January 16, 2020
illustrations by Emily Helquist
Percy, fondly known by my children as Ave Purrsephone Jingle Bells Christmas Miracle Watson, went missing a couple weeks before Christmas, which was a very un-Christmas-y thing for her to do. She finally showed back up several days into the new year, and she’s been keeping mum about her whereabouts during her absence. We were all very much hoping that we would find her curled up by our back door on Christmas morning, thereby living up to her mostly nonsensical middle name, but I guess she doesn’t place much stock in the meaning of names or the wishes of humans.
When she didn’t show on Christmas, we started to despair of ever seeing her again. It seemed clear that there were two options for what had become of her — either she’d become the pet of a new family who noticed how cute she is (and chose not to notice our “lost cat” signs), or she’d become a meal for one of the local owls or coyotes. Her sudden and joyous reappearance meant that she hadn’t become anyone else’s meal, but her gauntness meant that she probably hadn’t had any meals of her own, either.
When it comes to lost pets, the internet is full of information both helpful and terrible. People have OPINIONS about lost cats, ranging from “cats are awful” to “you are awful,” so that’s fun. However, there are also people who are compassionate and helpful and know what they’re talking about and have interesting things to say.* One such interesting thing is this: apparently, lost house cats are likely to just hunker down and hide for days or even weeks until hunger finally drives them home, and judging by appearances, that’s what Percy did. It’s nice to know that’s “normal,” but it’s also rather sad to imagine her cold and hungry in some drainage pipe or shed somewhere for three weeks, and since we don’t actually know what she was up to during those days, the kids and I have been coming up with imaginary stories that are a little less distressing.
For instance, on the night she ran off (which we can actually see on our security camera, but we can’t tell what made her scamper away into the shadows), perhaps she was answering the call of a persuasive gopher, who lured her out with promises of adventure and caviar. But the gopher turned out to be a liar and a jerk, so she killed him and then ran away to avoid being tried for murder in a court of rodents. (We did, in fact, find a dead gopher while searching for her one day. No signs of foul play.) We also found tiny paw prints and some random turds by the canal behind our house during another search expedition. Did they belong Percy? Did she sneak out to frolic and poop in the mud, until finally realizing that frolicking and pooping in the mud isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? No one will ever know.
Whatever her reason for being gone so long and for coming back so skinny — whether she was murdering gophers or frolicking in mud or simply curled up in a nook somewhere trying to avoid the rain — she’s safe and snug at home now. She appeared at our back door in the early evening a few days ago, just as suddenly as she left, and she came running into the house, ready to eat. She spent the next 24 hours following me around and meowing when she couldn’t find me, and since then she’s been cuddlier than ever, which is a welcome byproduct of her strange disappearance.
I’ve said before that cats are disloyal, because….well, because #cats. I mean, they’re not exactly famous for their amicability, are they? I love cats, I’m a cat person all the way, but you won’t hear me arguing that cats should steal the “man’s best friend” award away from dogs any time soon. However, I’m happy to admit that I was a bit wrong about their loyalty. Percy knows us, knows this is her home, and she’s been the cutest, friendliest little thing ever since her return. She’s always been a little bit of a spazzy cat — likely to scratch or nip, and setting aside time every day to hurl herself at walls — so it’s strange to have this calm, cozy, docile thing instead. She may eventually return to her old wily ways…but maybe she won’t? Maybe Percy’s time in the wild took some of the wild out of her, like an Amish Rumspringa, and people who come to our home will finally be able to pet her without the risk of losing a finger.
We prayed for her safe return while she was gone, even when we started to fear that she was being digested in the belly of a coyote somewhere. (Sidenote: According to “the internet,” everyone worries about coyotes eating their cats, but apparently that happens practically never.) I told the kids that God cares for the things he creates, which includes us and it includes Percy, and I think it’s pretty great that her sudden reappearance took place around the time we’d given up on ever seeing her again because the shock of it added to the joy. For my kids, who live in a world inundated with materialism and noise and instant gratification, the simple (but delayed) delight of a cat who came home was a unique opportunity to bend their hearts towards gratitude and praise and patience instead.
So. A happy end to a sad tale…a sad tale that still has lots of holes in it. If she ever caves in and finally tells us where she was for those three weeks — or if an array of indignant rodents ever appears demanding justice — I’ll be sure to let you know.
*Several hours after publishing this post (and completely unrelated), the online community of pet-finders showed their worth. I’d forgotten to take down one of our signs, and in the meantime another cat bearing a strong resemblance to Percy was found and posted about in an online group, and in the course of one evening I received a number of texts from strangers who thought that perhaps the found cat was ours. I responded to them with much gratitude (and then went to take down the rogue sign), and they cheerfully informed me that the other owner had been located as well. Good job, internet and animal lovers.