We have two cats, a gray kitty named D.J. and fat lump of a sealpoint cat called Emmett. In fact, we call Emmett “Fatty Lumpkin” most of the time cause it just fits. Emmett is very beautiful and very stupid. D.J. is skinny, affectionate and intelligent. He’s smart enough that he knows exactly which of our buttons to press to get what he wants. Sometimes this makes him exasperating because getting us to do what he wants often involves waking us up in order to let him out. He usually does this by knocking shit off of my bedside table, or clawing the window screens which, on our windows, are on the inside. Lately, now that he’s learned the bedside table puts him in arms reach of me, he’s taken to clawing some unseen thing beneath our bed where I can’t reach him, which he will do until I get up to at least try to reach him. For the most part, he doesn’t even have to burn this many calories, because our dog Sadie knows D.J. pisses me off through this behavior and, when the cat enters the room in the wee hours, will preemptively wake me up by whining to go potty in order to prevent me being upset with the cat for being awakened. It’s a symbiotic relationship that seems to work for everyone involved, because I’m never upset with the dogs for waking me; it’s the cats, who have a litterbox, that anger me through their interruptions to my slumber. I say all that as further evidence that D.J. is quite intelligent, because often when I am awakened by the dog I will find him lurking just inside the door to our room, waiting to slip out with the dogs. And I provide these examples of his intelligence because it illustrates the degree of fear my wife and I were filled with when D.J. turned up missing this past weekend.
The last time I had seen D.J. before his disappearance was sometime on Friday. I don’t recall him coming in for dinner, but I was busy getting ready to go act in a play. Didn’t see him when I returned and didn’t see him for breakfast on Saturday. In the afternoon, still having seen no sign of the cat, I mentioned it to the wife. “No, I saw him this morning,” she said. She’d been on her way out to go do some early-morning charting at her clinic and had seen him running along the edge of the driveway in the direction of the house. I’d not seen him, though. It was not like him to miss breakfast.
Later, after he’d missed dinner and had still not turned up by the time we came home from the final night of my play, we began to be concerned. I went to front and back doors calling, “Heeeeerekittykittykittykittykittykitty!” expecting to see him come running from the woodshed, or to eventually hear him wiping at the glass of the back door. We call it wiping the glass, because that’s what he does. Just stands up on his hind legs and wipes up and down the glass of the door with his front paws, creating little squeaky “wipewipewipewipewipe” sounds. It’s one of his trademark moves. We did not hear them that evening. Instead, we had several bursts of hope followed by misery when we mistook Fatty for DJ as he lurked outside the back door, several minutes after one of us had put him out the front door.
After midnight, having no luck sleeping, I got up to walk out in the 30 degree weather to check the woodshop in case he’d managed to sneak inside there when I’d briefly gone out in the afternoon. Nope. I then walked out and checked his usual haunt of the woodshed, just to confirm that A) he wasn’t there, and B) he’d not been killed in some sort of woodpile avalanche. He was not and had not.
We know D.J. to be a wide-ranging cat, having seen him all over the neighborhood, but he’s fixed, so the usual male “catting around” hasn’t really been a factor. He’s also so smart that we know he can find his way back home from pretty much anywhere he’s wandered, so, to our way of thinking, if he had not come home something was wrong.
Back when we lived in Princeton, our other cat, “Fatty,” disappeared for a few days. After the first two, we realized something was up and began to worry. We figured he was either dead, trapped, or he’d managed to wander into an adjoining neighborhood and, being fairly stupid, got lost. Our money, somehow, was on trapped, though. This was over a three day holiday weekend, and we were imagining him wandering into a neighbor’s open garage on a Thursday only to be trapped when they departed, closing it behind them. We’d even had a neighbor describe seeing him in the vicinity of another neighbor’s house–a neighbor she knew had left town in just such a manner. We still don’t know for sure if this was the case, as I heard no mews when snooping around that neighbor’s yard. But on the afternoon of the third day he turned up, a bit skinnier than when he’d left, but otherwise okay.
The wife and I hoped this would turn out to be D.J.’s fate, and not something more sinister. We live on the edge of some woods, and allegedly pet-hungry coyotes have been known to roam the area. That coupled with the 22–count `em, TWENTY TWO–gigantic vultures we saw roosting in a hickory tree behind our house on Saturday was enough to turn our thoughts dark.