Monday, June 30, 2008

Like Herding Cats

On Sunday I had planned a date with my mom, to help her along with her computer skills. I arrived at 3:30 in the afternoon, raring to go for a good three solid hours of hacking before dinnertime.

My mom was waiting for me out on the porch steps. She had one hand pressed down on the back of The Dude (one of her two young, male cats), who was crouching beside her.

"What's he doing out here?" I asked.

My mom's last set of cats (a pair of females) were both allowed outside. They had the run of the neighbourhood, and frequently pissed off the neighbours by killing birds, pooping in flowerbeds and/or vegetable gardens, and otherwise making pests of themselves. When my mom brought The Boys home, she was determined that they would be indoor cats.

The problem with keeping a couple of energetic young cats cooped up is: they will destroy your home. They're bored. They're restless. They need a challenge. Instead of stalking squirrels and discovering secret shortcuts across the rooftops, The Boys are literally chewing the furniture, clawing holes in the beds, pulling kitchen cupboard doors off their hinges, knocking over potted plants, and generally getting into every kind of mischief you can imagine.

On Sunday afternoon, The Dude was "mewing piteously" (a direct quote from my mom) by the screen door, so she decided to bring him outside. Not on a leash, not in her arms, just... outside. I could see already where this was going.

Of course, as I watched, The Dude wiggled free from her grasp and chased a flying bug out into the middle of the driveway. Then he stopped and realized where he was: FREE! He started mewing and dashing around in excitement. In a flash he was off and running down the driveway to the backyard. I chased behind him. I knew that my mom would have a nervous fit if The Dude vanished and she didn't know where he was, so I was determined to keep up with him.

I caught up just as he was nosing his way into the next-door neighbour's backyard, scooped him up, and brought him back to the front porch. I thought my mom might want to bring him straight back inside, but I guess she didn't have the heart to imprison him again so quickly. As soon as his paws touched the ground, he was on the move again, this time into the dense foliage of the front garden.

Quick as a wink, he vanished under the porch.

Here we go, I thought. We'll spend all afternoon trying to get him out now.

"Under The Porch" is a bad place. Generations of local cats and raccoons have used it as a litterbox. It's full of bugs, mould, rotting leaves, and possibly one or two minor demons and a golem. There is no access for humans. It's like an exclusive, sexy, dangerous nightclub, feline style.

My mom and I each took up a different position - her from the front, me from the side - peering into the gloom. It was impossible to see anything except the occasional flash of The Dude's eyes as he roamed around his new territory. He disappeared and reappeared in the shadows so quietly and randomly that it seemed like he was warping around in some alternate universe.

Now, cats that are used to being outside learn to come when their name is called. They want to get in from the cold; they want to be fed; they have to learn the signal for "the door is open, come NOW!" I don't know if The Dude even knows his own name. We called him, clucked, psst-psst-ed, all in vain. Finally my mom brought out his dry cat food and rattled the bag. No sale.

We were stuck. My mom wasn't willing to "go all the way" by leaving him unsupervised, and he wasn't willing to come out. It was a stalemate. We couldn't even go up and sit on the porch chairs because he might scoot out and disappear while we weren't looking. So we milled around uselessly in the front garden and driveway, ducking frequently to peer under the porch, and doubtlessly looking completely insane to any neighbours that might be watching.

Finally, after a long wait, The Dude stuck his head out between two wooden slats to sniff at the cat food my mom had left out. Mom was quick - she grabbed his neck with one hand like she was about to wring it. His eyes bugged out a bit as she hauled him into the open, but no harm done. She was as gentle as she could be, all things considered.

Of course The Dude was Like, Totally Psyched, Man! after his crazy adventure. We got him inside (and the cat food, and the various toys that had failed as cat-fishing lures), where he promptly sat down inside the screen door and resumed mewing piteously. Hey, it worked once before! We ignored him.

