Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Herding cats

This is Siren. She doesn't have anything to do with today's post but I wanted to include a picture of a cat and sure as $#@! wasn't going to get one of Wild. Although Siren looks rather wild here, with her glowing red demon cat eyes. She's really very sweet. Really.

 Friday, I picked Wild up at the vet, where she had been spayed.

“She did okay,” my vet said. “We didn’t handle her much.”

Really? And why not, prey tell?

Wild came home on a day that was icy, damp, foggy, wet, cold and just generally miserable. I decided she could spend the weekend in the basement and have a few days to heal in a warm, dry, clean environment before returning to her wild ways outdoors.

I had a Belgian-sized crate set up in the basement. Inside it was an enclosed, cat-sized cardboard box lined with towels and with an opening cut in one side. There was a litter box. There were food and water pans. Bonus had enjoyed his stay in this snug little feline hospital wing a few days before. In fact, he enjoyed it so much I had a little trouble getting him out of it. When I opened the door to collect him to go outdoors, he blinked his gorgeous green eyes and looked at me like, “Run along, silly, delusional human. I’ll be just fine here until spring.”

I’d carefully cleaned everything to be ready for the next patient. Only problem was, I had no idea how I was going to get Wild in there. Reaching into the carrier and scooping her up was out of the question. The original plan to scoop her up and put her IN the carrier hadn’t exactly worked. I didn’t expect it to go any better in reverse. We’re only 2 weeks into the new year and I didn’t want to explore the parameters of  my health insurance plan yet. A sensible reader suggested putting the entire carrier into the dog crate and leaving the carrier door open so she could come out when she felt like it. That would have worked if the carrier would have fit into the crate. It didn’t. Letting her run loose in the basement was out of the question. At least at that point.

I thought about just turning her loose in the barn where she could make a snug nest in the straw. Then I remembered how I felt after coming home from the hospital last September. A little coddling was definitely in order. It would make her love me, right?

In the end, I opened the dog crate door, jammed the cat carrier into the opening, blocked any remaining space with my leg and opened the carrier door. Nothing happened. I tipped the carrier up. Nothing happened. I shook it a little. Wild came flying out like she’d been shot from a rocket launcher. She vanished into the cardboard box while I chucked the carrier out of the way and slammed the crate door. I can be super coordinated and lightning fast when the alternative is having a feral animal loose in the house.

Poor little cat. She really is wild. Until 48 hours ago, she’d been living the wild life and having a nice breakfast when an alien attempted to abduct her, causing her to use her 486 spinning claws of death while simultaneously changing from a solid to a liquid state. Then she’d suffered the humiliation of being caught in the live trap and hauled unceremoniously to the vet, where they did unmentionable things to her and stuffed her into the carrier she’d gone to such effort to avoid in the first place. (No word on if she used her spinning claws of death at the vet.) Upon coming home, she’d been put in a detention block on the Death Star. And it smelled like dogs.

I did not see her for the next 36 hours. When I changed her litter box or filled food and water bowls,  I only saw the tip of her tail sticking out of the box. Or maybe a whisker. I did not see the entire cat.

Until 4 a.m. Sunday. Wild was in the basement near the furnace room, which just happens to be right under our bedroom.

Wild: Meow.

Humans: Snore.

Wild: Meow, meow.

Humans. Snore.

Phoenix: Kitty?

Wild: Meow, meow, meow.

Phoenix: Kitty!

Wild: Meow, meow, MEOW!

Phoenix, nose pokes me: Wake up. Kitty in basement!

Me: Uhgmpf??


Phoenix: Get the kitty!

Farmer: What does your dog want?

Me: Who knows.

Phoenix, dancing around the bedroom: Kittykittykitty! Get the kittykittykitty!


Farmer: What does your cat want?

(Funny, how ownership of troublesome animals transfers to me between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.)

Me: Be quiet. Maybe she’ll go back to sleep.

Wild: YOWL!

Farmer: How’s that workin’ for ya?



Farmer: I think your cat wants out.

Me: Fine. Go let her out.

Farmer: Snore.

Phoenix: Up! Up! Get up! Get the kitty! I help!


Me:  Oh $#@!

So I got out of bed and tromped down to the basement. I shut Phoenix in the kitchen first. I’ve experienced enough of his well-intentioned help to know that where  malinois are involved, reality often falls short of intention.

Like lots of pet owners, I can let dogs out to potty in the middle of the night, call them back to the house, wipe off paws as needed and tumble back into bed without truly waking up. It couldn’t be any different, letting one small cat out of the basement, could it?

That was the plan.

Because my plans always work out so well.

 We have two sets of stairs to the basement: one that opens into the kitchen and one that opens to the outside of the house. I had a flash of cognitive brilliance and opened the door to the outside first. Then I looked at the big crate. I  looked at the small carrier. Even my sleep-fogged mind knew I’d never get Wild back in there to carry her out of the basement. And I only had on pajamas and slippers. I wasn’t getting anywhere near the whirling claws of death without full body armor.

Maybe I could pull the box she was hiding in out of the crate and carry it outdoors. She hadn’t come out of it when I was around her for the last day and a half. What were the odds she’d change her mind now? I knelt down. I reached for the box. A streak of yellow fur shot out of the box at light speed, zoomed underneath my outstretched arms and vanished into the shadows behind the furnace.

Another fine plan gone to hell in less than three seconds.

I’ve helped the Farmer move cattle. Generally, you walk slowly behind them, not putting too much pressure on them, and they’ll amble along in the correct direction. Until they get to wherever you want them and then they do as they please, which usually translates to stampeding through the vegetable garden. Then you run around and swear and start all over. Herding cats is quite similar.

I flushed Wild out from behind the furnace and she bolted into the laundry room. The outside stairs are in the laundry room. Good. There are a lot of other things in the laundry room, too. Bad.

I heard clattering. Wild was on top of the water heater. I had to admire her agility. She was pretty much right at eye level. I backed up and admired from a distance.

This is where things got sticky. In order to get her to move, I had to put more pressure on her. She was running out of places to run. I did not want her running over me. The basement door stood open, letting a lovely January breeze flow into the house and through my PJs. I was abandoning all hope of doing this without actually waking up.

I moved around behind the water heater, ready to retreat at the sight of flying ninja claws of death coming my direction. Wild leaped off the water heater and careened along a shelf of miscellaneous gardening supplies, sending pots, gloves, trowels and sprinkler heads cascading to the ground. The poet who wrote the line about fog creeping in on tiny cat's feet must have never actually seen a cat.

I did my best to head her off before she ran up the wrong set of stairs and smacked into a dead-end at the basement door into the kitchen. I’m pretty sure Phoenix was on the other side concentrating all his brain waves on beaming a cat right through that door. She circled the washer and dryer and vanished into the shadows by the water softener. Damn. I didn’t realize we had so many shadowy places where a cat could hide.

At this point, I seriously considered leaving the semi-freezing basement and crawling back into my nice warm bed. Maybe she could just live down there for the rest of her life. I’d put out food and water and change the litter box and we’d both pretend the other wasn’t there.

A yellow streak of fur blasted past me, crashed into a stack of buckets, ricocheted off a laundry basket, careened off the side of a free-standing cupboard and bolted up the outside stairs. I got to the top of the stairs in time to see her disappearing across the lawn into the darkness.

I shut the door and went back to bed. By the time I got warm enough to fall asleep, it was time to get up.

Game, set, match: Wild.


  1. LOL just plain LOL oh and I love Phoenix...

  2. I never laugh so much as I do when your stories contain both Phoenix AND cats!