A neighbor of mine takes the ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ to an entirely different level. I could say that names have been changed to protect the innocent, but there is no one innocent here. Guilty, guilty, guilty. Her name is Carrie. A small, okay, maybe not so small part of me wants to blast her last name as well. I will show some restraint. Just a little.
Carrie lives in the condominium complex just north of our home in the lovely Bitter Lake neighborhood of North Seattle. I have met her once. A few years back I had a brief encounter with her daughter. A young girl of maybe 11 or 12 years old was dragging branches, large and small, down our road from the local park to her home at the condos. I watch her come and go a few times, it was a peculiar sight.
Finally I said, “Excuse me, what are you doing with all the branches?”
The young girl paused. Her lashes down cast she peered up at me hesitantly, “I’m making a fort.”
“Huh, okay. Well if you need a place to build it, I’m sure you could do it in our side yard.” I couldn’t imagine the other condo owners were thrilled with the mass of branches and debris she was hauling in to the common area.
“I’ll ask my dad.”
I never saw the girl again. Literally, for a few years I believe, I didn’t see her. Assuming she moved, I move one too, mentally.
Then one day I heard a male and female voice out in the street. Talking and laughing as they passed by. I opened my door to take the garbage out. They looked up and the girl and I locked eyes. It was her, only older. Long dark hair, a wool cap pulled over the top nearly down to her eyebrows. Her lashes once again obscuring her eyes. The couple continued on, down towards the park. Likely walking to Ingraham the local high school. Her walk, he demeanor, her laugh, the lilt in her voice when she spoke, once again struck me as odd. A little off as they say.
I went back inside and gave my cat a little scratch behind the ears. Rocky, neighborhood socialite. Our family got Rocky at about 8 weeks old right around my 40th birthday. It wasn’t long before he was roaming the neighborhood. In and out all day long, out to play and home to eat and sleep. Chasing birds, squirrels and other rodents I imagine. Lovingly leaving a few here and there on the porch. A thank you, I am told.
Often times when I would head outside I would find our neighbor Will, the masked man, sitting in our driveway getting his Rocky fix. Will, is one man Rocky will stop and let pet him. Will told me it was a nearly daily habit, at least on the nicer days. Other times I receive an email from LeAnn with a photo of Rocky sitting on her deck. He would climb up there and wait until she came home so he could see her. After some pets and love he would walk the rail and then wander away.
A few other neighbors tell tales of Rocky walking right into their home when they leave the door open. They look up and there he is sitting on a couch or chair, natural as can be. Thankfully they do not mind and are always good to shew him out the door when they leave or close up for the night. Except for that one time, when I heard he got locked in the condo building. Someone left the door propped open bringing in their groceries and didn’t see Rocky enter. Once they were done they closed the door. Some time later another neighbor came out into the lobby and found Rocky wandering around meowing his head off! Apparently he wanted back out.
All of this goes along with having an indoor/outdoor cat. The neighbors tell us great stories, we apologize for his intrusive behavior, and we all get a bit of a laugh. Until last year, when Rocky starting disappearing for 2 days or so at a time. First I was worried. Maybe he had been hit by a car. Maybe he was laying on the side of the road somewhere, dying or dead. We would look around unable to find him anywhere.
After a day or two we would wake up to find him at the back door meowing his head off as if we were the ones who had forgotten to let him in. Upon entering, he would make a be-line to the basement where his food dish resides. We have a silly little ritual. I put wet food in a dish and before setting it down, I lean my head down and he gives me a little head bump. We call it a kitty kiss. Only, I noticed when we bumped heads a strong smell of flowery perfume. I do not wear flowery perfume.
I began to pay attention and sure enough, whenever Rocky was gone for more than a day or two he would come home smelling of this perfume.
“Babe, Rocky is cheating on us!”, I declared to my husband.
“Seriously?” Pretty sure at this point my husband thinks I am the crazy cat lady. I assure you, I am not.
One dark and misty evening I headed out with a bucket of compost to toss in the yard waste bin. The bins are secluded from the street by an arbor vitae hedge. Works great for those times you want to run out in your night clothes (hopefully not your skivvies).
“Uh, hey. Don’t mean to startle you. It’s me, your neighbor Dwight.” The voice came from the other side of the hedge. A man stood taking a long drag of his cigarette.
“Oh hey, Dwight. How are you?”
“I’m good. Don’t know if your daughter told you, but I know who is taking your cat.”
“Oh really? Who?” My curiosity peeked, smoothing away the irritation which had crept in when he startled me.
“Her name is Carrie. She lives in our condo building. I don’t want to start trouble. But I’ve told her several times Rocky has a family and she shouldn’t take him in. She keeps telling me that she likes him and so she wants him.”
