Update 13.08 13:30: The cat just came home, safe and sound. I’m so relieved!
18:00: Bagha came back through the downstairs neighbour’s window, as usual. He messaged me, I ran there, picked up the cat and squeezed him (OK, not too hard, I know my cat basics). He ate a little, meowed, cuddled, and very soon wanted to go back out. Sign, in my opinion, of a cat who has been locked up rather than one who has been roaming around for two nights in a row. I feel like somebody has turned on the light after two days of fumbling around blindly in the dark.
Bagha has been missing now for over 24 hours.
He’s an outdoor cat. I let him out in the morning. He comes in and out as he wishes during the day. I bring him in for the night. He sleeps in the crook of my arm.
It usually takes me about 3 minutes to find him in the evening. If he’s not waiting for me in front of the building when I come home, I take my usual little trip around the neighbourhood and here he comes, running or trotting out of one of his favorite “places”.
Very rarely, I don’t find him straight away. I go out a couple of hours later, or he comes in on his own.
Even more rarely, I go to sleep without having found him. Let’s say that happened maybe ten times in the four years we’ve lived here. I then leave the door open with the chain (like during the day) so that he can slip into the flat. He takes advantage of other people going in and out to get into the
building. I wake up in the morning to find him curled up on my feet — or at the very worst, I find him waiting downstairs outside the door.
Not this morning.
I couldn’t find him last night. I’d been away all afternoon and part of the evening (nothing unusual). Between 8pm and 1am, I must have spent approximately 4 hours touring the extended neighbourhood, calling for him.
I checked the roads, of course. I always check the roads. I’m terrified one day I’ll find his dead body on the sidewalk. I know this fear comes from inside me much more than from the actual danger: it’s a slow road, Bagha has a healthy fear of vehicles, and he’s a pretty calm, laid-back cat who won’t be caught suddenly dashing into the middle of the road because something startled him.
Still, I check the roads.
This morning, I started touring the neighbourhood again. Further than the places I know he goes to.
Conclusion: he’s not outside, or I would have found him. (Well, he would have found me, that’s usually how it goes.)
So I toured again, calling outside garage doors, pausing and listening. He’s got a loud voice. I’ve heard him calling from the cellar or the flat on the fourth floor where he was locked in once. He knows how to make himself heard.
This, I tell you again, is the cat who usually comes running to me once he’s seen me.
He’s microchipped. This means that if somebody takes him to the vet or the shelter, he’ll be identified as mine and I’ll be contacted. If he gets killed by a car, he’ll be identified by the team who deal with animal remains, and I’ll be contacted. I checked all this with people involved. No, they hadn’t found my cat.
I spent the afternoon printing out leaflets to stick on the entrance doors of the neighbourhood buildings (I had already put one in mine before I left for lunch). Now there are 30 leaflets with contact details, photograph and description of the cat, as well as my suspicion that he is either injured or locked in somewhere, plastered all over the neighbourhood. As you are bound to ask, he’s neutered, so he’s not after some hot female kitty.
One phone call, from a man who said he’s just seen my cat. I went to see, knowing there could be a confusion — there are about 4-5 cats around here with similar markings to mine. I don’t think it was mine; first of all because it was outside, and I tell you, if Bagha was somewhere outside I would have found him; second because I went there, and called, and called again, and no cat appeared. But who knows. Maybe something really strange is going on here. I didn’t see the cat this man had spotted, so I can’t say for certain.
Now I’m back home, vaguely waiting for the phone to ring or the cat to walk in, trying to find something to do with myself. I feel like hell. I don’t know how I made it through the day. I miss my cat horribly, and I’m so worried that something bad might have happened. The thought I might not see Bagha again is just too hard to bear.
Is this the price to pay for love and attachment? Now I know why a part of me gave up on love so long ago. It hurts way too much. Yes, hard times and sad times are a part of life just like all the rest. But they shouldn’t have to be quite as horrible as moments like this one.
So while I’m at it, let’s be a little constructive. Do you ever feed “stray” cats? Think twice. Cats are always interested in food, specially if you give them nice juicy tuna when all they get at home is vet-recommended dry food. (By the way, don’t give too much fish to cats — it contains thiaminase, an enzyme which destroys the amino acid thyamin, which cats are incapable of synthesizing.) The “hungry stray” might very well be just a clever beggar from the next block. Bagha regularly gets fed all over the place, even though I spend my time asking people not to do so.
Feeding somebody else’s cat just lures it away from its home and owner, centre of territory and primary source of nourishment and cuddles. So please, don’t feed other people’s cat. For all you know, the cat may start making a daily trip across a busy road to come and sample the delicacies you have to offer.
Thinking of adopting the cat that wandered into your living-room one day and avidly lapped up the milk you gave it? Some very worried owner may well be looking for it. Make thorough enquiries in your neighbourhood before getting too involved with it (feeding, naming, buying a litter-tray). This may sound stupid, but while my upstairs neighbours were keeping Bagha during my first trip back to India, he was simultaneously being adopted by a nice couple living just the other side of the road. He still came back here to sleep, but he spent his days there, complete with name and tinned food.
So, to sum it up: cats are independant animals and like to look masterless. It doesn’t mean all of them are stray. Oh, and please don’t feed other people’s cats.
Now I feel a bit better. I’ll tour the garages and cellars again once it’s nice and silent during the night. Of course, I’ll let you know as soon as the kitty turns up again. Thanks for listening.