Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t stop me on the street and ask, “Is that cat still in your rafters?” Because that’s all you people care about anymore. Nobody asks how I’m feeling (pretty good, thanks); or if the kids swallowed anything interesting this week (a Lego™ C3PO® head); or even notices that I took a shower recently (yesterday afternoon, and I used conditioner). It’s always What about the Damn Cat in the Wall.
This ends now.
For those of you just tuning in: Our family adopted a pair of feral cats named Will and Mia Feral. We* built them a little house under the back porch and feed them once a day. In exchange, Will and Mia roam the block, terrorizing the local rat community. Pretty straightforward quid pro quo, and everybody is happy (except the rats, who are too dead to be happy).
Then one chilly January afternoon, Mia Feral slipped into the basement door. Feral cats are impossible to catch bare-handed, but we hoped that – like a party guest who’s overstayed her welcome – she’d eventually get bored enough to leave on her own.
Turns out that wild animals aren’t so good at picking up on social cues. However, they are good at finding secret portals into the rafters between your first and second floor and freaking you out at 2:00 a.m. with scratching noises from the floor and/or ceiling.
From then on we called her “Ceiling Cat,” based on a popular Internet Meme from six years ago that nobody but me and Scott seem to remember:
Scott tried catching Ceiling Cat with an old rabbit trap. Even though she triggered the trap door, Ceiling Cat managed to snatch the food and still slip back into her portal. For weeks, the empty trap lingered impotently in our front hall, reminding us of our cat-catching failure every time we stubbed our toes on the way to breakfast.
We entered into a period of Cat Detente, and even got used to her familiar scratching sounds at bedtime. “Tomorrow,” I would promise Scott every night as we divided up the pillows** for sleeping, “I’ll get a proper cat trap.”
We cycled through month of tomorrows, until one February morning I discovered that an orderly, deliberate pile of cat shit had been deposited on my yoga mat.
This ends now.
I raced to my computer to email Rob and Erica – our feral cat pros– asking to borrow a proper cat trap, like, NOW. By the end of the day, the trap had been delivered, along with some expert advice: Rotisserie Chicken is the Gold Standard for cat bait. Don’t even think about using baked, or fried, or grilled, or god-forbid, boiled chicken (is that even a thing?). It had to be Rotisserie Chicken, or “Rot-Chik” for short.
Since our family is relatively meat-ignorant, I wasn’t even sure where to procure a Rot-Chik. But at the school playground that afternoon, my always helpful pal Aileen casually mentioned that she was on her way to Costco*** and could sneak a Rot-Chik out for me. Two hours later, Aileen arrived at my door like an angel, and handed me a steaming blister box of glistening poultry:
The whole family gathered around to inhale the briny fumes and admire its greasy, seasoned flesh. We tore off a few choice pieces for Ceiling Cat Bait, and then engaged in a vigorous debate about how to consume the rest.**** Before bed, Scott set the trap, covered it with a blanket, and went upstairs to haggle over pillows.
The next morning we raced to the basement to discover Ceiling Cat, casually lounging in the trap, the smell of the Rot-Chik on her breath and a “You Got Me!” expression on that sweet kitty face. The gig was up.
Scott carried the cage outside; the kids gave her a few between-the-bar pets before we flipped open the door. At first she took a few timid steps out, then sprang back to life, sprinting around the yard, under the back gate and into the alley, where the rodent population might have been getting a little too comfortable.
Just before posting this I saw Ceiling Cat and her brother in the back yard, enjoying the spring thaw. They rolled in the grass, played with a piece of rope and climbed around on the lawn chairs. Soon they will retire to the Cat Condo for an afternoon nap, and – like feral cats everywhere – dream of Rotisserie Chicken.
——— endnotes ———
* By “WE” I mean Scott. As with most successful partnerships, we have a pretty clear division of labor. He does pancakes and I do waffles. I do the cooking, shopping, laundry, accounting, painting, contractor supervision and external relations. He is in charge of cat and bike maintenance, takes out the trash, bathes the children, goes to a soul-less office every day, and fixes anything more than six feet off the ground.
** Scott and I have approximately 18 pillows on the bed, and I’m honestly not sure where 16 of them came from. Nevertheless, we each have our favorites, and bicker over who gets the lumpy ones each night.
*** Costco is an American store where you have to pay money upfront to shop there. However, you can then buy palettes of toilet paper, gallons of hummus, barrels of decent vodka, and, occasionally, trampolines. Some restrictions may apply.
**** Chicken nachos, and then Chicken Pho and then a batch of chicken broth with the carcass. That’s a lot of good eating for $4.99.