On Being a Crazy Cat Mom

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

We were hosting a Labor Day cookout when it happened: Our cat, Helo, who had been social all day long, was suddenly nowhere to be found. He wasn't responding to his name or to the sound of my shaking a bag of his favorite treats. And perhaps most tellingly, our other cat, Dora, was sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, meow-screaming as if to tell us that her brother had gone missing.

Our apartment isn't very big to begin with, & we'd closed off two rooms for the party (mostly to hide the mess). Within the space that was left, there were minimal hiding places: under the bed (which is pretty cleared out), in the closet (which I recently cleaned & reorganized), & in cabinets (which all have doors that pull outward, so a cat could hide in there but not get stuck in there).

We all agreed: Helo seemed to have escaped.

He must've gotten out, we reasoned, during all our back & forth between the back yard & the kitchen. We'd all been careful, but cats are silent ninjas; he could be anywhere by now.

Immediately, I set about doing the most helpful thing: sobbing. Yep, there we were, semi-drunk & surrounded by friends during a really lovely midday picnic, & I started bawling. How could I not? I mean, yeah, he's "just" a cat - but he's a cat who's my best little buddy. he's soft & pretty & indoorsy, &  thunderstorm was coming, & he could've been anywhere. Including gone forever.

Our friends sprang into action, scouring our apartment, our yard, the nearby park, & the surrounding areas for anywhere Helo might be hiding. We gave descriptions to neighbors, texted our upstairs duplex-mates to ask them to keep an eye out, & posted a photo in a neighborhood Facebook group. Mike put a litterbox & treats on the patio to try to help Helo recognize the scent of his home. All the while, I continued to cry uncontrollably while yelling my cat's name all around the damn neighborhood. Like a crazy person.

Exhausted, I returned home & looked around the apartment again, just in case. I returned to the only place with dark, hidden corners: the closet. I'd looked there three times already, but why not a fourth?

And there he was, nestled in a duffel bag & covered in winter scarves, his big green eyes staring out at me. I wept harder, this time with joy, as I shouted out the window, "I found him! I found him!" I was so embarrassed to admit that he'd been in the apartment the entire time - but I wasn't the only one who'd scoured our home & failed to find him in his very concealed hiding place.

He was terrified, though I'm still not sure what of. The dogs who'd been at the party earlier? He'd watched them through the window & hadn't seemed to mind. The loud radio playing out the bedroom window? He hadn't cared about it all afternoon. But something must've spooked him because he did not want to come out of his closet corner.

He's fine, of course, & so am I, if I little bit mortified by my reaction. "Were you really that upset?" one friend asked, when it was all over. Embarrassed as I was, yes, I was definitely that upset. As someone prone to imagining the worst-case scenarios, all kinds of thoughts went through my mind - & the prospect of losing my little dude was devastating. "LOST PET" signs always make me tear up, & I couldn't stop imagining being the person to hang them.

So after all that, Helo's safe at home, like he was the whole entire time - & I'm definitely buying a door for my closet.

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