An alternative title to this post would be The Great Escape. Be assured this story has a happy ending, although the experience probably shaved a few years off my life.
Last Sunday I was minding my own business, sitting in front of my computer checking email, when I heard my husband calling for Raji and rattling the dry food container. I thought to myself, “Why is he doing that? He gave all of them lunch just an hour ago.” At that moment, I turned to my window which looks out onto our deck. I saw Raji’s ginger-striped bum sliding between two of my potted plants. I didn’t react at first. I only remember thinking, “Oh.”
Then my heart made a nose-dive to my stomach. I ran to my husband who was outside, trying to encourage Raji to turn around and come back inside the house. Quietly he told me that Wendy had also gotten out. He had managed to sequester Junior in one of the back rooms, all while I was busy reading and writing emails.
Naturally, I was calm and not at all worried. HA! I call BS on that!
I was totally freaked out. I ran around to the front of the house where Greg had last seen Wendy. I couldn’t find her. At all. I hurried to the back yard where Greg was still talking to Raji as our little innocent kitty explored. For the next two-and-a-half hours, we followed Raji as he investigated the perimeter of our property, occasionally jumping a fence to a neighbor’s yard.
Meanwhile, Wendy had disappeared.
Every so often I’d return to the front of our house, walk a ways up and down our street, calling her name. All our doors were open, including the garage door, an invitation for them to return. Junior continued to protest, shut up in the back room, his voice plaintive and distant.
We couldn’t get close to Raji. Generally he doesn’t like to be picked up so we knew if we rushed him, he would run away from us. At one point, he started talking to me and seemed frustrated by his attempts to get back in our yard. While he could jump onto our neighbor’s chain-link fence, he didn’t like the fences and kept trying to find ways around them. Finally he was back in our yard and he ran up to the back porch! Unfortunately, he went to the one unopened screen door, the screen door that we rarely use because the porch has settled over the last thirty years, and the door is difficult to open and close.
It started to rain.
At first, just sprinkles and then a downpour. By this time, Greg had gotten the other screen door open but Raji was sheltering under a group of ferns. I went back to the front of the house. Still no sign of Wendy.
I sat down on a stool and tried to think of what to do next. I had alerted our neighbors across the street, and I managed to put an alert on the Nextdoor app. Raji seemed to want to stay close by, for which I was grateful, but I was perplexed that Wendy had simply disappeared. Greg came around to the front, and we started to talk about next steps.
As we talked, I heard a small noise. I looked at Greg. He had heard it too, but couldn’t tell where it came from. I started to call for Wendy and then heard a distinct “Meow.” She was in the garage, but where? We couldn’t see her. We were cautious in how we looked for her, not wanting to make any loud noise or sudden movement. My fear was that she would get spooked and run off.
Finally, I looked into the recesses under Greg’s work bench. Wendy was sitting in the middle of a considerable amount of clutter, behind a large board that was propped against the bench. She had chosen the one spot where she couldn’t be seen. Greg moved the board, and Wendy looked at us like she couldn’t imagine what the fuss was all about. We closed up the garage, keeping our eyes on Wendy in case she decided to bolt. She didn’t.
Once Wendy was safe, I went inside our house to close the French doors that opened onto our back porch. As I started to close one of the doors, Raji sauntered in. Yes, he sauntered. In disbelief, I watched him cross the back porch and enter the dining room, acting as if nothing had happened. I immediately closed up the house and let Junior rejoin us.
How did this happen?
We know that our cats, Raji in particular, enjoy hanging out in the garage. I don’t know why. They just do. A side door off the garage leads to the great outdoors. We keep it closed for the most part, but, sometimes, especially when, for whatever reason, one of us is going in and out, the side door is left open for convenience.
Greg was going in and out, taking care of some minor yard work. He was on his way out again and didn’t see that Raji and Wendy were right at his heels. By the time he realized they were in the garage and the side door was wide open, it was too late. Junior was also following the group, but he’s not as quick as he used to be, so Greg was able to grab him and put him back in the house.
Keep the side garage door closed at all times, and make sure we know where the kids are before entering the garage.
Theories as to why we didn’t lose our cats
Wendy probably never ventured far. The garage is a safe place for her. After we first got her in August 2013, we had a couple of episodes where she escaped through the front door. The trick to getting her back was to open the garage door. At the sound of that door opening, she would hurry back to us. And it’s likely that when it started to rain, she came back to the garage for shelter. She just didn’t bother to let us know right away.
Raji probably wondered where we had gone. For over two hours, we had been calling and talking to him, following him around. Then, all of a sudden, we were no longer there. As long as we were talking to him, he was content to be outside. But I think it worried him when he no longer knew where we were. He had to come inside to find us.
We are still amazed at our good fortune: that our kids didn’t go far, that they came back inside of their own accord, and that the horrible experience (for me and my husband) only lasted a few hours. We are also grateful for what this experience showed us: that our cats are truly domesticated, that they will choose home if given the choice.
I don’t think I could go through something like this again, though. I felt utterly helpless. My husband felt deeply guilty. Neither of us wanted to imagine life without Wendy or Raji.
Thank you for reading. Here’s a few post-adventure photos. Well, actually the first one is pre-adventure, taken the morning of.
Marie A Bailey
Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.