Visions of torture

The cat is still missing.  Every morning and in the evenings I go
outside into the back garden and call for him.  I hold fast to the hope that soon he will appear over the
top of the back fence where I have seen him so many times before but so far
there is no sign. 
And people tell me stories of cats who have gone missing and
returned unchanged after a number of days, and then there are others, like my
neighbour, who tells me about two of her cats, one who came back with all his claws
missing.  She reckons he must have
been trapped somewhere and had wrenched off his nails trying to escape.  
I have visions of torture, the ripping
off of nails.  The other cat, my
neighbour never saw again, but she was convinced that he had been stolen.
‘Your cat is just a huge ball of
grey fur and so beautiful.  It’d be
easy to keep him.’  
And so I have
visions of the grey cat locked inside someone else’s house, learning fast to
become an indoor cat and happy enough there.  If this is so, then it is preferable to the idea of him
locked inside some lonely garage or pit or other place of torture, or worse
still dead on the side of the road, to be collected as road kill by council workers and heaved
onto a tip or burned in some mass incinerator.  
It is the not knowing that is
hardest of all and then the giving up; the thought that
one day I might stop calling the cat, that I might stop expecting him to return
home.  Then there’s the thought
that he will fade from our memories but never quite go away, not like the cats
who have died in our care, even the one who was killed on the road or the one
whom my husband took to the vet who after a long life at seventeen years needed
to be put down.
Who cares?  a voice inside me says.  It’s only a cat, not a child, not a
person.  Cats matter but how much in the scheme of things?  
I do
not want to exaggerate this loss. 
It is more the sense that it piggybacks on other losses that until now
had remained more hidden from view.
I find myself remembering the time
when I was eight and my oldest brother left home.  He ran away as the expression goes, though he was eighteen
at the time, and went missing.  He had brawled with my father over dinner.   It was Easter time, I remember,
the time of the crucifixion and of Easter eggs.  These two strangely jarring symbols etched in my memory, the
sweet and the bitter of it all.  My
father had picked on him and my brother threw down his knife and fork and
stormed out of the room.  
I did not
see him again for three years. For three years I wondered where he had gone.  And I wondered that my mother
could go about the business of her normal life not knowing the whereabouts of her first born son.  
Years later I found that
after sometime my brother had contacted her. 
He had become a lay missionary in New Guinea.  He was out in the world and doing good.  My mother must have been relieved.  As I would be relieved were I to hear that our
cat is alive and well out there and maybe even ‘doing good’.  

45 thoughts on “Visions of torture”

  1. Oh, that is tough Elisabeth. The same has just happened with our dog. It is so hard not knowing. Hopefully your cat is being looked after somewhere.

  2. It seems a common enough event, sarah as you say it happened with your dog. I hope you managed to find him in the end.

    One of my brothers and his family lost both their dogs while holidaying in the snow. It took weeks before the second one finally made his way home, but he did. They both did. Amazing resilience and determination in the freezing and unfamiliar cold.

    I hope your dog made it home.

    Thanks, Sarah Toa.

  3. I’ve talked about my mother’s cat Tom before. Of all her cats he was the one most guilty of wandering off for days and returning battle scarred. Once though he turned up on the back doorstep covered in oil and a sorrier sight you have never seen. I got the job to wash him in the garage and all credit to him he stood there in the basin of soapy water and let me do my job; he obviously knew I was doing right by him and never tried to bite of scratch me. Afterwards almost all his hair fell out and my dad was embarrassed to let him go outside to do his business. After a while the hair grew back but he was never the same. God alone how much oil he swallowed but he started having fits—which were tragic to watch—and we had to have him put down. He got shoved in Mum’s shopping bag and carted off to the vet. He was not the first of her cats to die but I believe he was the first to get put to sleep. His was the first death that really affected me.

    Not knowing though is hard because you don’t know when to grieve. At least with Tom we knew when he was dead, we got out grief out of our systems and then got on with our lives. Missing is so much harder. Grief is natural and necessary and it will have its way whether we want it to or not. But feeling guilty about doing something perfectly natural spoils the experience. This is not to suggest that grief is an experience to be enjoyed but it is still one that is good for us.

    I do understand the expression ‘it’s only a cat’ on one level but I have also always taken my responsibilities as a pet owner very seriously. I treat our bird as a little person. I would never have gone out and bought a cockatiel but once Carrie phoned me at work and told me about rescuing him from the magpie I immediately took on the responsibility for the care of this little ball of fluff stopping off on the way home to buy seeds. It’s what you do. I may squash carpet bugs mercilessly but that’s another thing entirely. We heard a crash in the kitchen a couple of weeks back. I went to investigate and found a pear that had been gnawed at. We assumed the mice had returned but no mice appeared in the traps. And then about a week ago I noticed a grey squirrel on our windowsill. I don’t think he saw me but he leapt onto the drainpipe and headed up to the next level. I told Carrie and she was like me, more delighted than anything. It was the same with the mice. Sure we put down traps but we also enjoyed watching them scurry about the place until they were caught and could be released back into the wild.

