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Monday, April 06, 2009

Somebody stop that cat!

So there I was, sitting on a bench by the side of the road, waiting for the mechanics' shop to open. The car was due in for its Warrant of Fitness, and as I was a bit early for dropping off the cah at the yahd, I had no choice but to take a seat outside.

It was a fine morning out, so I didn't mind one bit. Where I work is quite literally right around the corner from the mechanics' place. Sunlight beamed down all around me, bathing me in warm morning light. A few cars passed by, filled with people on their way to the workplace. Birds were chirping and flitting about. A small grey and white cat darted out into the street. A few people made their way --

Hold the phone: what was that?! I held my breath for a moment, frozen by the sight of this cat running carelessly into the road as a car began to approach from around the corner. The little fella didn't seem to have his street smarts yet, as not only did he time his jaunt across the open road poorly, but right as he reached the middle he allowed himself to be momentarily distracted by a bird flying the other way across the street.

He tracked it flawlessly with his gaze as he ran the other way, blindly into the lane where there was an oncoming car. I was about to leap to my feet to warn the driver, but they must've already seen this little air-headed kitty as they had already begun to slow down.

As the cat disappeared behind a wooden partition, now safely on the other side of the road, I felt a wave of relief pass over me. I also realized why perhaps he was so determined to cross the road: I think on the other side of the partition lies a series of dumpsters, used by the large shopping mall there. He had probably penciled in a little dumpster diving to get his morning going right.

So imagine my surprise when, later on that same day, I am in an exam room and I go to open the cardboard carrier that contained these young owners' newest cat - and out jumped my little jaywalking friend! Yes, it was the same little grey and white cat I had seen just a few hours previous as he made his way towards the seedy Dumpster District.

I laughed and told the owners the story of how I had just seen him that morning, right around the corner. The couple seemed surprised he had wandered so far, but they had also just moved into a new flat so perhaps he was still figuring out the boundaries of his home turf. I pointed out that dumpsters were hard for cats to resist, and as this little guy had yet to be neutered, perhaps he'd settle down once that had been, ahem, arranged.

Remembering this young couple from a few months back, I asked about their other cat and how he and the new guy (named "Casper", as I came to find out) were getting along. Sadly, their last cat had been hit by a car - something that very possibly could've happened to Casper that very morning!

But, he was scheduled for the chop soon, so hopefully he'd learn to be more careful and we wouldn't have any more sad stories for these owners.

Fast forward to a few days later, and after work I hit the supermarket to load up on groceries. As I often do, on the way home I decided to stop in at the BP for petrol. As I pull up next to the nearest open pump, I see Casper's male owner standing there. He works at BP, you see, so I often see him whenever I get petrol.

As I got out of the car, I struggled to remember the little grey and white cat's name, but was keen to ask this guy how things were going nonetheless.

"My cat ran away!"

"WHAT??" I said, exasperated.

"Yeah, that night, after we saw you. We let him outside after his dinner and we haven't seen him since."

"Oh no. I am sorry to hear that," I said, remembering how he had just lost his previous cat not a few months ago, and now it was maybe happening again. I also felt absurdly guilty that the cat decided to do a runner the very night after I stuck him with a needle. Perhaps, with some sort of crooked feline logic, he had decided that humans who took him to other humans to be stabbed with needles were not to be trusted.

I asked him if he had seen any sign of him at all, or if they had put up signs. He said they had put up posters and ads in all shelters and vet clinics, but he had not yet put an ad on Pets on the Net, which I strongly suggested he do. He also theorized that the cat had probably been picked up and kept by another owner, something he said happens a lot in Upper Hutt. I found this moderately disturbing and said as much.

Well after talking to Casper's owner, I began to feel rather helpless about his situation. As I got back into my car, though, inspiration struck. I decided to drive around, looking for Casper, the melting ice cream from the supermarket be damned.

After all, I had pretty good intelligence as to just where this little blighter might have run off to. The very spot where I had seen Casper run across the road a few days earlier was just a few hundred metres from this BP station. So I turned onto that street, slowed down and began to scan both sides of the street intently.

The white wooden partition behind which the dumpsters lay came and went with no sight of Casper. I kept creeping along the road, looking everywhere, but didn't see any grey and white flashes anywhere.

I did notice, however, that a guy who had been walking up the sidewalk towards me the entire time was looking at me oddly. He was a pretty big guy, wearing a black singlet and also a Yankees cap (something I'm not used to seeing round these parts). He probably wondered what in the world I was doing, driving so slowly and looking about in a crazy manner.

