inside and seemed frantic to go out. At first I worried that she would get lost again, but she was nearly always back before I went to bed. Occasionally she’d be out all night, but she’d always be back in time for breakfast.

One day Ruth and the boys came across a book at the local library called Lost Cat. It’s about a cat named Slipper who lives with a little old lady, and one day the little old lady moves in with her daughter’s family. Unfortunately, Slipper gets forgotten in the commotion of moving day. She tries to follow the moving van but eventually gets tired and loses the trail.

Slipper is lost.

She decides to find a new family to adopt. After a series of adventures, she sees a girl wearing patent leather shoes and knows that she has to follow them. Slipper follows the girl inside her house and immediately feels at home. Then the girl leads Slipper down the hall to a bedroom and says, “Grandma, look who followed me home!” Slipper has managed to follow the little old lady’s granddaughter straight to her new home.

It’s a charming and beautifully illustrated book, and we knew we had to buy a copy for our family. Even though we still have no idea where Luna came from, it still felt symbolic. She was lost and decided to adopt us, and she has been a part of the family ever since.

A few days ago, Ruth was up in the middle of the night, and Luna asked to be let out. But this time, she wasn’t back for breakfast. At some point during the day, Ruth asked me if I’d let her in or if I’d seen her. I hadn’t. When she wasn’t back for dinner either, we really started to get worried. Luna liked to have her adventures, but she also had a routine, and she’d never been gone this long. Ruth posted on our neighborhood Facebook group asking if anyone had seen her, but no one had. Ruth and one of the boys went biking around the neighborhood looking for her but couldn’t find her anywhere. Ruth and I went out again after the boys were in bed, but by that point it was already dark, and we quickly gave up. We went to bed that night without any idea of where she could be or what could have happened to her.

A small part of me wondered if somehow, after nearly four years, she had suddenly found her way back to her original family, but the possibility of that seemed remote. I was already fearing the worst. And in the middle of going over all those fears, it hit me that I’d never be able to bring myself to read Lost Cat again. Our cat had vanished and probably wasn’t coming home again. That family favorite book would forever be ruined.

Luna still wasn’t home the next morning. Ruth went to the shelter, but Luna wasn’t there. She and the boys rode their bikes all over the neighborhood. She drove around, further than we thought Luna roamed, looking for some sign of her. I rode my bike around the neighborhood too. None of us saw anything.

Ruth and I stayed up late that night talking—about Luna, about the boys, about the evening class I’m teaching on top of my full-time job, about a dozen other things I can’t remember. Neither us seemed to want to go to sleep just yet.

And then I heard a familiar meow through our open window.

I ran downstairs, and there was Luna on the front porch as if nothing had happened, as if she hadn’t just been gone for nearly 48 hours. She came in and went straight for her food dish. Clearly she was hungry, though she didn’t seem to be hurt. Her fur was dirty and full of bits of leaves and other debris, but otherwise she looked none the worse for wear.

She’s been home for a couple of days now, and we still have no idea what happened to her. But she’s back to her normal routine, sleeping on the back of the green couch during the day and going out in the evenings to roam the neighborhood and have her adventures.

And we’re just happy that our lost cat came back to us.

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