Hug your kids, ladies and gentlemen…whether they’re human babies or furbabies or even iguana babies. Hug them. Every day.
I learned this in a big way yesterday. With a cat who’s only ever indoors (or, when visiting at my parents’ house, in a walled-in back yard), it had never occurred to me that he might get loose or get lost. When he got out and went on his hundred-yard adventure, I discovered the terror of a parent whose “child” is lost.
Yeah, I know, some of you will say that he’s “just a cat.” Let me tell you, Rory is not “just a cat.” He is an awesome cat. He’s cool. He’s the most social cat I’ve ever known. He’s uber affectionate. He misses us when we’re gone, he spends more time in the room with us than he does in other parts of the apartment, and he gets distraught if we leave him for anything more than a few hours. He is, for all intents an purposes, my furry, purry kid. Plain and simple.
As a cat, though, Rory did not understand the consequences of jumping down out of the screenless open window yesterday at the buttcrack of 3:00 a.m. No, all he understood was freedom!!!! That freedom may have only carried him a couple of buildings over in the complex, but it was far enough that my heart broke and my nerves were frayed beyond belief. Words cannot describe the dread that settled in the pit of my stomach.
Rory’s walkabout may have started at 3:00, but my heart attack started at 3:45. It was about that time, five minutes after my husband’s alarm woke us both up, that I became concerned. Rory, on occasion, fails to wake me up before said alarm. It happens. Maybe those days he wants to “sleep in” too. One thing he never fails to do, however, is come running and meowing when the alarm goes off, because that’s breakfast time. Rory and breakfast go together like peas and carrots. I swear that little furball can tell time; he’ll often start begging for his half a can of wet food just minutes before the alarm goes off. It’s like he can tell–how he does it without a concept of clocks and schedules I don’t know, but he does it.
I asked my husband if he’d seen Rory, because a little nagging voice in the back of my head was screaming “ALERT! ALERT!” Something was wrong…I just didn’t know what.
My husband, who had opened the apartment windows because of the failure of the air conditioning unit to cool the apartment below 84 degrees at night (which was hotter than the outside temperature), figured Rory was just lying on a windowsill, chilling as he watched the pigeons do their thing outside.
Rory was not in the windowsill.
The window did not have a screen.
Rory was gone.
Yeah, panic definitely set in. I threw the front door open and looked at the balcony. No Rory. I put on some shoes and checked the neighbor’s adjoining balcony. No Rory. I checked under the bed, under the couch, behind furniture…no Rory.
Why did we open a window that was missing its screen? Well, if we’d realized that the apartment maintenance crew had not replaced said screen when they took out the window unit that had been there a couple of months ago, we would not have opened it. If maintenance had told us they hadn’t replaced it, we would have harassed them until there was a new screen installed. We would not have risked Rory’s safety like that.
So Rory was gone. We checked our security cameras and watched in horror as he jumped off the sill onto the balcony, sniffed around a bit, and started down the steps. It was the worst feeling I’d ever had; I could see him leaving, but since it had been nearly an hour before we woke up I was powerless to stop it.
After the initial freight train to the chest, I regained enough composure to Google the local PD’s non-emergency line and leave a description of Rory for them. Surely some insomniac neighbor had seen him and called in the “stray” cat with tags. Surely.
Nope. No such luck. The police department hadn’t had any early morning calls of a cat loose in the complex, and the animal control office wouldn’t be open for another six hours.
What to do? It was still way before dawn, so I couldn’t go door-to-door in the complex without pissing off a lot of people. After a lot of fretting, I decided to make a flyer.
Hooray for Photoshop, and hooray for Rory being so photogenic. Still, it was too early to be handing out said flyers, so I ventured out with my trusty phone/flashlight and Rory’s treats and started searching the complex. I looked at the porch of every downstairs apartment. I looked in the pool area. I looked in the laundry room. No Rory.
Defeated, I returned to the apartment and started sharing the crap out of the above image. I shared to my Facebook page in a public post (so others could share it as well). I shared it to friends who live in the area. I shared it to friends who lived in the area who might still know people here. I shared it to friends in other cities in this state in case they knew people here. I shared it to local Facebook groups for lost pets. Inside, the panic swelled to the point where I couldn’t even eat. Fuck food; Rory was missing.
With nothing else to do until the sun came up (and potentially more neighbors woke up), I sat at the computer and fretted. I told myself that any second someone would message that they had found Rory and brought him safely inside and were waiting for me to come get him. No such luck.
After dawn, my husband and I split up and searched the complex again. I handed out flyers to a couple of people who were awake and outside already. I looked once again at the first floor porches, hoping that I would see him better now that the sun was up. We came up with zilch. Wherever Rory was, it wasn’t anywhere we could see him by walking around.
My mom eventually woke up and saw my frantic posts. She called and said she was going to come help look for him. I fretted some more. The wait for time to go to work was agonizing, because I knew I couldn’t call in sick and I was terrified that I’d get a text saying Rory was found dead at the side of the road somewhere.
Now, I don’t know what Rory was doing during this time, but considering he was finally discovered by a neighbor on a balcony a couple of buildings over, “trapped” by a puddle of water, it’s likely he was scared shitless because he thought he couldn’t get home. Oh, sure, the first little while was probably exciting. All the smells and sounds and sights. The rain that came to barricade him from leaving the balcony was probably not as exciting for him.
I was already at work when he was brought home, but thankfully my husband called and left a message with the receptionist that he was found. A trillion-ton weight was lifted off my shoulders. Rory was home. Safe. Alive. Aside from being scared and hungry and slightly overheated, he was fine.
It’s not likely that Rory will learn his lesson from this. If he has another opportunity to go on an adventure, he’ll probably take advantage of it. He’s a cat; they’re curious. My husband and I, however, are determined to be more vigilant. We’ve complained to the apartment management about the neglect of the window screen. Last night, we turned on a multitude of fans rather than opening that window. (The A/C is still not working properly.)
Rory’s none the worse for the wear after his Big Adventure, but we’re still going to be careful.
Hug your kids, ladies and gentlemen. Whether fleshy or furry or scaly or whatever. Hug your kids.