Lost Cat by Caroline Paul

(A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology) This book is from a cat’s point of view, imagined by the cat owner. Cats are generally afraid of water. They only think about danger, food, fear and anxiety.

I (Caroline) was flying an experimental plane. Tibby and Fibby were my cats. My girlfriend, Wendy, brought me ice cream. I took too much morphine as a pain killer. I had to undergo surgery as well. Finally I was home in San Francisco. My cats were delighted to see me. They wanted ear scratches and chin rubs. Fibby was energetic and loved attention from adults. Tibby, on the other hand, was a shy male cat. He only liked to stay in his safe zone. He was wimpy by nature, although I tried changing him. My cats were an inspiration to me. Suddenly, with warning, Tibby disappeared and ventured into the great unknown.

Now, I started to panic. 10 days passed and still there was no sign of my cat. It wasn’t my style to keep them cooped up at home. I consulted a psychic for advice and she assured me that Tibby would be fine. However, he did not return to me as the psychic expected. I asked God on where Tibby could be. I received no answer from the heavens.

I visited the animal shelter to check. Despite re-visiting it every 3 days, Tibby was not there. The volunteers had seen cats go missing for years and they could still return. Five weeks after his disappearance, Tibby re-appeared.

He said ‘Meow’. The vet weighed him and he weighed slightly more. What led him to run away from me? In the past, locking him up didn’t work as he would keep banging on the door. I went on a mission to see where Tibby when during the 5 weeks that he was away.

I followed him to the den of iniquity. Tibby’s appetite wasn’t good now. Was it possible to follow a cat? I approached a shop and they gave me a GPS tracking device. The device had to be very small. I bought a specialised cat tracker. It would be attached to his blue collar. It fit snugly.

Cats are the slipperiest of domestic animals. Thousands of years of genetic coding has taught them to melt into azaleas, lie motionless behind garden gnomes, glide along fence tops, and slink under benches. – Caroline Paul

12 hours after exploring, he re-appeared. His movement pattern was highly chaotic. It was all over the place on the grid. He was moving in a haphazard manner with no aim in mind. I expected clear straight lines from a cat.

Now, we wanted a cat camera as we couldn’t interpret the GPS results well. Tibby was suspicious over the new device around his neck. The camera would capture a photo every minute that he spent outside the home. I wanted to know how large his territory was. Logic and denial thoughts played rapidly in my mind. Why would he suddenly leave for 5 weeks after 13 years of warm tender care? I hope he realized that the outside world was not as comfortable as home. Was it a spiritual journey? He was always in the yard and the photos didn’t do good.

We re-programmed the camera to take photos every 5 minutes. The photos were all the same when he was sleeping. My two cats were twins but I doubted if they got along with each other well. I wanted to know Tibby’s new food source. I tried to give him different varieties of food, but he didn’t seem to like them much. We were making headway in understanding our cat. I finally decided to try talking to it. This could be done by reading his facial expressions.

I attended an animal communication class. The teacher claimed her methods had scientific backing. You need a loving intent and followed by thoughts. Learn to recognize and record. Soon, I was able to get the hang of talking to my cat and interpreting his replies. Each ‘meow’ means something.

Fibby was much more expressive and liked talking to us. One day, Fibby suddenly disappeared. She collapsed while walking suddenly. We drove her to the emergency room. It was a tumour growth in her stomach. She was bleeding profusely. The vet suggested putting her down. At that moment, I was already crying. Fibby started whimpering. It all came so sudden. After listening to the doctor’s advice, she was gone.

Tibby never greeted me upon arrival for 13 years. I could sense he was wondering where Fibby was. Tibby went around the house looking for Fibby. He was upset and looked at her for days on end. Tibby was still in the denial stage of life. Denial was the first stage of grief. Next, we could see that he was turning angry. The next stage was bargaining. During the depression phase, Tibby hardly moved around much as read from the GPS lines. Even Wendy, who hated cats, started crying. It’s like a kitty light had been extinguished.

Weeks past and Tibby overcame the grief. He was moving about more. This is the last phase of grief, acceptance. I started looking for a pet detective! A lot of them use ESP and dogs to track. A lot of detectives were clueless when I told them my cat was previously lost. I read a book on private investigation.

Wendy wanted to help me and suggested that we re-look at the GPS maps. Too much information would be difficult to interpret. Now, she superimposed all the pink lines together and looked for the thicker lines. Soon, it was clear where the Tibby had been.

It turned out that Tibby was often venturing 10 blocks away. I was disappointed because Tibby could hear my crying during his absence from home and didn’t bother at all.

My girlfriend was now a full cat person. Our plan was to interview a few houses where Tibby was suspected to visit.

We wrote a flyer for each of the 6 houses. The plan was to find out which food he really liked because he had a poor appetite at home.

The phone didn’t ring.                                                                                                        

Tibby started eating more at home now. Ringing doorbells were usually not responded to. We tied a note to his collar.

In sum, a ringing doorbell signalled someone who had neither your phone number, e-mail, or Twitter account. Why would you want to speak to them? – Caroline Paul

The phone didn’t ring.

We were not close to our neighbours and seldom acknowledged each other’s presence. It was ironic that Tibby knew the neighbours better than we. A man in the house started talking to us after we rang his doorbell. We didn’t receive a few responses from houses and vowed to try again the next day. One man recognized our cat. They were the ‘cat stealers’.

We had the ‘cat stealers’ over for tea. The cat stealers looked like decent people. It turns out that they were cat whisperers, not cat stealers. Tibby could recognize them and he purred. They often left food outside their house and Tibby could eat them. They rented their house out to Russians previously. The couple used to have 15 cats and kept a file on each of them. They fed Friskies to the stray cats. It was Halloween candy. It was now that I realized that they were cat lovers. All along, I wanted someone to blame for Tibby’s disappearance and knew that I wasn’t right to do that. They even tied a note on his collar. They were actually just like me.

Tibby wasn’t lost. He just wanted to explore. I felt dumb to spend so much on technology when a simple conversation would do the trick. SF was really quite a closed city. I found the truth and thanked the cat whisperers.

If cats don’t like where they are living, they’ll just move into another house. Cats choose. – Cat Whisperer

I visited the Banya at their house. It was a kitty paradise. It was like a maze with many entrances and exits. The truth was this: Tibby just didn’t want to be at home. Fibby was always mean to Tibby. The point was not that Tibby left, it was more important that he returned.

There are 7 possible morals of the story. Technology is awesome. Don’t rely on technology all the time though. If you’re depressed, go out more and see the world. Bonkers is in the eyes of the beholder. Sooner or later, everyone becomes a cat lover. Tibby was settled now. He would only disappear for short periods of time now. We offered it Friskies regularly.

You can never know your cat. In fact, you can never know anyone as completely as you want. But that’s okay, love is better. – Caroline Paul

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