“Catty Cat Catching”
In the spring of 2005 a neighborhood mother cat gave birth to four adorable kittens. In May the mother cat brought her litter of four to my back yard to show them off and introduce the new brood to some friendly surroundings where future food and an accommodating environment would be provided. My wife named the four kittens Fluffy (an orange-furred critter with an attractive broad bushy tail), Midge (an orange and white striped animal), Calico (a patched offspring) and Smarty, a smarty-cat tabby that was always first to spot and eat available cat food conveniently placed outside in clear plastic bowls.
Joanne and I took immense pleasure in watching the four daily visitors grow and mature to where they were establishing their independence and developing different personality traits while playing and amusingly wrestling on the backyard grass, honing their individual hunting skills and at the same time creating a pecking order and instinctively determining dominance and subordination within the group. The quartet would entertain us by sparring one another around the black capped pipe that led to the septic tank, accidentally knocking the round lid off at least once a week, would advantageously jump and ambush each other at every opportunity and would chase squirrels and attempt to hijack birds whenever bored with each other’s rambunctious company.
In August Midge and Calico disappeared, presumably in search of “greener pastures” or more generous humans with unlimited cat food supplies. At least that supposition is what my wife and I had suspected.
“Perhaps Calico and Midge are following their innate drives and contemplating starting new families,” I suggested to my wife. “Maybe we didn’t feed them as often as they were demanding. I would feel guilty if I found one or both of their carcasses as road kill on the busy White Horse Pike!”
“Whatever will be will be!” Joanne answered sounding a lot like a contemporary Doris Day. “I think that Fluffy and Smarty will probably be our permanent local back yard residents. Although I’m no cat authority I do believe Fluffy to be a male and Smarty a soon-to-be-fertile female!”
“We won’t have to buy as many twenty-five pound bags of fish-flavored cat food at Wal-Mart,” I stated. “Those four kittens were becoming mighty expensive with their discriminating gourmet culinary preferences! I’m sort of glad that our cat population has now diminished to two persistent beggars!”
“Yes my frugal husband,” Joanne concurred. “Now we’re down to two bowls of leftovers and cat food instead of four. The absence of Midge and Calico has definitely allowed us to be more economical in the cat food acquisition department!”
But then in the spring of ‘06 Smarty gave birth to a liter of five and a mere month later brought her new obedient disciples over to our back lawn to be proudly exhibited. Joanne and I were immediately concerned about overpopulation regarding the new animal influx.
“I've decided I’m going to call the black one with the attractive brown markings Tiger,” Joanne declared. “And the small gray and white striped one will have the name Tiny. And the aggressive solid gray kitten ought to be dubbed Knight and the pitch-black beauty will be referred to as Midnight. And the totally weak-looking little orange kitten should be….”
“Runt!” I confidently replied. “That poor creature seems to be partially blind and will have a difficult time surviving on its own. It’s just the type of weak slow kitty that preying hawks look for to swoop down from the sky and capture!”
“But Runt is so cute standing in the middle of the plastic bowl and eating its kitty food!” my wife humorously noted. “I hope that Smarty protects it! The poor thing is too small and too slow to adequately fend for itself!”
Soon two additional strays joined the enclave and Joanne designated the two “freeloading guests” as Silver and Renegade. Now we had nine mooching cats hanging around our property and at nighttime taking residence in various flowerbeds and bushes situated around our house’s perimeter. My wife cleverly used a play-on-words and genially referred to the thriving throng as “the whole kitten-kaboodle!”
“At least we won’t have any mice pesterin’ us!” I said putting a positive spin on our invasion dilemma. “We now have a decent rodent patrol!”
“This whole scenario is intolerable!” Joanne remarked and exclaimed. “Next year there’ll be eighteen hungry cats and the following summer thirty-six! Something drastic has to be done or else we’ll have to turn our mortgage over to Smarty and Fluffy!”
“Okay!” I admitted and agreed. “And now the venerable elder Gramps is coming around too! I presume that he’s a patriarch in the clan because the others all lower their heads in submission every time he makes his regal grand appearance! Even Renegade shows Gramps exceptional respect!”
“I think that you and J.T. should catch the four youngsters and take them to an animal refuge,” Joanne candidly recommended. “Perhaps the staff there can locate the kittens into people’s homes! They’re still young enough to be domesticated!”
“My brother Skip has a cage we can borrow!” I recollected and offered. “If our son and I can lure the kittens onto the side porch, then J.T. and I can deftly apprehend the little varmints! I had read in a magazine where a frightened wild cat can be tricked, cornered and taken into custody by throwing a towel on top of its head! I’ll assign J.T. the task of performing that very complicated duty! Obviously he’s less likely to get a coronary than I am!”
