Some cats see an open back door, yawn, and go back to sleep.
Some cats bolt at the speed of light.
Our Boss Cat would bolt—and then stop in the center of the patio. She’d look back at the human in the doorway, tail twitching. If no chicken bribe appeared within 30 seconds, Boss Cat would climb a tree and disappear over the fence.
Her hapless humans would then circle the block with chicken, calling, “Here, kitty-kitty! C’mon, Boss!”
The speed with which we found Boss Cat was inversely proportional to the time since her last meal. If she’d just eaten or already gorged on a chicken bribe, she couldn’t be lured home. Instead, I’d walk around, checking in with dog walkers.
Boss Cat liked dogs. She liked to play with them. She especially liked to hit them in the face. While out hunting for Boss with our dogs, I once ran into one outraged neighbor and his prized Basset hound show dogs.
“Look out,” he warned me. “There’s a cat back there that’s followed us half a block and keeps trying to attack my dogs! I think it might be rabid!”
I sighed. “She’s not rabid. She’s mine. She likes to beat up dogs.”
The neighbor stared at ninety-pound Woofie and seventy-pound Fey. “Even those big dogs?”
“These dogs are her personal punching bags. She’s clearly bored and hoping for new targets.”
A neighbor across the street, one who didn’t have a fence but who trained her Labrador retrievers to stay on her property (mostly), flagged me down during another hunt for Boss.
“Your cat was sitting in your front yard a little while ago. My six-month-old puppy saw her and went on alert. I told puppy to leave it, but she charged across the street and straight up to your cat.”
“Your cat didn’t even MOVE until puppy got close. Then she smacked puppy right across the muzzle. It was so hard I heard it, clear across the street. Puppy ran back to me as fast as she could. I don’t think she’ll be leaving the yard to chase cats again,” the neighbor laughed.
Boss could clearly take care of herself, but I still worried. All it would take was a car or a coyote, and we’d have no more Boss Cat. Baby D would be devastated. I would be devastated. Even Andy would be devastated (maybe).
One evening, when my ExStepmother was visiting, I circled the block repeatedly, unable to find the cat—until a neighbor over the back fence finally pointed up.
Boss Cat was lying across the telephone wire above our backyard, a foot or two from the telephone pole. Maybe she got there while in hot pursuit of a squirrel (telephone wires are the squirrel highways of the neighborhood). Her perch was precarious, at best, with her belly straddling the wire and one front claw snagged on the wire.
I could see the problem. If Boss yanked hard enough to pull her claw out, she’d lose her balance and fall. She might even wind up hanging by that one claw.
Baby D turned to me, face full of alarm. “Mommy! You have to save her!”
“That’s twenty feet up!” exclaimed my ExStepmother. “Mommy needs to call the fire department!”
I shook my head and went to get the ladder, telling her, “I read recently that fire departments don’t do that anymore. At least not in big cities.” (ExStepmother is from a small town in New Hampshire.)
Now, no one knows better than I do that even if Boss Cat fell, she would probably be fine. Cats are built to land from great heights. Humans…not so much.
I climbed the ladder anyway. I couldn’t stand to see Boss Cat stuck like that, especially not as nightfall approached. And I couldn’t let my cat or my kid down.
At the top of the ladder, I was still about 10 feet shy of the cat. I moved to the telephone pole, continuing upwards using the metal rods driven into the pole that utility workers use to access electrical and phone lines.
Which was when I discovered why utility workers always wear heavy clothing and gloves, even in summer. Those telephone poles are not smooth. They are splinter fucking central.
It was like climbing a porcupine–and I was wearing light cotton clothing. I collected slinters on my stomach, chest, and hands. I gritted my teeth, continuing until I was high enough to reach the cat.
This was the part that worried me. Cats are not the most rational or trusting creatures. Boss might fight me, or try and flee. And how was I going to carry her back down? I had not thought this rescue through.
I was an idiot.
Luckily, my cat was not an idiot. Boss Cat didn’t fight as I unhooked her claw. She immediately crept across the wire and my arm, settling herself smoothly across my shoulders. Like she’d totally thought this through while I was climbing. Or like she rode human elevators daily. The cat stayed put until we were about 8 feet off the ground. Then Boss Cat jumped down and went straight to Baby D, who carried her inside and fed her chicken.
I put away the ladder and spent the following week removing splinters.
The next time Baby D’s Cub Scout troop visited the local fire department, I did ask one of the firemen, “You guys don’t get cats out of trees anymore, do you?”
The nice young fireman said, “Actually, we will if we aren’t too busy.”
Author’s Note: If your cat ever does get stuck in a tree, who you gonna call? An arborist.