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Monday, January 03, 2005  

Phantom Come Home (Part II)

We’re grateful to Trash’s sister Lisa for taking Tuesday afternoon off to tromp around our neighborhood looking for Phantom in the daylight, even though she didn’t turn her up. We’re also grateful to Vet-Friend. I don’t know how to build a cat trap, or where to buy one, but VF knew where I could get one. It seems the Humane Society lends them out (well, actually they rent them out, but so cheaply it’s more like borrowing). So after work on Tuesday I stopped by their building. I filled out a lost animal report, checked the day’s crop of strays just to be safe, stuck a poster of Phantom on their bulletin board, and walked out of there with Live Animal Trap #97.

Here’s how it works: it’s basically a long wire cage with a springloaded entrance hatch. It’s about twice as long as a standard pet carrier, because you want the cat to be well clear of the door when it snaps down behind her. The mechanism is triggered when the cat steps on an elevated metal plate to get at the bait that’s placed way inside the trap. I knew Phantom would be heavy enough to spring it, because Turtle is a couple of pounds lighter and she was kind enough to help me test it inside the house before I set it out on the yard. And when I say “kind,” I mean “gullible.”

So I baited the trap with some nice, warm tuna and put it out among the trees next to the garage, where I had last seen Phantom. This was at around 5:30 p.m. I figured I’d have to wait about a half hour.

At 9:30, I spotted Phantom next to our garage. She wandered right by the trap. I shone a flashlight at the tuna from the back window, but she didn’t seem interested. Instead she moseyed into the garage. She came out after a few seconds and started wandering back into the bushes where she’d been hiding the past twenty-eight hours, right past the trap. I figured this might be a chance to catch her, so I jumped into my boots and gave chase. Naturally she evaded me once again.

By this point, Trash was getting concerned about Phantom’s health. Remember, she’s originally a barn cat, so she’s capable of surviving outside. But it was getting cold, so Trash insisted I put a small bowl of dry food in the garage, in case she was hungry but too smart to go for the trap. I did. We didn’t see her again that night, and the trap—which I had moved into the garage—was still unsprung the next morning. I worried that I had chased her off for good, and that she had lit out for the suburbs after all. But then Trash noticed that the dry cat food in the garage was gone. So something was still around. And it was getting into the garage. And it was probably Phantom.

Then I realized that I knew how to make a trap after all. I just had to make it out of a preexisting garage and a length of rope. I’d tie one end to the open garage door (the person door, not the car door), then run the line up the length of our back yard and thread it through the window to my study. I’d watch all evening, and the next time Phantom sauntered into the garage, I’d yank the rope and trap her inside. QED.

I got this all set up, and moved the trap from the Humane Society back out into a shadowy part of the yard because I really only needed to trap her once. By now I’d draped an old beach towel over the trap so as to give it the appearance of a welcoming (and tuna-smelling) little hidey-hole rather than the cold, scary artifact of human cunning it is. The only part sticking out from under the towel was the open trapdoor. I settled down to work in my study in the dark, looking out at the light streaming from the open garage door every minute or so.

At about 8:00 p.m., when Trash was getting ready to watch a CSI rerun while feeding M. Tiny, I shone the flashlight out the back window at the towel covering the trap. I couldn’t see the open door sticking out any more. I slipped on my boots and sneaked outside so as not to alert Trash, because of the way her hopes rose and then crashed every time I went outside and came back catless. I went out and pointed the flashlight under the towel, to see if I had caught a neighbor cat or a carnivorous squirrel. But a familiar half-black, half-orange face stared out at me. I opened the trap door to give her a hug, and she slithered past me and vanished into the bushes, never to be seen again.

No, actually not. I picked up the trap, towel and all, and brought it into the house despite the angry yowling issuing from it. I set it down in the living room, and somehow over the noise from the cat I heard Trash calling to me from downstairs.

“We got her,” I called back.

Phantom didn’t seem injured, or bloody, or even, despite the fact that it had rained all day, the slightest bit damp. Hungry, and happy to see us and Strat and Turtle, but that was it. Now that our prodigal kitty was home, we killed the fatted can of tuna.

And since then she’s been way more affectionate with us. Like she’s had her little 72-hour adventure, and now she’s ready to settle down and be a proper housecat, with all of the ostentatious purring and cuddling and toxic farting that implies.

So now that our family was all back together again, Trash and I looked forward to getting back to worrying about all the stuff in our lives we’d been worrying about before Phantom disappeared. Problem was, we couldn’t remember what any of that stuff was.

All I can say is that the little beast had better not be pregnant.

Today’s best search phrase: “Humour embarrassing coffee airport eating stories clean change carry-on.” Could you be a little more specific there?

posted by M. Giant 7:57 PM 10 comments

10 Comments:

I get to comment first! Yippeeee.

Wow, so glad your kitty is home safe. I swear, when I read the bit about you opening the cage to give her a hug - out in the back yard - I said "you've got to be kidding!" out loud, in a room, by myself ...

Love your work!

By Blogger M D N, at January 3, 2005 at 8:40 PM  

Hee! I had the same reaction; I even uttered an "Oh no you did NOT."

By Blogger Sarcasma, at January 3, 2005 at 10:24 PM  

Wait, didn't your vet friend get her spayed before you got her? I thought that was standard vet policy. I hope you're going to get her spayed--you don't want her to go into heat in your house. Trust me. Anyway, she's probably not pregnant because cats usually go into heat in the spring.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 4, 2005 at 9:23 AM  

Aww, you could have even more kitties! Wouldn't that be fun? (Kidding.) --Cori

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 4, 2005 at 9:51 AM  

I can't stop cracking up over the "toxic farting" comment. Our six-month-old kitten just nailed me with one the other day when I swiftly cradled him in my arms. Ugghhhhh.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 4, 2005 at 2:46 PM  

This was wonderful! Who knew the story of a complete stranger's flatulent feline would, like a certain reality TV show you guest reviewed, hold my interest with such intensity? I do enjoy this site.

By Blogger sisyphus75, at January 4, 2005 at 8:06 PM  

Dogs have toxic farts too. In fact, there are times when my dog will be lying next to me on the couch, and all of a sudden he'll get up and sit across the room. Because he farted. And it's toxic. So he waits about a minutes for the odor to dissapate, and then he'll come back and lie next to me again.

By Blogger Katy-Maty, at January 5, 2005 at 7:42 AM  

Don't count on her not being pregnant. I did some research last year when I took in a seven-month-old kitten who was about to give birth, and the general consensus I found was that all female cats, no matter when they're born, go into heat in their first January. Also, a coworker of mine just had her cat spayed, and she was in heat.

Just think, though, in about two months, you might have five or so new kittens. And believe me, there just isn't anything cuter than newborn kittens (except, of course, newborn M. Tiny). And then you will be overrun with cats, just like me, because it is very hard to give away kittens you helped deliver and raise.

By Blogger Joanne, at January 5, 2005 at 6:21 PM  

Count me as another one who moaned "No you didn't!" and then sighed with relief. I didn't realize how worried I was about your kitty until I wasn't anymore.
I'm so glad you got her back.

By Blogger rayvyn2k, at January 6, 2005 at 6:41 AM  

Please, please take her to the vet to get spayed immediately!!! If she is pregnant, it would still be soon enough to abort the pregnancy.

Cats & kittens are put to sleep daily because of the pet overpopulation. The is no need to bring in another litter.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 6, 2005 at 6:45 AM  

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