Finally we sat down at the computer together. Within a short time I noticed the mewing had stopped. I went to check the status quo. The Dude was passed out on the carpet, exhausted, and fast asleep.


Jenski said...

Stinker probably wondered why The Dude stank so much too! Glad he decided to come out and you didn't have to spend the whole afternoon looking at the porch.

Anonymous said...


nancypearlwannabe said...

Under the porch sounds like a place Pennywise would hide and eat random cats. I'm glad your cat make it back from Under the porch, safe and sound.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

You could get some tuna and a fishing pole and go cat fishing. You should probably not use a hook though.

Karen said...

LOL Cute story. I love how he was passed out from the excitement.

Sparkling Red said...

Jenski: Stinker watched the whole show through the window, wondering what the heck we were doing. He's the cautious one. If he's sitting by the sliding patio doors, watching the world through the screen, he'll run away into the house if you slide the door open. Outside is scary.

Nancypearlwannabe: I shouldn't have spent so much time imagining Under The Porch from a cat's point of view. I might have terrible nightmares tonight, about being stuck under there. Yikes.

Ron: Tuna! That's a good idea. Much smellier and more alluring than kibble. The Dude wishes you had been there to give us that idea, because then he would have gotten a treat into the bargain.

nicole said...

*still chuckling*
I'm sure my dogs would love it underneath that porch as well :)
And hey, one day he will just scratch his way through that screen door, mark my words :)

whatigotsofar said...

I remember my cats. When left indoors, they destroyed the place. There was always this one plant that would be uprooted by the cats so they could poop somewhere. Otherwise, they'd poop in piles of dirty laundry or on the blanket on the couch.

Leighann said...

That sounds eerily similar to the way I have to lure my son back inside! He also passes out from exhaustion afterward!

Nilsa S. said...

Nothing wrong with a little cat adventure ... for both kitty and owner. Ha!

jameil1922 said...

hahahahaha @passed out asleep. hilarity. he had a BALL!!

melanie said...

I love how under the porch is, "like an exclusive, sexy, dangerous nightclub, feline style." You'll never be able to keep him indoors now!

*melanie from

Sparkling Red said...

Nicole: Your dogs would love it under the porch, AND if they were under there, The Dude wouldn't want to be there! That arrangement would suit everyone.

WIGSF: Bad kitties! My cats always pooped in the general area of the litterbox. Not necessarily in it, but close. One would jump in, back herself up to the side, and poop over the rim onto the floor. Even a covered box couldn't deter her. :-p

Leighann: Boys will be boys, of all species. ;-)

Nilsa: It certainly was more exciting than working on the computer all afternoon.

Jameil: I bet he dreamed about it too. :-)

Melanie: You're right - my mother has doomed herself! And she though it was bad before...

Dianne said...

Luckily my guys are all happy to be indoors. Siren will occasionally push at the screen but the one time it opened he didn't come out from under the bed for hours!

Mia doesn't even want to leave my bedroom.

They make wonderful enclosures that you can set up outside. they're strong screening with solid closures and you can connect them and add on as money and space allows.

I found them by googling "outdoor cat enclosures"

Anonymous said...

Oh puleeeze get Dude de-duded. It might take some of the wanderlust out of his head.

Tink said...

Aw, you can't really blame him. Cats aren't meant to be cooped up. Now dogs on the other hand, they're kind of stupid. Every time mine gets loose he likes to chase moving cars.

Sparkling Red said...

Dianne: Believe it or not, my mom already has an elaborate enclosure custom-built just for these cats. The Dude feels caged within it, or so he tells me. He wants complete freedom!

Dana: The Dude has been neutered, but it hasn't totally taken away his wild streak. We'd have to remove his head to do that. ;-)

Tink: I don't hold it against him. It think it's sad that cats are no longer welcome to roam the neighbourhood. I used to visit with all the cats on my walks to and from school. Now they're all stuck inside. :-(

Aurora said...

What an adventure for the Dude! that will give him dream material for months. Years, even.