    I would be like you though, out there calling, wandering the streets even. We had to do that with Minstrel and discovered he had a second home in the next street. I seem to recall the woman was more than understanding—how do you determine ownership of a cat?—but she already had several; she just stopped encouraging him and, after a wee while, he stopped straying. I’m not sure cats understand loyalty though. I could never see a cat sitting on someone’s grave for fourteen years like it was claimed Greyfriars Bobby did.

    That someone might have deliberately hurt one of our cats is something I—thankfully—never ever considered at the time. For all we knew some boy might have tossed Tom in a container of oil. I was incapable of imagining such cruelty back then and, to be honest, I’m still—thankfully—incapable of imagining it now. I have never understood cruelty in any form.

  4. I do hope he's moved to a home where he'll need a trip to a vet who knows to check for a microchip. I had the new kitten chipped a year ago. I understand it's the size of a grain of rice and on a shoulder blade, but I cannot feel it. Wish I could. Wish the grey cat would turn up on the doorstep for breakfast.

  5. Oh Elizabeth, I'm so sorry – have just read the previous entry as well. He, as your neighbour says, does look very handsome, so maybe is enjoying some new attention elsewhere for a while?

    That's the outcome I'm sticking with – he's having a 'holiday' nearby, getting his ego and fur stroked and will return home soon.

    He may be just a cat but pets are so important to our lives, family and homes.

  6. I am so sorry, Elisabeth. Losing a loved one that way would be worse than losing them to death.

    "Cats matter but how much in the scheme of things?"

    Is the value of a life determined by its impact on the world or by the simple fact of its existence. If the former case is the correct one, then you and I probably don't matter one heck of a lot either.

  7. My dear Elizabeth – don't apologise for being upset about the disappearance of a cat. I know what it is like to lose a pet – it is worse than coping with their death – you really need to know what has happened – I do understand that. I hope it all turns out well in the end.

  8. It's ok for you to be so upset by this….it is really upsetting to lose a pet.

    When I was younger, our cat was missing for two weeks in winter. It was horrible. One day we came home and found her in the tree in the front yard, meowing and completely fine. Every night we'd go out and shake a bag of dry food.

    Hang in there. Prayers for a safely returned and beloved kitty.

  9. Now seeing what the cat looked like makes it even more potentially heartbreaking. Animals are true innocents. Hope your cat returns soon.

  10. I once had a cat disappear. For months afterward, I would go to the back door and call his name but never saw him again. Things like that can haunt a person forever. Curiousity is an insidious trait!

  11. We called for one of our missing cats for two days. He was nearby but had gone under a bush to die. We didn't think he was that bad. We took him to the vet and the vet did what nature was taking longer to do. I wonder if we should have just left him and let nature take its course. Being hauled off to the vet was no doubt not a great experience for him, but then what about foxes…. I hope your is safe.

  12. Hope your cat's doing good.

    The cat we adopted as a stray kitten – he just showed up mewing one night here in town – is big & lanky now. While I've been writing he hopped off the couch and went to submerge his face in the food bowl. When kitten was first hanging around we called animal control to see if there were any reports of a missing kitten – he seemed too healthy to be born feral. But nobody had reported him missing and we never saw any missing kitten posters. So we're enjoying him. He keeps the other cats active, too.

  13. Oh, dear. I did not want to be the one to say it but I have to admit 'rhymeswithplague' said what I sacriligiously thought.
    However, we have a 'crazy cat lady' neighbour and if anyone can find a lost, injured or stray pet, she can. I have her on it!
    Pets are the darndest things, the way they make us feel.
    Here kitty, kitty.
    Karen C

  14. One of my daughter's two cats is missing also. A black and white tom, he's about 16 years old and getting a bit grey now. He's been gone about a week and she thinks he's disappeared to die as cats often do. She's searched the house and yard and most of the neighbourhood with no luck. Years ago we had a puppy disappear, he was about six months old and after a couple of months he found his way home. He was covered in cooking oil and smelled strongly of garlic. Some kids had taken him and done this to prevent him smelling his way home. It didn't work, because when they eventually took him out for a walk he raced across the paddock to us.

  15. Our two cats both dissappeared when the earthquake struck and stayed away for days. One of the cats also went of for a short time when we went to Holland. He is always with my son and stays in his room. He must have missed him.
    I would go crazy when my son went missing. What an amazing story that he became a missionary in New Guinea. Not an everyday thing you would do. I hope for you that your cat is coming home soon. Arohanui

  16. Our pets rely on us to care and watch out for them. I think this is why it hurts so much when there is helplessness to do anything for them. They also weave their lives into ours on so many levels and their absence is painfully noticeable.

