“Would you look after our cats until we move into the new apartment?” asked daughter 3. She thought living with us and our two cats for a few weeks might be less challenging than a cattery, especially for the elderly fellow, the ginger tom Wibbles, whose health was already frail.
We said yes, though we might have hesitated had we known what was in store.
They spent the first week in our garage. We left the car outside, moved our own cats to overnight in the laundry, provided them with food, water, and comfortable places to sit, and visited several times a day.
From the moment we opened the cat carriers, they faded away into the corners of cupboards, behind boxes, or under shelves. After a few days, Minnie, the cheerful black and white with the loud meow, would emerge to greet us, demanding a cuddle by weaving between our legs. We always had to hunt for Wibbles, who was fifteen years of age and who had been unwell for a while. He’d blink up at us from whichever refuge he’d squeezed himself into, and not come out unless we physically lifted him.
After the first week, we introduced our own cats, removing them each morning. Minnie was friendly. Ruby and Tiger less so. Wibbles slept. That second week, too, we brought the two guests into the house. Minnie slunk through the rooms, belly to the carpet, sniffing at everything. Wibbles hid under the coffee table, and slept.
In the third week, we left the garage door open for a few minutes, then an hour, then a whole afternoon. Minnie went exploring and came back. Wibbles hid and slept.
Then came the day we hunted high and low for Wibbles and couldn’t find him. We moved every box, looked under every shelf and inside every cupboard. No Wibbles. We walked the section, calling, though what we thought that might do I’m not sure. He’d not come to us at any point in the whole sorry saga.
“He has gone away to die,” said daughter 3, philosophically.
She was less philosophical three days later when Minnie disappeared. Again, the search, inside and out. We put a notice up at the supermarket, dropped leaflets in all the local letterboxes. We approached every black and white cat we saw making kissy noises and saying “Minnie, Minnie, Minnie,” in a high pitched voice. My beloved thought he saw Ruby chasing off a black and white cat, and I suspect he was probably right. Ruby has always been our timid cat, but she has suddenly developed a swagger.
Last week, we heading over to Wellington to see the new apartment (a five-bedroom penthouse much in need of renovation, but it’s going to be fabulous). We were part way over the hills (other countries might call them mountains) that separate us from the city to the south when my mobile phone rang. “I think I’ve seen your cat.” The description was right. Beloved turned the car and back we went, but to no avail. No Minnie to be seen. “I’ll keep an eye out for her, the neighbour promised, and we left again. We made the hour’s trip to Wellington, admired the apartment, had lunch with daughter and granddaughter, and drove home again.
As we came down out of the hills into our own town, the neighbour called again, bless him. “She was at my next door neighbour’s ten minutes ago.” It was Minnie, all right, and she was still there. Yes, and pleased to see us and come home.
You can be sure that the next morning I drove back to Wellington to deliver Minnie to her new home. Phew. I’m broken-hearted that we couldn’t find Wibbles, but so relieved that we managed to take Minnie back to her family.
If anyone would like us to provide a refuge for our cats, we probably can’t. We have a 50/50 success record, and we’re not going to be home that week.