When I found out that Goober had disappeared, I did not know where (or how far) he had gone, whether he had been picked up by someone or was still out in the cold somewhere, or even whether he was still alive. Those with more experience with wayward cats — including Jennifer, David and many other friends and coworkers — said that frequently cats would come back after a few days’ adventuring, and that this was likely to be the case with Goober. After all, he’d been fixed, so he wouldn’t wander as much as a tom; and since he still had his claws, he could defend himself as needed. So, odds were, he was alive, all right, probably having the time of his life, and would turn up eventually. I could appreciate the likelihood, but — as is so frequently the case with me — what I can appreciate intellectually and what I feel are frequently at odds.
Fortunately, while I can panic over small details, when a real urgent matter strikes I snap into crisis mode, which is kind of handy. This meant that while I was a nervous wreck, I could still put together a strategy to increase our chances of getting him back. Jennifer tends to shut down in a crisis, and, frustratingly, not ask anyone for help if she thinks it’s her fault. So here’s what I did (or told her to do), in addition to going out and looking for him:
- I told her to e-mail everyone she knows who lives in Shawville, to spread the word about Goober’s disappearance.
- I created a web page for her to link to from her e-mail, with photos and a detailed description of our little turniphead.
- I created posters that we have now put up in more than two dozen locations. The posters are basic: under the heading “LOST” is a photo of Goober and our phone number (as well as the web page URL in some versions).
- She went door-to-door in the immediate (1 block) vicinity, letting our neighbours know that he’s missing.
If there’s one thing I can do under stress, it’s a PR campaign. The idea here was to increase the number of eyeballs keeping an eye out for our cat, but also to let people know that if he turns up he’s not a stray and we’re looking for him (so please don’t kill him) — or, conversely, that he’s our cat and we don’t care if your kids found him and love him, they can’t have him. We couldn’t find him if he was already in someone else’s house, so it seemed a good idea to spread the word.
It seems to have worked. The whole town may not be in an uproar over it, but I doubt many people haven’t heard about it. Some of Jen’s co-workers are actively looking, as are their kids — Goober is usually quite popular with our guests, especially kids, who he seems to love playing with.
We’ve gotten some false positives — a similar looking cat up on Shaw Street, a dissimilar dead cat in the ditch about 20 minutes away from here — but in the process of canvassing we managed to turn up a couple of leads that suggested that he was still close nearby. He’d been spotted near a bird feeder about a block away. And apparently the kids at the nearby elementary school had been playing with him at recess. (We’d been told that cats can wander up to a couple of miles, so this was potentially useful intel that allowed us to tighten our search.)
Yesterday morning, some noise at the windows got Jen out of bed around five, and after sunrise we saw cat paw-prints at both our front and back doors. The prints came from and returned to the trees and bushes near our building, and stopped at our doorsteps — i.e., the cat came as far east as our door, and no further — which suggested that Goober was afoot, because what other cat would stop at our door twice?
Yesterday we searched the town a lot — probably too much — but were starting to feel the effects of fatigue and sleep deprivation. (I’ve been nauseous since yesterday morning, for example.) Yesterday evening, I caught a few hours’ sleep while Jen stayed up, did another search around midnight, and kept her eye out the window. At about three a.m. I got up and eventually got to squabbling with her. (Because she waited a day to tell me that Goober was missing, I was quite upset with her, and have been giving her a miserable time of it ever since — though to be fair, how far up my ass was my head not to notice his absence for that long?)
And then, around three-thirty, there he was. Standing on the road, not ten metres away.
We scrambled outside and began calling to him while we struggled to get our shoes on. And then, this cat, who regularly comes when called, who aggressively seeks out and greets strangers — he ran for the bushes!
So of course we ran out to look for him. Without success: he was hiding, or playing hide and seek with us, but at a level at which we could not compete with this master of the art.
I went back to bed; Jennifer decided to have another try at finding him. While she was out — and I made unsuccessful attempts at getting to sleep, as I trembled not from cold but from exhaustion — he made a beeline for one of the doorstep food dishes we’d left out for him and gobbled down all the kibble. Evading Jen but grabbing the food.
Eventually — around six this morning — she came back to bed, and we’ll make some more attempts at retrieving him today (and, if necessary, tonight and tomorrow).
But though it’s infuriating to be this close and not be able to lay hands on him, we can at least draw the following positives from our sleep-deprived adventures: he’s alive and well, and he’s nearby.
And the advice given by those more experienced than I — that he’s out for an adventure and will come back when he’s had his fun — seems all the more apt and prescient.
We’ll get him back, I think, but he’s making it hard on us. The fucker.
Once we get him home, safe and sound, I’m gonna kill him.
Are electronic fence collars available for cats?