It was a quiet early fall night in DC.
The outdoors were starting to turn toward cooler breezy temps. Husband Sean and I were relaxing together in full-on chill time reading and nuzzling with Squinky-Susan (sister kitty) and also Walter Wilbur-Force Buttons (littler bro kitty).
Our lights-out time arrived; Sean had opened a window by a few inches to let cooling breezes swirl inside. Off to bed we went, in our 550 square foot home that sat four stories up from a busy neighborhood street.
The next conscious cue came from morning light that touched our eyelids awake. Sean got up first to enjoy some early a.m. silence.
After a while he nudged me to full-alert.
“Um Walter is gone,” he said. “I don’t understand….it’s a small apartment.”
I the momma scurry to the living room. No Walter.
…scurry to all the secret under-sofa-and-chair crevices. No Walter-kitten…..just his sister Squinky looking strangely calm.
…what about the old-timey pedestal bathtub. There’s a ton of secret hiding spots for kittens!
But no fuzzy Walter Wilbur-Force appeared.
I look at Sean with my eyes rounding through the tear drops.
He says again in a listless monotone: “But it’s such a small apartment…where could he have gone? It’s so small.”
His fixation on the size of the apartment made my heart ache more. He is such a fantastically logical person; his logic powerhouse of a brain was desperately equating smallness of our home to the impossibility that his cherished soulmate of a (always indoor) kitten could ever get lost, let alone disappear.
His eyes then wander over to the cracked window left open from last night: “OMG HE RAN AWAY FROM FOUR STORIES UP.”
What a heart sinker.
Walter’s escape out the teeny tiny window space was the only logical conclusion.
We ran downstairs; scoured alleyways; searched around big dumpster areas, calling calling calling Walter’s name.
No fuzzy gray paws or purrring was to be found.
Sean left for work lugging a gallon of gonna-keep-my-chin-up sadness with one last absent remark from his logical brain still trying to reconcile his disbelief: “….but our apartment is so small.”
More emotional context: This occurred a few days after Prince died. So the climate of separation anxiety was already heavy!
Then after posting one more color poster outside of “Help us find our precious Walter Kitten Face!!!” I glanced back randomly toward the front glass door into the four story walk up (we lived on the fourth floor with a few other neighbors residing on the other levels).
There adhered to the glass was a crooked yellow sticky note!
My heart and brain leapt instantly over the 5 meters to the door to read that sticky:
“Are you missing a cat?! Please call this number.”
Within seconds after calling, Walter Wilbur-Force The Kitten was back home to momma’s caress (and to his papa’s infinite joy).
The mystery in Walter’s disappearance revealed in purrrfect clarity thanks to two mindful and very tender-hearted neighbors that lived in a building adjacent us. It’s an awesome urban cat-n-mouse story minus the mouse. It’s a wonderful (and one of my favorite) family tales.
The whole experience refreshed perception about reunions and risk on a few levels:
- What an unforeseen loss of love teaches:
- Losing unexpected access to the one you love feels like a bucket of pine needles assaulting every avenue of your heart. I revered two things a whole lot more when reuniting with Walter Wilbur-Force Buttons: simple presence of your loved one is the height of abundance; and returning from the hugely vulnerable world unscathed (as Walter did) is ar blessing and rarity.
- Thoughts about risk and gambling with a stranger:
- What had happened — Our little precious fuzz-bucket kitten had in Olympic feline fashion self-collapsed his adult frame and slid out into the world (via that four inch window opening…naive move on our end to underestimate the indoor critter). Once out on the window ledge of our building, Walter walked on the ledge; got confused; then couldn’t walk backwards to our specific window. So he walked on the rain gutter to the attached/adjacent building and sat in front of a window.
- Late, late at night he stared inside this well-lit home through that home’s window and meowed his face off. He sat. He stayed sitting. He myeowed.
- The couple living in that home noticed him but were wisely leery of his nature! Was this a stray cat? Where did it come from? Isn’t this technically creepy?!
- It would’ve been in the realm of reasonable decisions for them to have ignored Walter. The couple though pondered; revisited their first impressions; pondered some more.
They began to re-perceive this stranger chanting myeows outside their window. They started to view Walter as less of a threat, and more of a misplaced stranger in a vulnerable way. Sean and I are grateful for their courage.
- Closing thought on alleviating potential tensions in risky decisions:
- Upon letting Walter enter their window, the couple started to think short-term and long-term. If Walter’s family was discovered in the next day, hooray! But if a reunion did not take place, they were making a hospitality list for their new tenant i.e. litter box, food, and 600 little jingly toys. Their agility is a model for hospitality and for helping the stranger. They went from a risky initial decision all the way to sharing space with a stranger to planning for the stranger’s well-being. My goodness how I love this story and them.
Photo: Walter Wilbur-Force Buttons when a baby, pictured with his Dad.