I turned from making our lunches and saw a streak of black scuttle across the kitchen floor and bolt down to the basement. Oh no…not again.
My “indoor and on the porch only” cat firmly believes that she is an outdoor cat. We sincerely tried to keep her inside. We promised the shelter where we adopted her, on pain of them removing the cat from our home, that she would Never. Go. Outside. She’s having none of it though. Her inner nature is much too wild. She is more determined to get out that any other cat I have ever seen. (See an earlier post from 2018 about her determination: https://karpenglish.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/so-a-cat-walks-into-the-room/.) Ultimately, I talked to her vet, who assured me that although keeping a cat contained inside is safer for the cat, some cats simply haven’t the temperament to be indoor only, no matter how much enrichment and attention they get, and for this cat, the better quality of life and mental health meant she needed to be able to go outside.
Okay, that’s not so bad. She does not go far, checks in with me at various windows, comes when she is called, and reports back to me when she returns to the house. She yells, “Meow! Meow! Meow!” at the top of her lungs as she roams around the house looking for me, only to stop when I am in her line of sight and have acknowledged her presence. Preferably with petting. Every time, I picture Ricky Ricardo yelling, “Luuuucyyyyy! I’m hommmmmeeeee!” but with less bongo drums and more fur.
A couple of years ago, though, she started to hunt, and thought bringing her catches inside where they would be safe seemed like the best idea. This never worked in her favor though, as she kept putting them down proudly and the darn things would escape, then she would get yelled at and locked in a room and when she finally got out again the birds had always disappeared. Final score: Cat 1, Birds 2. One did not recover from her ministrations, probably because I am not a bird doctor, but I did my best. The other two escaped unscathed, and flew off, swearing profusely in Bird at me, her, our entire block. For a while, we kept her under house arrest, but, well, see paragraph 2. Ultimately, she was paroled, but the outside door was kept firmly shut and she was only let in if she was not carrying a bird. After about a year, she was declared rehabilitated and released on her own recognizance, the whole sorry hunting debacle swept into memory.
There’s always an until in stories like this.
Until three weeks ago, when I was home caring for my husband, who was immobilized after emergency surgery, and I turned the corner into the kitchen and there were feathers all over the floor. Long feathers and short feathers. Tiny feathers and a trail of feathers that led out of the room, down the stairs, around the corner, and into the laundry area, where they…disappeared. I searched the house frantically and more than a little queasily, because Dead Things are my husband’s job. He may not know that, and it has always been me here alone when I’ve had to rescue other cat catches of the day, but it is definitely his job. That’s part of what husband’s are for. Dealing with Dead Things. Was I going to find a badly injured bird? A dead one?? A part of a dead one??? Random claws and beaks in a pool of blood???? Instead, I found nothing. A deeply unsettling nothing. I grew up with cats, many of whom were outdoor or indoor-outdoor cats and hunters, and there was never…nothing.
However, time went by, work and life got busy and then the coronavirus hit and kept us all preoccupied. The house never developed a mysterious stench and I still hadn’t found any bird bits, so I tried to forget the whole thing. Until yesterday.
“Uh, Mom? She’s got something in her mouth!”
After my son’s urgent notification, I turned and looked down the basement staircase. The cat crouched at the bottom, bird in her mouth, defiance in her eyes. The bird fluttered and her teeth clamped down harder. Oh, no, the bird was still alive. I yelled, “Drop it!” despite not being a police officer in a cheesy crime show and her not being a trained dog. My son helped by yelling many similar orders at her. All of them were ignored, because she is a cat. She is a smart cat, and I could see that she understood that we were not pleased by her antics, but the very brief war to be a good cat was trampled by her inner hunter.
Ultimately, I had my son go and close all the house doors, then carefully and slowly slunk down the stairs, trying not to scare her or the bird, or scare her into dropping the bird. (Please don’t let her drop a live bird in the basement!) I was able to get down to her and sidle around her, which had the desired effect of forcing her back up the stairs. I herded her across the house in a similar fashion and out onto the front step, where I tried to gently open her jaws to free the bird. Her jaws had an iron grip and she was not letting go. The bird was hyperventilating through its beak, and the cat started to growl. I had to concede that I valued my fingers more than the poor bird’s life, and shut the front door in the cat’s face, assuring my son (and myself) that her killing the bird quickly was the kindest thing for it at the moment. She had her teeth sunk into the bird and it would not survive.
The cat rapidly departed the porch for parts unknown, and my son decamped to his toys in the basement. I picked up the shed feathers and returned to the kitchen, where the cat had returned to the sliding glass door, which is usually open a crack when she is outside. She still had the bird in her mouth, and she glared at me. For the next 40 minutes.
Needless to say, I did not let her in!