The Kitty Cat Caper
It all started about a week ago when our family was in a rush to get out the door at suppertime. We were caught up in a whirlwind of activity getting shoes on, coats zippered and Baby in her car seat. My three-year-old opened the front door, walked outside and exclaimed:
"Mommy! There's a beaver under our steps!"
Curious. I didn't know my front yard was a natural habitat for beavers.
I wasn't sure whether we should believe our imaginative preschooler, but we could hear scuffling sounds coming from under the front stoop. My husband, brave techo-geek that he is, stretched his hand under the steps and snapped a picture with his cell phone.
"Interesting ... " my husband commented as he studied the screen on his phone. I took a look at the photo. An image of two large eyes glowed against a background of darkness. Our mysterious creature didn't appear to be a beaver after all --- it looked distinctly feline.
"Sorry, Buddy," my husband consoled our excited son, "It's just a cat. Probably belongs to the neighbour, or something."
We left the scaredy cat hiding under our front stoop and loaded the kids into the van.
The next day I received an e-mail from the property manager of our condo complex. (I hold a volunteer position on our condo board.) Apparently, one of the units in our complex has a mouse problem. Our manager wondered if we knew of any other units with similar issues.
Feeling cheeky, I sent off a reply to the effect of: "No mice at our place. The cat living under our front steps takes care of them for us."
I then promptly forgot about the cat.
Yesterday afternoon our family went out to visit friends. We arrived home in the early evening. As Ben pulled our van into the driveway I said, "Just leave the van outside. No point putting it in the garage. I need to leave for my music lesson in a little while, anyway."
We parked on the driveway, unloaded the kiddies, and went to the front door. I heard an unexpected sound coming from beneath our front stairs.
"Umm, Ben," I called to my husband, "I think our steps are meowing."
Sure enough, our little feline friend had returned. At the sound of our voices he crawled out from his hiding place and rubbed against our legs. He was a handsome orange and white tabby, friendly, with a collar around his neck. Obviously, he was not a stray. Somebody cared for him. I still assumed he belonged to a nearby neighbour.
"Go home, kitty," my husband said as he brushed cat hairs from his pants.
Ben and I like cats. Unfortunately, we're both seriously allergic. Our friendly cat was cute, but I wasn't keen to touch him. The kitty was intent on sneaking into our house. I herded our curious kids through the front door while Ben distracted him.
"You think that cat is really living under our stairs?" I asked Ben once we were all safely inside.
"Maybe," was my husband's astute answer.
As I bathed the kids and put them to bed, I mentally made a note to check under the stairs again in the morning.
On Wednesday mornings the kids and I volunteer at preschool gym at the Y. We were finishing up breakfast, preparing to head out, when our doorbell rang.
I smiled and opened the door. It was Niels, our neighbour from down the street. Niels serves as the president of our condo board, and he also is a friend from our church.
"Hi," he said, "Do you still have a cat living under your steps?" (Niels had read my e-mail from the previous week.)
"Well, actually ... I think we do," I replied, "We thought he had gone home, but last night he was back again." As I spoke, sure enough, the orange and white tabby waltzed over and rubbed his whiskers against Niel's leg. The cat mewed loudly and tried to nose his way into the house.
"I think he's hungry," Niels suggested, "Have you been feeding him?"
No, we hadn't been.
"Why don't I take him home and give him something to eat. I might call the SPCA."
It sounded like a plan to me, so I gingerly scooped up the cat and placed him in Niels' arms. What a handsome kitty. If it weren't for our allergies, I wouldn't have minded allowing him into our house.
"See you later," I said as Niels walked down the driveway with his furry bundle, "Thanks for taking the cat!"
We were running late by now, so I quickly bundled the kids out to the van and opened the garage door. As I hoisted my preschooler into the back seat and bucked his belt, he exclaimed, "Mommy! I could use my tools to make a house for the cat! He could live in a cat house. Then he wouldn't have to live under our steps!"
"Cats don't really live in houses, Buddy," my husband explained, "At least not like a dog's house."
"Oh." My little guy looked disappointed.
We kissed Daddy goodbye. I put the van in reverse and carefully began backing out of the garage. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a neighbour walking past our driveway, so I paused to let her pass. I pulled out onto the street.
As I started to drive away, the neighbour began frantically waving her arm. I pulled over beside her and rolled down my window. I'd never met her before.
"Hi!" she exclaimed, all out of breath, "Did I just hear your kids talking about a cat?"
"Well, yes," I replied, "We had a cat living under our front steps. My friend Niels just took it home with him. He lives down the street."
"Was he an orange and white tabby?" the woman pressed.
"Yup," I said.
"Oh wow!" She got very excited and began talking a mile a minute. "I just love cats, I really do. And I saw a poster for a missing cat on the bus shelter over there." She pointed up the street. "I just love cats, and I felt bad for the owners losing their cat. And since I love cats I memorized their phone number, just in case, you know." She rattled off a series of numbers.
"Umm, okay," I broke in. The kids were growing restless in the backseat. "I'll let Niels know. Sounds like the same cat to me."
"Oh, wonderful," the woman gushed. "Well I just live in the house over there if you need any help. I memorized the phone number, you know, just in case. I love cats."
"Yes, thanks," I said as I rolled up my window. The woman smiled broadly and waved as I turned the van around. I nipped over to Niels' house and quickly filled him in regarding Kitty's identity.
To make a long story short, our little cat is now safely at home. Apparently, he had been at large for more than a week and his owners had given up hope of finding him. I suspect Kitty may have been sleeping under our stairs for several nights.
Thanks to Niels, a friendly neighbour, and a well-placed poster, our feline friend will not be sleeping under our front stoop tonight.
Now remind me to ask Ben to fill in that hole under the steps this weekend. Next thing you know, we'll have a family of beavers living under there, or something. ;-)