Our two cats are brother littermates, but about the only thing they have in common is both have four feet and a tail. Garfy (Garfunkel) is a solid, nearly-portly shorthair with a great fondness for naps. Shadow is a speedy longhair with a magnificent tail and one mission in life: to get out the front door. They are house cats, except for the occasional escape, because we live on a very busy country road used by a whole lot of people who drive way too fast. We prefer that our cats not become two-dimensional.
I’ve developed a strategy that looks silly as hell, but usually works. I have an old canvas tote bag with long looped handles, and I’ve put an empty wine bottle in the bottom to give it heft and weight. I call it the “cat plow.” If I’m going out, I turn around with my butt toward the door, stoop over and hang the bag in front of me with its bottom at floor level and keep it in position to block his path. I then scuttle out the door backwards, hunched over and waggling the bag menacingly. Did I mention that this looks silly? Coming in is not as comical, because at least I’m faced forward.
However, this is a vulnerable strategy if CB and I are both trying to get through the door, and it’s specially dicey if he’s carrying something. This Sunday he was behind me with the beach picnic basket and Shadow was extra-determined because I’d been gone for several hours. Zip, out he went.
This is a recent problem, and there have been at least three escapes in the last month. At first, it was enough for me to sit on the front steps rattling the treat jar. Later, Shadow (who is obsessed with eating kitty grass or lettuce or ANYTHING green) was much more interested in the big ferns than treats, and if I moved slowly and quietly I could get within striking distance of the nape of his neck. By now, though, he’d had enough experience of zipping under the porch deck and down alongside the house to the back yard to know that the outside world, all of it, was what he cared about more than anything else. Poor baby, I feel so sorry for his confinement, but my heart would break if something happened to him.
This time I sat on the front steps for nearly an hour, intermittently meowing and calling his name. I only cried once. The cat’s name, Shadow, is partly because he’s a black-smoke tabby, but mostly because he’s almost neurotically bonded to me and wants to be wherever I am. I kept telling myself that eventually he’d come back where he could keep an eye on me, and the challenge would be getting close enough to grab him. I’d only have one chance, and if I missed he’d be off like a shot.
Here he comes. He’s gone all the way around the house and come back through the garden. Now he’s on a patch of warm powdery Sebastopol dirt, left bare and smooth from my putting in a little garden fence to deter the occasional deer, and it is clearly tempting him to lie down and roll around. I suddenly know what to do. “Shadow, you wanna be a Woolworm?” That’s what I call him when he does that cat-thing of lying down in a massive stretch that makes him appear to be two yards long. Being a Woolworm is an invitation to a belly-rub. Sure enough, he flops on his side, stretches way out and flaunts his ginger-colored belly. He’s so intent on the pleasure of Woolworming and getting a belly-rub that he doesn’t put two and two together, and after he gets his belly-rub he’s securely nestled in my arms. Back in the house I fill up the cat-food dishes before collapsing on the couch in a shivering heap. Saved by the Woolworm. This time.