Lost our sweet cat Mateo

I was doing pretty well, all in all. Great weather, soccer and ballet, writing and editing, cooking and chilling with my husband, etc. The usual. Life is good.

A Palestinian friend in Beirut even offered a free feng shui consultation, and I took her advice and prettied up the house. Couldn’t hurt, right? We got a Buddha fountain and put it in an auspicious location, got under-counter lighting for the kitchen so we won’t have to use the overhead fluorescent, and even put a vinyl sticker flower mural on the laundry room wall. Best of all I cleaned our long-neglected balcony and put a lovely veranda garden out there: a gorgeous tomato plant, mint, lemon basil, cilantro, parsley, sage, rosemary, and chives. And for the cat, catnip, lemongrass, and oat grass.

I started letting the cat out onto our (second floor) balcony to watch the birds. I know it must not be super easy for a wild animal to be cooped up inside all day, but I don’t want to let him out where he can get eaten or beaten or run over, where he might pick up fleas or parasites and will be a danger to songbirds. So letting him out on the veranda seemed like a nice compromise, a nice treat for him.

I usually supervise him on the veranda but occasionally let him stay out on his own for a few minutes at a time. Every now and then he looked down, as if judging the jump, but he never jumped. I didn’t think he would. Not only because it’s a pretty big jump but also because he’s a huge coward and generally hates going outside.

It was raining on Thursday, and I sat out on the veranda with him for a while, petting him and watching the rain, feeling so lucky and happy. He’s so soft and pretty and silly, the perfect little silver lining to all our struggles. We got him in desperation after our last own-egg failure. Just something to focus on other than our broke-ass depression. He’s been a light in our lives ever since with his big white tiger paws and bushy raccoon tail.

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I went back inside to make dinner and left him out there watching the rain. I guess I got caught up in cooking, and pretty soon my husband came home and asked where the cat was. I noticed it wasn’t raining anymore. “On the veranda,” I said, but I had a sinking feeling.

He wasn’t on the veranda. He wasn’t anywhere. Dinner was abandoned as we walked around for three hours searching for him. We live in the middle of a big scrubby grassland park bounded by a creek, a river, and two busy streets. Our huge apartment complex is the only human habitation around. There are just millions of places for a cat to hide, and often when they’re scared, they hunker down in silence, sometimes for days.

We bugged every neighbor and jogger and biker we came across, put flyers up everywhere, mass-emailed our entire apartment complex, offered a $100 reward, posted to local lost and found FB groups, and checked the shelter. I’ve left food and water out every night, left his litter box out where he can smell it, and left his cat carrier with his favorite blanket and our dirty clothes. So far no sign of him whatsoever.

It’s been four days now. Half a dozen neighbors have called to tell us they found our cat, but it’s always this other GIANT grey cat (I think he’s half mountain lion or something) with a yellow collar, and I have a feeling that cat is chasing Mateo off if he’s trying to come back. My husband even got a live trap from the shelter, and we’re trying to see if we can get him that way. But I have a feeling we’ll just catch that other damn grey cat (or a skunk), if anything.

And since we live on the second floor, and he jumped off the balcony, he’s going to have no idea where our front door is or what it looks like.

He’s still just a kid, basically, not quite a year old. I thought we’d have him for a decade at least. He’d be our kids’ first pet. I feel so guilty. He was my responsibility, and I let him down. And to top it off, it has thunderstormed almost every single night since he went missing.

It’s very dispiriting, and we’re worried sick. If we knew he was OK — that maybe we were meant to raise him up from a sick, scrawny kitten, get him treated and get his shots, feed him and play with him ’til he was big and strong, and then let him back into the wild, or that another loving family had taken him in — I could live with it. But imagining him cold and wet and hungry and terrified somewhere, or washed into the river and drowned after he sought refuge in a storm drain, is heartbreaking.

It’s a small thing in the scheme of things, I suppose, but our house is just so empty without him.

No news on the donor embryo front, either. Just waiting for a match. And waiting.

Life was just starting to seem bright and beautiful again, and now the dark cloud is back. Literally as well with all this rain. I wish I could be the one shivering out in the rain instead of him. I hope his innate survival instincts kick in somehow. This little goofball who thinks he’s hiding when he’s crouched behind a sock… (Not a ball of socks, just a single sock.) I hope he’s finding food, water, and shelter somehow. On Thursday it’ll be a full week since he went missing.

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6 thoughts on “Lost our sweet cat Mateo

    1. He may be — I just wish I knew. I wish I knew he wasn’t starving or drowned or mauled by a coyote or run over by a car or just lonely and miserable. And I just can’t imagine where he went for all the driving rain. There’s not much shelter around.

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