So last week Michael and I managed to misplace our elderly cat, Carmen, and we didn’t realize it for a few days. We felt horrible about this—both the fact that she was lost and the fact that we didn’t notice for some time.
It’s not that we don’t care about Carmen. We absolutely adore her. The main reason we didn’t notice she was missing was because she is a cat. The dog follows me from room to room, always. But like most cats, sometimes Carmen doesn’t want to hang out with anybody, and will go off and hide somewhere in the house out of sight.
Also, there was kind of a miscommunication between Michael and I. Each of us just sort of assumed the other had seen Carmen at some point. It wasn’t until late one evening when we were playing with our other cat, Aria, and one of us was like “Hey, I haven’t seen Carmen in awhile, when was the last time you saw her?” And both of us had to sit and think really hard to remember the last time. Then we got very worried very quickly.
We determined Carmen was definitely not in the house. Once we worked out the only time when she could have gotten out, we felt horribly guilty, as days had passed since then. We went outside with flashlights to look for her, but couldn’t find her in the vicinity. (The neighbors caught me crawling around trying to get under their porch; fortunately they didn’t shoot me.) There didn’t seem to be much point in searching further in the dark.
We tried to figure out what to do from there. Michael was absolutely devastated and basically broken. He just sort of sat there staring off into space with tears running silently down his cheeks, saying Carmen had to be dead, a coyote had surely gotten her by now. He pretty much couldn’t do anything.
I was upset but pretty calm about it. I Googled “how to find a lost cat” and started doing everything Google said to do. What the internet said indicated there was hope: it said most indoor cats who accidentally escape are probably fine, just freaked out and hiding nearby, even if several days have passed. I put some kibble and treats on the steps, like Google suggested, and left messages on online groups for the local area (Nextdoor, etc), then couldn’t figure out what else to do until daytime, so we went to bed. And somehow we were able to sleep. It was like 3:00 a.m. by then and we were super tired.
When I woke up, the food I’d left out was gone. I still couldn’t see any sign of Carmen but I started poking around again, looking under our porch and the next-door neighbor’s porch again, rattling the cat treat jar and calling for her. Then I turned around and suddenly there she was, sitting in front of our door, uninjured but complaining bitterly and looking extremely sorry for herself. She was none the worse for wear, just hungry.
Carmen says the outdoors sucks: it’s cold and scary and lonely and there’s no food and no litter box. 0 out of 5 stars. If she could type she’d leave it a really bad Yelp review.
I realize that a missing human child or spouse or other human family member is a whole order of magnitude different than a cat. But all of this kind of reminds me of the things I’ve read about how families deal with missing persons.
A lot of times the family doesn’t realize a person, even if they’re a child, is missing for awhile. It doesn’t necessarily mean the family doesn’t care. Each parent thinks the toddler is with the other parent, it’s assumed the teenager spent the night with friends, the adult was occasionally out of touch for weeks at a time and always resurfaced alive and well, etc. And each person in the family handles the situation differently, just the way Michael and I handled the issue of Carmen differently.
Stay safe, everyone. And keep an eye on your pets.