Today I acquired a kitten – on a short term basis – looking after my neighbours' joy and the centre of their life for ten days over Xmas. For the first hour she was all over the house like a troupe of monkeys. Checking which chairs and pieces of furniture she could access looking ather reflection in the flat screen – trying to clamber onto the keyboard of my laptop. Then I went downstairs to collect my post. I went back up looking at the post I my hand rather than what was going on around me. After half an hour I noticed things were curiously quiet on the cat front. I started to look around the flat - under all the sofas and cupboards that I had seen her checking out for as potential hiding places. Nothing. I called out kitty kitty kitty. Nothing. I threw a chicken leg on the floor. Still nothing. I went to check upstairs to see if she had slipped out while I was looking at my post not at life around me and might be sitting outside her own flat. Nope. I went down to check out the courtyard where she usually goes to play every day – though I thought it wise not to let her out there unsupervised on her first day in a new environment. She wasn't there. And worse the main door was from the courtyard to the street was open - as my downstairs neighbour was starting her move out. The streets outside the house are fiercely heavily trafficked with the daytime and there's no natural cat hiding places except for a couple of derelict lots.
Oh ****. This can't happen surely. I didn't believe it could. I can't lose my neighbours cat within two hours of taking her in? Can I? As the hours went past I thought perhaps I could. I chanted for a solution 'cats always come home don't they?' Yes, 'but not if they are looking for their owners' – á la 'Incredible Journey'. I put a chicken bone by my front door and to the impending annoyance of the cleaner of the communal area rubbed chicken fat from the skin on the front door of the house and up the stairs.
I distracted myself - did a bit of work – playing a lot of word scraper (online scrabble). I also posted a message asking for the address of the local animal sanctuary. And I wrote, google- translated and printed out twenty 'cat lost' posters to distribute later. How can I face my neighbours and tell them I've lost their cat I asked myself. How can I be so inattentive and irresponsible to do that? I had real self-confidence attack- so much so that I ended up taking the modern-day equivalent of a valium. I walked the block twice just looking.
Yet I held my ground (just). These things don't happen in real life do they? Four hours after the original panic set in I heard a very quiet crunching sound – the chicken bone wasn't where I had left it – there was purring cat under the sofa. So thank you every protective spirit and guardian angel on the planet for keeping me from going into total 'headless chicken mode' and for slowly losing my deeply ingrained conviction that the worst is always bound too happen.