Last weekend was rather bizarre. On Saturday night, my son, daughter and I were in my son’s room, going through our usual bedtime routine. We were just finishing up story time when I heard what I thought was an animal outside. We live in a development in the country. We’re three miles from a town of about 3000. I have seen coyotes across the road, heard owls in the woods behind our house, and the sound of the frogs from the pond is almost frighteningly loud some nights. So, it’s not unusual to hear animal noises at night (although some of them freak me out). But, this one was different, and very close.
After telling my children to be quiet several times, I finally said, “I think I hear a cat.” That was effective in getting them to hush. My son went to the window and listened. Then he said, “That sounded just like a person saying ‘Meow!'” I just wanted to get the kids to go to sleep. I told them it was just a stray or a wild cat and it would go away.
I usually lie next to my son until he falls asleep, because he doesn’t go to sleep easily on his own. I fall asleep next to him about a third of the time. I was dozing off when I heard the dog going nuts. The door to my son’s room opened, and with the hall light on, I could see the silhouette of my husband holding a cat. I bolted up.
“What are you doing!?”
“I opened the door and it came in.”
“It could have rabies or some other disease! I don’t want it in the house! Put it outside!”
So, he did. And the cat stood outside the front door, at times even leaning on the door meowing, for an hour or two. The dog stood at the door, scratching and sometimes barking. The cat was not phased. I turned the lights down, hoping it would just go away. Sometimes, I would look out and say, “Go away!”
I probably sound like a real grouch. I’m not a cat person. I don’t hate cats; I even had one as a kid. I just prefer dogs. And, of course, I was concerned about the safety of my dog, my kids and my house.
A couple of hours later, my husband came out of the bedroom, and said, “Come and look at this guy.” The cat had climbed the 6 foot fence in the back yard and made himself at home on the railing of our deck. It was the first time I noticed how pretty she was. A black cat. She appeared to still be a kitten. She didn’t look dirty or scary. Still, I wanted her to go away. I did my best to ignore her, in spite of the dog’s continued excitement.
The next morning, my husband looked out and thought the cat had left. But, he finally saw her, curled up in a planter. It was Sunday morning, and we needed to get ready for church, but everyone was distracted. The cat did not appear to be diseased. I decided we could go outside and see her. She had two rather strange tufts of white/gray fur behind each ear. She was very friendly and sweet. She rubbed up against our legs and climbed onto the kids’ laps. My son was so happy with her curled up on his lap, and said, “She likes me.” Many times, he said, “I like this cat.” Finally, he said, “I love this cat!” At this point, even though we had not fed her, I knew she was not going away on her own. We would have to call animal control (do they even come out to the country?), or make her a pet. I didn’t see any middle ground.
We decided we were going to have to see how the cat and dog would get along. We let the dog out, and the cat hissed, and scratched up my husband’s hand, then jumped off the deck. The dog bolted down the deck stairs. Before he was even at the bottom, the cat had already climbed back up a pole and was back on the deck where she started, leaving the dog below sniffing around trying to find her. The dog looked pretty dumb.
We were leaving for church, and I told my husband, “If the cat is still here when we get home, we’ll have to decide if we’re going to keep her, and if she’s going to be an outdoor or indoor cat. She’ll need to be taken to the vet and checked out tomorrow.”
We got home from church, and the cat was in the back yard. My husband said something about feeding her, and I told him, “When you do that, you will be committing to keeping this cat.” He was aware. We looked out and saw the cat eating a cicada. Gross. Poor kitty was obviously hungry. Fine. Feed her. My husband gave her a can of tuna. She was ours now, but I didn’t want her in the house until she’d been to the vet.
The cat ran up a tree and my husband got the ladder and fetched her . . . the first time. Around 2:00, my daughter accidentally let the dog out. This time the cat went about 25 feet up the tree. There was no way to get to her. Our tallest ladder is only 10 feet.
My son was very worried, and would update me about how long she had been in the tree. His Dad and I kept telling him that she would come down when she was ready. But, I thought she wanted to come down; she was scared. Then, it started to rain. I figured that would surely get her down. I opened the window and heard her meowing. We talked of calling the fire department, but thought that only worked in old TV shows. With the backyard fence, and the ground being uneven, we didn’t see how a firetruck could get back there anyway.
It started to lightning and the wind picked up. I saw her being blown around and I was afraid she was going to fall. I said a prayer, asking God to keep this cat safe. She started to climb down, but only about 3 feet. Still too high to reach. She sat in a crook in the tree for a while longer, then went down a few more feet. I could no longer see her. I tried shining a flashlight out the window, but the glare of the screen made it impossible to see outside. She’d been in the tree about 5 hours by this time. I thought she may be low enough that I could coax her down. I wasn’t going to climb up the metal ladder in a lightning storm. I wasn’t feeling too hopeful, but I put on my shoes and went out in the rain.
When I got to the tree, she was too high to reach. I called to her, and she looked desperate to get to me. She climbed down another few feet and then clung to the tree. Standing on my toes, I could just reach her, but she had a grip on the tree. I said, “Let go. I’ve got you.” To my surprise, she did. Both of us wet, we made our way to the family who was excitedly waiting for us. She slept in the house that night, in an animal crate my husband had from a previous pet. We sat it on top of the dog’s crate, and neither animal made a peep all night. Other than the trip to the vet, the cat has not left the house since.
Her name is Patches because of the two white tufts behind her ears. I would have chosen something else, but I’ve vetoed most pet names my husband has come up with. In an effort not to be such a control freak, I’m getting used to it. The dog and cat are getting used to each other. Duke seems to love Patches, and Patches tolerates Duke. She also tolerates my daughter picking her up every 30 seconds.
As I’ve been writing this, Patches has been sitting on the couch arm snuggling up to my back. Don’t tell, but I think she likes me best. An even bigger secret . . . I like her too.