A few days ago when I talked to my Mom, she told me that their cat, Lady, (named after Lady Gaga), had disappeared. They’d had some work done on the roof, and Lady is a very nervous cat who was feral at birth. The noise had apparently scared her and she’d hidden or run away, or gotten hurt… or something else.
That’s heart-breaking news for any pet owner, so I went online and did some research. What I learned was that scared cats usually stay close to home — like under the house or somewhere along the fence, or under bushes close to the house. But my Mom had checked everywhere.
If cats do venture further it’s usually within a five-house range. What I read was that it’s very important to ask your neighbors if you can search their yard — with a flashlight that can get into darkened corners. It’s not enough to ask your neighbors to do so, because they probably won’t, and the cat won’t come to them anyway. And it’s important to do things immediately because if an animal is injured or locked up somewhere, it can die.
So we went into action, putting up posters and passing out flyers and knocking on doors. It was sickening to have to wait it out. Although Lady is a very nervous girl and always looks a bit spooked and ga-ga (hence her name), it seemed unlikely that she would run away and not be able to find her way home.
Was she injured? Locked up somewhere? Eaten by a predator? None of it seemed to make sense and we couldn’t imagine where she was, and although a part of me felt sick at heart, there was another part that just wanted to go into neutral and wait it out because I had a feeling she would eventually show up.
But after three nights it was really nerve-wracking, because we were wondering whether she was finding food and water. On that third day I had been at my parents’ house in the morning and called my Mom in the afternoon.
Miraculously, she reported that she’d heard Lady through a vent, but she couldn’t tell whether the sound was coming from the vent under the house or the one in the roof.
It’s a miracle that my Mom heard it at all, because Lady has almost no voice. From being a kitten in the wild, she learned to keep quiet, and her voice is so faint you can hardly hear it — if she even uses it. And my Mom is nearly 90 years old and sometimes has trouble hearing.
I ran over to their house, and sure enough, it really was Lady, and we determined that she was crying from behind the roof vent, not the one under the house.
What had happened was that the man working on the roof had to stop to go home, Lady had apparently gone inside to investigate, and when he came back the next day she was too scared to get out the way she’d come in, he’d proceeded to seal up the roof without knowing she was there, and she was stuck inside!
It seemed obvious later, but based on her usual scared behavior, we thought she’d run.
We eventually coaxed her out by opening a forgotten crawl space through the ceiling of the closet of my old bedroom and leaving food and water there.
What’s interesting is that the night my Mom had told me Lady was gone, I’d had a very vivid dream that she came home. That was comforting and I even told my Mom about it. I’m not sure it was any comfort to her, but I felt about 97 percent sure that she’d somehow show up, and that felt a lot better than being 97 percent in hopeless and desperate mode.
I learned a number of things from this experience, besides the important information about missing cats. One, it was a reminder to trust my intuition, two, that the best thing you can do in this type of crisis is to settle down and get quiet. That means emotionally quiet and physically quiet. If my Mom hadn’t been really, really quiet, she never would have heard Lady’s desperate attempts to get her attention.
When we panic, we can’t hear our own wisdom. It was in the quiet of my dream that night that I got the vision of Lady being home. And it was probably my Mom’s quietude that led her to walk that garden path by the vent at the time that Lady was trying to reach her.
Interestingly, in the dream I saw Lady coming in the screen door, and when I first caught a glimpse of her in reality, she was scooting out the screen door after descending from the roof. I got the direction backwards, but the important part of the message was right: Lady was home. She’d actually never left it.
The other important thing had to do with sending a message. I’ve been talking about that lately, mostly related to business. Just as Lady with the tiny voice learned, you have to be clear and sometimes even raise your voice a little if you want to be heard above all the noise. It can actually be a matter of life and death.
Oh, and another thing about getting quiet. As I said earlier, we couldn’t “imagine” where Lady was. It wasn’t as if we looked into our crystal ball and suddenly got an “aha.” If everyone had been in a panic, screaming and shouting and running in circles, no one would have ever heard her. The ‘getting quiet’ piece literally led my Mom to where she was.
So when you get rattled, instead of scrambling for answers on the outside, look homeward, Angel. Somehow or another, the answer lies within. Even in the form of guidance that takes you to the right place — or the person who can help you.
We need to go inside more often, because the answer to everything is metaphorically “close to home.”
Please let other cat owners know that missing cats usually don’t stray far when they disappear. In addition to checking the usual places, look into the unusual ones as well. They could be closer than you think and trying to reach you, too.