On Sunday when Machan disappeared I had a sinking feeling that she wasn’t merely lost, that she had in fact been taken. I hated to think of this thought because I have just moved here and most of the people I have met so far seemed so nice.
Paranoia began to strike slowly and insidiously.
Monday night when she hadn’t returned and we had completely ransacked our apartment, we went around to our immediate next door neighbors asking if they had seen a cat. No one had. We searched high and low around the apartment complex — under the dumpster, in the utility closet next to the swimming pool, in the boxes people put in their parking spaces.
By this time I knew that she wasn’t in the apartment because she hadn’t eaten or drunk anything (she eats a lot for a thin little kitten). I spent my time looking wistfully at her litter box thinking that I might never have to clean it again. Her little perch on the cat condo seemed so empty without her presence. I just didn’t have any more hope.
Monday evening after asking our neighbors, we decided to post a sign up on the bulletin board. It was a risk because we’re not supposed to have a cat in the apartment, but we checked with our manager and he was totally cool about it. I put up the info about her that matched the info on her tag (name and cell phone number).
By Tuesday morning there was still no word or news of her. No messages on the phone. Nothing.
Doug came home for lunch and we decided that our next course of action would be to go door to door (after listening at each person’s apartment for her howls — she has a very distinctive cry…). That’s when we noticed that our sign had been taken down.
After checking with the manager that he hadn’t removed the sign, we both had an AHA! moment — Machan had been kit(ty)napped.
It’s a strange feeling not being able to trust the people who live around you. That afternoon I eyed everyone I saw with suspicion, not really wanting to believe that someone would make off with a cat who had tags and obviously belonged to someone.
We reposted our sign. This time embellishing the notice saying that Machan was very old, needed special care, and that we wouldn’t ask any questions about her return.
Four hours later I had a message on my cell phone from a woman down the hall saying she had ‘found’ Machan. While this may have been the case (since Machan slipped out of the apartment), this woman didn’t bother to check her tag and call immediately. She made all sorts of excuses — she has epilepsy and therefore couldn’t call the humane society, she didn’t notice the name on the tag, etc.
The truth is, she took her. (This is the same woman who walked into another neighbor’s apartment looking for a ‘colander’. She has been known to take drugs and do really wacky things.) We had suspected her (she would’ve been the first person whose door we knocked on).
I think the main reason she called is that Machan had just bitten her (go Machan!) and she knew that it was someone in the building and not just a random person in the neighborhood who had lost the cat. I’m sure for her drug-induced mind, paranoia started to sink in.
I got the message 5 minutes before Doug got home. I didn’t want to go into this woman’s apartment alone, so I waited for him and we walked down the hall. Even though I had met this woman a few times, she stared at me with blurry, unrecognizing eyes; repeating the same excuses she had on the phone over and over to us.
The apartment was closed off, dark and filled with cigarette smoke. It was neat but so disgustingly smoky I thought I was going to die. She told us Machan was under the sofa, but we looked and she was nowhere to be found. I started calling out to Machan and finally, after Doug called her name, there was a cry from the kitchen. Machan had opened up the kitchen cabinet and hid herself away from this woman the best way she knew how (we think the woman unknowingly closed the cabinet, hemming Machan in).
Machan was so happy to see us! Doug and I both got kisses and the first thing she did when she got home was eat a bit of food.
All that night, though, she kept us awake with her howling. At one point Doug went over to her, and she was limp with sleep a deep growl emanating from her throat. We think she was having nightmares about her ordeal being kitnapped by druggy neighbor woman.
My only consolation is that Machan fought back, and I hope she left some ‘surprises’ in the woman’s cabinet!
(Thanks to all of you for your kind words and advice!)