    My friend's cat went missing and she went door to door asking them to check their basements and garages. Lo and behold a neighbour found her in his basement. She got in through an open window.

    My missing cat was never found and even a year later I looked for her. Now when I can't find Ella Bella, our current resident cat, I'm searching and worrying until she turns up.

    I do hope your loved one returns.

  17. I'm hopeful that no one has hurt our cat, Jim, unless of course he has been hit by a car. Your sad story of Tom offers a salutary message. Accidents can happen.

    Our back yard feels strange at the moment, not only because it's winter but also because I keep expecting the grey cat to materialise. He does not appear and the place looks strangely empty as a consequence.

    As for grief I'm in the middle of it now. As the days move into a second week I'm beginning to lose hope for the cat's return. When i was young i was passionate about animals. while my girls were growing u and i had so much on my plate I did not care so much for them, As I get older and life slows down, if only a tiny but I have more time, I'm more concerned about the animals, and like you I enjoy it when they seemingly pop up from nowhere. Mind you, I did not enjoy the decapitated rat I found on the kitchen floor the other morning, nor do I enjoy the sight of the odd disemboweled possum. the cats are killers after all and survival of the fittest can be ugly.

    Thanks, Jim.

  18. I thought of you recently Kath when one of my daughters who may be shipping off overseas next year with her little family told me they will most likely bring along their two cats as well. You took your dog as I recall. I think to take a pet along with you on such migrations could only be helpful for all. As for the idea of our cat's being away on holidays, it's a lovely one. I'll try to hold onto that possibility.

    Thanks, Kath.

  19. Although your story is laced with the sadness of your cat's disappearance, there's a glimmer of hope that shines through. It might be rooted in your brother's conversion to missionary.

    I loved your post, but at the same time here's wishing you the best fo luck in the world with your cat.

    Greetings from London.

  20. I suppose whether or not we or our cats matter is for each of us to decide, Snow. It's subjective. In truth I reckon we all matter, cats and people but I suppose again their are degrees.

    Thanks, Snow.

  21. Your missing cat story has a happy ending, Hannah. I hope ours turns out the same. It's winter here too and the nights get very cold.

    I'd be so pleased to wake one morning and find our grey cat up a tree, mid miaow.

    Thanks Hannah.

  22. Now your missing cat story has a sad ending – haunted forever, Ms Sparrow. I hope that's not our fate, but it may be.

    Was it curiosity that drove our cat away? I can't say.

    Thanks, Ms Sparrow

  23. Our cat is/was relatively young, Andrew, maybe seven or eight years at most and he seemed healthy enough. But you never know.

    We once had a cat who did as yours did, took herself off under a bush to die and we found here then later once she was dead and it seemed a good way to go.

    If only we knew that this was our cat's fate. As sad as it might be, at least it is a dignified ending. And you're right : there are also those foxes. A sick animal would be easy prey – perish the thought.

    Thanks, Andrew.

  24. Lucky you, Glenn, to be able to enjoy the company of such a strong and healthy kitten. I'd be happy if such a fate awaited our cat, as long as we could know he was well cared for and loved. It's the not knowing that's so hard.

    Thanks, Glenn.

  25. I've not heard of people coating a cat in garlic and oil to confuse their abilities to make their way home, River. amazing. If our cat were your daughter's cat's age I'd feel more reconciled to the possibility he's gone off to die, but he's half that age.

    Who knows? He might still reappear.

    Thanks, River.

  26. I can understand your cats going off missing after the earthquake, Marja. Such an event must have really thrown them. How good then that they came back. As for my brother, his story is amazing but it's hard to extract much from him. He prefers sanitised versions of events.

    Thanks, Marja.

  27. It seems we are not alone in losing our cats, Elizabeth, judging from the responses here, including yours. There are several who know the experience of the cat who disappears. Some have been lucky – the cat comes back – others like you, less so. A year after the event I don't suppose you can hope to see your cat again. I hope we don't suffer the same fate but it's possible.

    Thanks for your good wishes, Elizabeth.

  28. I paraphrased my brother's story, Cuban. There was a lot more to it – sadness as you say, interlaced with hope.

    And so it is for the cat, we keep on hoping.

    I trust you're enjoying the Olympics in London.

    Thanks, Cuban.

  29. However far the cat;'s moved, Robert, I fear it might be permanent. We're past the two weeks absent mark, so it's not looking good.

    By the way, I'm not sure sure where the cat was born but I'm pretty certain it wasn't in Camberwell, however much you imagine he suits the neighbourhood.

    Thanks, Robert.

  30. It's pet friendly.

    Someone has taken him in, it's like an ex-marital affair, exciting at first. When it slumps he'll come back.

    I do hope so.

  31. Oh how i feel for you Elisabeth. Maybe you remember my post about our cat missing and how he came back home after 3 (!) months. Everyday still as i look at him i am so grateful he came back home safely. I keep my fingers crossed, hoping your cat will be back home soon too.

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