“Seriously? If we all took things we liked we end up in jail.”
“Yeah, well she’s a little bit, um, how do I say this? Off, ya know?” He continued to smoke his cigarette.
“Well, I appreciate you telling her he has a home. I was getting worried when he was gone more often. Honestly, I haven’t seen him in a couple days again.” I turned to head back to the house.
“I bet he’s in her house right now. She lives in condo #101. Uh, don’t tell her I told you. I don’t want to start any trouble. I mean, she has a teenage daughter who’s allergic to cats. I’ve told her it’s not fair to her daughter either, even if you didn’t want your cat, but I know you do.”
“Yeah, we do. Okay, well thanks for the info Dwight. Have a nice night.”
“Sure, you bet. Sorry about the smoke. Bad habit.” He slunk back into the cover of night out of reach of the street light as I turned to go back inside.
Long story, long, this lady was letting our cat into her home and then keeping him in her home. I can only imagine against his will. I have often described the sound Rocky makes when he wants out as a caterwaul, and that is putting it mildly. He carries on and on until we let him out. If we ignore him and go to bed, we wake in the morning to a pile of cat poop somewhere other than in the litter box. Rocky’s way of say, “I’ll teach you to ignore me!”
The next day by late afternoon when my cat still had not come home I had had just about enough of this. I asked my daughter if she wanted to come with me to go see if this Carrie had our cat. We headed up straight away.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
I stood in front of her door, phone in hand, with a photo of Rocky (and me) loaded up for viewing.
The door opened just a little, “Hello?” The woman shielded her body with the door and peered out at us.
“Hi, we live just over there. We have a cat named, Rocky. You know him right? Here’s his photo.”
She took a glance at the photo and nodded her head.
“Well, he’s our cat, but it sounds like you have been taking him into your home. Is this true?”
“I like him. He’s a nice cat.” She stayed close inside the door while she spoke to us.
“We like him too. Pretty much everybody in the neighborhood likes him. He’s our cat.”
“He doesn’t have a name tag.”
“Excuse me?” I was taken aback by her random comment.
“He doesn’t have a name tag.”
“Well, actually he has had a name tag. Twice someone has removed his collar and name tag. I got tired of buying new ones. He does have a collar. And he is micro-chipped. Definitely our cat.”
“I like him.”
“I know, you told me that. Here’s the deal. He’s our cat. I don’t want you keeping our cat. It’s not okay. You can pet him, talk to him whatever, but don’t feed him. And definitely do not keep him in your home. He has a home.”
She stood there looking at me with this blank, deer in the headlights stare. It dawned on me that she wasn’t opening her door very wide. Bearly sticking her head out to talk to us.
“Is he in your home right now?”
“Are you kidding me? Is he in there?”
She opened the door wide and stepped to the side.
Sure enough, there sitting in her rocking chair was my cat, Rocky, all curled up. Traitor.
I walked past her, into her home and picked up my cat. He meowed and then yawned.
“Do NOT take my cat and keep him in your home again. Am I clear?”
We left and she closed the door behind us. Life went on as it had before crazy cat lady began taking our kitty into her home. For a while, maybe 3 months or so it seemed. We began to get more affection from Rocky. Apparently he had been getting his fill of love and affection elsewhere and thus didn’t require any from us. Now with crazy cat lady out of the picture he was a bit more snuggly. Nice.
Fast forward, present day. We headed out of town for the long weekend for a soccer tournament. Our daughter came by every day to check on Rocky, let him in/out, feed him and such. Only problem was, he wasn’t home. Not one single day. She happens to live in our neighborhood and realized she didn’t see him roaming as he usually does either.
We got home late Monday night. No Rocky. I stayed home all day Tuesday as our son was sick. No Rocky. By Wednesday I had a sneaking suspicion crazy cat lady was back at it. After a short walk, I suggested Tom go speak to this woman. He is much calmer than I.
Tom heads up to her condo and knocks on the door. Crazy cat lady opens the door and says hello.
“Hi, I am the owner of Rocky and he hasn’t been home again in several days. Have you seen him?”
“No, I haven’t seen him in like 3 days.” Crazy cat lady responds.
“You’re sure you haven’t seen him?”
“No, I haven’t seen him.”
“Hmmm., so Rocky hasn’t been in your home?”
“He isn’t in your home right now?” A tone of disbelief dripped from his tongue and the words passed through his lips.
“No, I haven’t see him in 3 days. He’s not here.”
“Okay.” Tom turned and left.
About 60 minutes later, no more, as I was standing in the kitchen I see a flash of mixed grey fur in my line of sight. I lean over just as Rocky begins pawing the glass door wanting to be let in.
Imagine that! Rocky came home.
Crazy Cat Lady must have let him out.