Friday, November 07, 2008

The Prodigal Cat

I love our cat, Desdemona. I picked her out when she was a tiny kitten and I could hold her in the palm of my hand. She has grown up to be a timid but affectionate cat, and like most pets, she loves us intensely in her simple, unconditional way. She's been an indoor-only cat since we took her from my parents' farm, and she has never once escaped (or even wanted to)... until yesterday.

Apparently, one of our windows didn't have a screen in it. We had forgotten and left it open two days in a row. Desdemona worked up the nerve and hopped out. We found out the next day, after I had closed the window and she had been outside for at least 14 hours.

We read somewhere that cats tend to hide near home when they got lost, so I stuck my head out the window to see if I could see her hiding somewhere nearby. Turns out she was hunched down behind a bush on the side of the house just a few feet from the window. We went and got her and she came back in with little fuss.

We both felt so neglectful. I don't know how we didn't notice that the window didn't have a screen, except that we probably opened it at night. Also, I know I saw Desdemona sitting in the window just like she would if it had a screen. And it's also just something you take for granted.

I also felt pretty stupid that I didn't notice she was gone the whole next morning. I usually get up and try to do schoolwork and I don't even think about her (except to fill her food dish). But then she ends up annoying me until I spend a lot of time with her; usually we take a nap together because I'm too lazy to pet her for like an hour straight. Anyhow, that morning, I didn't even notice that she wasn't around. She doesn't always bother me every morning, but I usually at least see her, so I should have known something was wrong. I also remember I went to school feeling intensely lonely. I thought I was in a funk due to the weather or something. Now I realize how therapeutic Desdemona's morning routine had become. She makes me stop running around and spend some time at peace.

The whole thing seems so surreal in retrospect. We lost Othello, Desdemona's brother, to some mysterious disease a year ago. Gina took it really hard, because Othello was "her cat," just as Desdemona was always "my cat." That whole experience was so quick and so final, so for Desdemona to escape, knowing how unlikely it is to find a lost pet... it seems crazy that she could be lost and then found.

Part of how I deal with the uncertainty of life is to prepare for traumatic experiences, but I'm almost never prepared for the things that end up happening to me. So it was also surreal that this fact I knew--that lost cats tend to hide close to home--ended up being right. It's crazy that it could be that simple. And most likely, we would not have found her if we had not known that; she never would have left that bush, even if we walked by it and called her name. I think I'll always remember the image of her huddled in fear under that bush staring up at me. I still just can't believe she was right there for 14 hours. If something had scared her out of that spot, we might have never found her.

After we brought her back in, she ate and used the litter and groomed herself, since she hadn't been able to take care of those needs overnight. And after that, she went back to her normal self, sleeping on everything and pestering me. It's great to have her back, and I'm glad she's too simple to hold a grudge. Why God would choose to make this tragedy into a miracle, I don't know, but I'm just glad he did.

No comments: