Exactly One Week Ago…

This is a true story. It actually began to unfold on Saturday, but concluded on Sunday. The mystery–just to tell you before I relate anything else–is a phone that didn’t ring. If it wasn’t for that phone, things on Sunday might have concluded much more peacefully and much faster.

A couple of months ago one of my two cats, who had been experiencing bad health and was being treated for hyperthyroidism, wandered off & never came home. So every once in a while I had been checking Craigslist for cats, thinking I might do this in another way than the Humane Society adoption service. I wasn’t in a hurry…just checked in every week or so to see if anything interesting was there. Finally I saw that a young couple that was offering a brown tabby that had gotten dumped on their porch while they were away on their honeymoon. They had the cat fixed after it had kittens, re-homed the kittens, but wrote that they lived on a “busy street” and that the cat was “about 1 1/2-2 years old.” Some pictures were included and I wrote them a nice note saying that “if the cat is as mellow and gentle as she appears in the pictures” I would come out and claim her. I heard back right away, and we got together Friday evening. For me it was an unfamiliar area, out in South San Jose, where I never ordinarily go.

Now this is something to notice: The first decision. I noticed that the cat was very small and thin–about 5 pounds–and the owner revealed that “she might have been on the street a year” before they took her in. When the woman reached down to pet her head, she pulled back her hand quickly, since the cat spat at her. However, in the course of my visit, the cat went from person to person, rubbing against our hands and the furniture. There was a certain amount of spitting and evasion when the man got her into my carrier. Right now you’re thinking WARNING WARNING WARNING. And so was I, but I took the cat anyway. When I got her home, I released her from the carrier so she could look around and get comfortable. She installed herself under a chair, and my other cat, way over on the other side of the room, was giving her the stink eye. I’ve had cats people have described as “shy” before, and they just hide under the furniture for a day or so and then come out when hungry. The new cat didn’t approach anyone–just sat balefully glaring.

The second decision: I felt it would be better, when we were all sleeping, if the new cat would be in a “safe” area, and I had a clean cat box, food and water in the pantry, so I picked her up, put her in the crate and transferred her to the pantry. She stayed there all night. The next day I was gone most of the day, doing some voluntary work. When I came in that afternoon, I couldn’t find the cat anywhere. She had concealed herself way in the back of a cupboard in the pantry on a bunch of stuff we were storing. I spoke gently, and reached in to pull out a can of oil and a small box, to help her sit more comfortably. And she lit into me. It was, truth be told, a lucky shot: small wound that hit an artery in my hand, causing a spectacular swelling and blood all over the place.

Third decision: Done. I immediately called my husband in to photograph the wound and then I went in to write the couple. I would be returning the cat on Monday. But no, said the man–you can return it tomorrow (Sunday.) Just tell us when you’ll be coming. My wife is working, so “use this other number or email..”

Then she skittered out of sight–under the couch, around the house, ending up in my room, disturbing everything. Trapped there, she wasn’t going anywhere. Again, I managed to get her in the carrier, and put her in the pantry with the door closed.At 5 on Sunday morning I came out to find the pantry door open and the cat out somewhere. I went into my husband’s room to get my glasses and left his bedroom door open so our other cat could use the cat box.. Suddenly my husband burst into my room. “Get her out of here! She’s throwing herself against the screen and knocking my books over! I’m calling Animal Control!”  And I was saying “Don’t bother. I will get her in the crate. I’m taking her back today!” Big fight. Won’t go into details. This was at 5am. So she’s chased out of David’s room, and I’m trying to lure her to a smaller and smaller place with the intention of capturing her. Cat’s climbing the curtains, jumping over the furniture, etc. Finally she has “hidden” under the curtain. So we go on to….

Fourth decision. This is the one I really really regret. The cat’s hidden, but her tail’s sticking out. And what do I do? Never, ever do this. Never catch an angry cat by the tail, because they have a technique of swinging around and grabbing your clothing and then scratching the hell out of you. So for the second time in 2 days, I was covered with blood. This time it was the back of the knee, which is, let me tell you, infinitely worse than the top of the hand. However, I did manage to chase the cat into the bathroom and after getting considerably padded and with a big towel, I got her into the carrier. I heard my husband on the phone talking to someone, so I went back to the office. “Don’t bother Animal Control! She’s in the carrier!” Anyway, it was Sunday, it was 6am and Animal Control, as it happened, wasn’t open. Surprise, surprise.

Calm now, the cat’s sitting in the carrier in the hall on the tiles. And the doorbell rings. Diminutive female officer from the Sunnyvale Police Department. I’m confused. “Why are the police involved in this??” Animal Control wasn’t open, and there seemed to be some kind of domestic dispute (My saying that the cat was in the carrier?) so I came over. “Well,” I said, “As you can see, the cat’s right there. Now I’m cleaning up my house. Yes, we were arguing but no kicking and punching is going on here.” I could go on, but won’t. My husband decided to dredge up something I’d said 15 or 20 years ago. I just rolled my eyes and walked back into the house.

So now, it’s about 10:30am, and I decide to use the number the guy gave me to set up an appointment to return the cat. My message goes to voice mail…and later a second message goes to voice mail. At about 1:30pm I’m getting concerned: I’ve put food and water in the crate and the cat needs to go to the bathroom. So I call a third time…and it goes to voice mail: The guy still has his phone turned off. “Look, I really need to get the cat over to you now. She’s been in the crate from 6am to 1:30.” By this time I had a bunch of photos of my wounds at their worst–but I could not send them, since I couldn’t find my camera cable. So–I would take the camera with me & show him the photos when he came home. It was Sunday,so when he got my messages he would be sure to show up some time, right? So…from 2 to 4:30 I sit on the guy’s porch waiting. Finally some “friends of the family” (yeah) stop by to “let the cat in.” I’m angry. They won’t look at the pictures. “It’s none of our business.” I leave.

I’ve now been away so long that my husband is getting worried. Finally I find my cable at my dad’s house, and write a note…to the woman, with all the photos attached. “Don’t put this cat on Craigslist again. It is feral, and I wanted a pet cat.” etc. And of course, from them, no care about me, no apology. Just “we noticed the cat had urine on her” (Yep. I did put a towel in there but a cat box kinda wouldn’t fit.) And how “inappropriate” it was to sit on his porch for 2 1/2 hours. (But what choice did I have? I guess I could have released the cat outdoors.) And of course the “Don’t contact us again” statement and an extra snipe “You are a terrible owner.” (I’m sure the ad hominem thing always works well for him.) The mysterious thing was when he said that he had left 5 messages on MY phone. I was on my computer, at my desk, waiting for a call, two feet away from the phone from 10:30 to 1:30. And I get calls on my phone all the time…and the ringer was on. And his messages were there. I checked.

So: to sum up it was Let’s Blame Susan for Everything Weekend. The next day, a fellow from Animal Control came to the door to inquire about what had happened. Apparently they need to check out all incidents of animal bites, but I hadn’t been bitten, just scratched. He got the name of the couple and checked the database to see what if anything had been done to the cat at San Jose Animal Control. Apparently, the couple had adopted two cats a  while ago, but the animal they brought in was a “stray” (It was returned to them after spaying with a clipped ear) and it never got into the system there. When we said goodbye he handed me his card and it was someone whose name i recognized. He was at the Santa Clara shelter when I adopted my two black cats 6 years ago. It was nice to have someone kind and sympathetic. The impact of words…that can’t be overestimated.

No, the wounds weren’t serious. Painful yes, serious no. After a week, I’m no longer limping. There’s still a lump behind my knee, so I’ll just have to wait for that to go away. Most things that happen, I’m well in a week, or 90% well. That’s the story. Don’t ever try to pick up a cat by the tail. They’re littler than us, but far, far fiercer, and the madder they get the bigger they seem. They’re fast, too.

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