So delighted to be able to report that Joey, who got out and went missing, has returned after a two week adventure. Oliver, one of my other ex-fosters escaped from his home one day a few years ago, and he was missing for an entire year.
You hear stories all the time about animals that are found after long periods of time. When my poor Mohammed did not come home, I agonized for months. In truth, I held out hope much longer. Not knowing what happened to a beloved pet is torture.
Mohammed was my friend Tim’s cat. (I posted a bit about him in my early blogs.) When Tim moved, Mohammed was not happy, although I suspect it was mainly because Tim had just taken in a small fluffy kitten. Why Mo would have been bothered about something so small, I can’t imagine, but he took refuge on top of Tim ‘s fridge and would not come down.
I was over the moon when Mohammed came back to live in Tim’s old apartment that I had moved into, and clearly, it was what he wanted. Tim had allowed him to wander, which was what all the cats of his childhood had done. The neighborhood seemed safe enough, so reluctantly I complied.
Then, one year, over the Christmas holidays, Mohammed went missing. We searched and posted signs and I felt miserable. At the time I was on a temporary assignment, which required me to work the graveyard shift. One morning I got home to find that Mo was still not home and I fell into bed exhausted and dispirited.
I could never sleep during the day, so I tossed and turned, and suddenly I heard Mohammed’s bell. Mo used to play with a mouse on a string that had a bell attached. Tired of playing, Tim had attached it to the front door and pretty soon the toy got shut outside by accident. The result was that every time he came home, thereafter, Mohammed would ring his bell, knowing that the door would open.
So when I heard Mo’s bell that morning, I flew to the door, only to find a little calico cat sitting there looking at me. It was an especially cold winter, that year, and since Mohammed was not home, I invited the poor stranger in. She went straight to his dry food bowl which was still in the kitchen. She had obviously heard that I was cat-friendly.
There was not much else I could do then, so I went back to bed and the little calico climbed in with me. The problem was that this cat was wearing a flea collar, so she obviously belonged to someone. In fact, when I thought about it, I remembered having seen her in the road recently and had stopped to talk to her, but I had no idea where she belonged. Apparently she had made notes about where I came from!
When I went back to work that night, I decided I really had to put the little cat back out. I made her a bed in the stairwell so she would at least have somewhere to shelter and I left her food. I told her “you must go home, sweetie. Your family will be looking for you!
But the calico cat did not want to go home, obviously. I think, in fact, that she had probably left home deliberately. Cats are very clever at getting what they want. (I should know. I once had a gorgeous cat that did not want to live with me. I cried for a week, but he got his way.)
For the next couple of days, every time I got home, there was this cat waiting for me and it was so perishing cold, I could not leave her outside. I did feel bad that she wouldn’t go home, but I didn’t want her to freeze!
I’m not sure how things would have played out, but a week after his disappearance, Mohammed turned up one morning, looking quite thin and decidedly out of sorts. I’m sure his mood was not improved by the presence of strange cat, so I had to figure things out in a hurry. I quickly shut the stranger in my bathroom, and got on the phone to Tim.
After a bit of grumbling, Tim agreed to take in the wayward cat, and she became Cleopatra. She was a gentle, sweet cat that we both loved very much. Eventually she and Caesar went to live with Tim in a brownstone in Brooklyn.
When Mohammed disappeared that first time, I think he probably had been checking out someone’s garage and got shut in over the holidays. For the balance of that winter, I was able to keep him indoors and I hoped it would stick. But when the weather turned good, Mo began to cry pitifully at the front door. He had had a taste for the outdoors and he wanted his independence. I was sick about it, but I loved him and couldn’t keep him confined in a tiny apartment.
Every time I opened the door for Mohammed, I said a mental “goodbye” and eighteen months or so later, he did not come back and this time it was permanent. There was no trace of him anywhere. There were no identity chips in those days, but he did wear a collar with his details on a medallion.
I have often wondered if Cleopatra’s people guessed that I took in their cat and perhaps they took Mohammed in return. I always had a guilty conscience about it. Maybe I should have tried harder to find out where she belonged. I felt so bad about her being out in such horrible weather and I couldn’t bear to just put her back out in the snow. I think I felt that if her people really cared about her, she wouldn’t have been out in the first place.
One way or another, perhaps Mohammed’s disappearance was my punishment.