But then I saw Casper! There he was, just off to the left of the shopping mall carpark. I had little time to act so, forgetting about the suspicious pedestrian, I flicked on the hazards, pulled over to the kerb and hopped out.

The guy in the Yankee hat was definitely aloof now and I'm sure he saw that my car was filled with grocery bags. I didn't improve his opinions of my motives, I am sure, when I then knelt down on the sidewalk and began to make chattering noises and calling to Casper in that weird, high-pitched voice you reserve for use when trying to entice pets to approach you. You see the thing is, the guy never saw the cat, nor could he have seen him now as I called to it because it was hidden from view around the corner of the carpark!

Well the guy kept walking on but Casper was frozen in place. He regarded me warily with conflicted emotions. Here was this stranger, talking nicely to him and wanting to pat him, yet this human was suddenly not so strange after all... He looked oddly familiar...

Oh no! It's the guy who jabbed you with that needle the other day! RUN FOR IT!

And so he ran, the moment I encroached upon Casper's 'flight zone'. He took off a good thirty metres down the sidewalk before stopping to turn and look at me again.

Not wanting to completely throw in the towel on this attempted rescue - how cool would it have been to rock in to the BP, not five minutes after I had left, and be able to tell Casper's owner I had not only found his cat but that he was waiting in my car!

Remembering my groceries, I had luckily that night decided to splurge and buy the cats some treats so I ran back to the car and fished them out. I could always buy more, and anyways my cats could certainly stand to miss a meal or two.*

Shaking the bag and strolling confidently back towards Casper, I knew there was no way any cat could resist the sound of treats rattling around!

Well, this cat could. Casper wasn't having a bar of it. I'm not sure if it was a sign of him finally getting some street smarts (Don't take candy from strangers!) or his emerging memory that, in addition to jabbing him, I had also shoved a worm tablet down his throat.

He kept his distance, so I decided to pour out a big pile of Cravers right there on the sidewalk. I figured if I couldn't win the battle, I'd try and win a war of attrition. Give him some treats today, I reasoned, and maybe when I returned the next day with some more treats, he'd be more trusting and then I could snatch him up.

As I negotiated the roundabout to return to the BP station and let the guy know his cat was alive and well, I noticed that Casper was gorging heartily on the treats.

I also noticed, as I crossed over the speed bumps leading back to the BP (Driving slowly again! And still with lots of groceries in the back seat!) that I was now passing the very same guy in the Yankees hat on the sidewalk again.

I did my best to stare straight ahead but out of the corner of my eye I noticed him turn his head towards me sharply as I drove past. He must have been thinking, "What the hell...?"

Well I let Casper's owner know about his status and he did seem a bit relieved to hear he was doing OK. He thought it was a bit cheeky Casper kept hanging around the same place I had seen him, and truth be told it was only a couple of streets away from where the guy now lived. So I told him this was likely becoming part of Casper's home turf, even though it wasn't very comforting as it is a very trafficky area.

A couple of weeks later at work, I was heartened to see that Casper's name was on the surgery list for that morning. He was due to be neutered and have his final vaccine booster, so I knew he must have come home at last. Turns out the guy didn't have to go out and round him up from the dumpster area, Casper just came home on his own a day or so after I had seen him.

I was the one who ended up performing Casper's surgery, and if he had any hard feelings about his last experience with me, he didn't seem to let on. In fact, he seemed non-plussed in general, so he probably forgot the pile of Cravers I fed him, too, the little ingrate!

Nah, I could never be mad at Casper. After all, it's not hard to imagine why cats do love to dumpster dive so - especially when said dumpsters are used daily by the likes of Subway and KFC. Being an American, I am no stranger to the appeal of greasy take-away food! Just not the 'in-a-dumpster' kind of take-aways.

Well, except for that one night in college, when we were all really bored. And drunk. And hungry. And we lived right next door to a Dunkin' Donuts...

I better quit now, lest this posting degenerate into something disgusting! Yeah, it's probably too late for that, but I am glad that Casper's life on the streets hasn't lead to him being just another statistic.

Stay cool, kitty.
* Having fat pets is something we vets are loath to admit, but I tell you here freely, in the interests of full disclosure.


Blogger Sandjoy said...

What a cute story and told so well. Those darn cats.....

Love xo

3:59 PM  

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