“It’s too bad that Runt no longer is coming around!” my devoted spouse indicated with an element of regret. “But still, Tiger, Tiny, Knight and Midnight should all prove to be formidable challenges to catch!”
“I wish there was a way to get the four into a catatonic state!” I awkwardly joked. “That method would be a sure way to avoid any impending catastrophe during the ongoing search-and-seizure operation!”
“You make a terrible stand-up comedian! It’s amazing that you haven’t been hit by any red-ripe juicy tomatoes in your lifetime!” Joanne mockingly jested. “On second thought, a few pounds of messy ketchup on your face might actually improve your overall appearance!”
Joanne contacted the Delaware Valley Animal Clinic over the telephone, a facility located thirty miles southwest of Hammonton in Mullica Hill, New Jersey. The courteous receptionist said that the clinic would take all four of the cantankerous kittens and promised to find caring keepers for them for a donation of fifteen dollars each. Reluctantly my wife and I acceded to those simple conditions to eliminate the proliferating and potentially unbearable “cat dilemma.”
On a Wednesday morning in mid-October J.T. and I planned to collar the four impetuous but still-gullible fast-growing kittens. After obtaining the aforementioned large cage from Skip, my son and I cunningly initiated our well-rehearsed deception. First we strategically placed the heavy cage on the side screened-in porch. Then we placed several bowls of tempting cat food inside the enclosure and next opened the porch door to allow our targeted kittens to enter. Much to our surprise Smarty (the mother), Fluffy, and Silver stepped into the area followed by the four intended victims: Tiger, Tiny, Knight and Midnight. But only Tiger had the appetite to cautiously go inside the cage.
I swiftly and courageously closed the cage door and managed to quickly lock Tiger inside. The alarmed kitten freaked-out and leaped and jumped about inside, almost knocking itself unconscious from banging its head. A wild scramble ensued as Smarty, Fluffy and Silver darted around various chairs and obstacles on the side porch before finally exiting via the screen door. Joanne stepped onto the porch to inspect our progress but panic-stricken Tiny squeezed through the opening between the dining room door and its frame and escaped into our two-story colonial home. During the ongoing mayhem J.T. shut the porch screen door just after Midnight had escaped, leaving only scared-to-death Knight trapped on the cement floor with the still-frantic Tiger confined to its all-too-certain incarceration.
J.T. and I then entered the house, closed the dining room door and initiated our search to discover Tiny’s hiding spot. My son observed the neurotic gray and white-striped kitten furtively lying under the dining room table and we simultaneously exclaimed, “There it is!” No sooner had that declaration been loudly articulated that the intimidated kitten scurried around the polished hardwood floor, spinning its wheels (paws) and unable to generate any needed traction. The small animal then bolted across the dining room and leaped up to clamber onto a serving tray. Next the ornery-but-nimble critter appeared to perform four consecutive chin-ups attempting to elevate its torso onto the expensive two and a half foot high serving tray. After realizing the futility of its endeavor the frustrated two-toned kitten plummeted to the floor and then skittered behind a statue of a Roman maiden pouring water from a jug. And before either J.T. or I could throw a towel over the bewildered terrified kitty, it zipped across the room and soon totally evaded our scrutiny.
“Great!” I shouted in utter aggravation. “Now Tiny’s hiding somewhere in the house! We have to search every nook and cranny as if this home is one of those infamous English muffins you see advertised on TV!”
“It could’ve rambled and scrambled off to anywhere!” J.T. inadvertently rhymed and added. “Let’s search the entire place before Tiny makes a mess somewhere like under the sofa. Then I’ll never hear the end of Mother’s protesting!”
The three of us looked everywhere inside the dwelling. We peeked under every chair, beneath every table and behind every desk and television. The frantic expedition required a full forty-five minutes to complete but nevertheless our efforts were in vain. The wily gray and white kitten had the wherewithal not to make a sound as J.T. and I maneuvered furniture and used flashlights to examine underneath every bed and behind every end table.
“It’s a good thing that Smarty didn’t become too overprotective and attack in defense of her young!” I noted as I wiped sweat from my brow. “She was hissing when I chased her off the porch with the broom! That cat can be vicious!”
“I have an idea!” my wife constructively said. “Why don’t you two heroes venture out onto the porch and retrieve Knight and put him in the cage with Tiger. In the meantime everything will be sufficiently quiet in the house and perhaps I’ll be able to hear Tiny whimpering for its mother.”
Catching Knight on the side porch proved to be a Herculean task. J.T. seemed quite comical chasing the nervous kitten around the cement floor in all directions and throwing the towel and missing its head over and over again, looking like a crazy matador going amuck with his cape. Finally Knight leaped up onto the side ledge and tried climbing up the screen, but then J.T. managed to hurl the blue towel over its head and next grasped the cat, the creature making my son fumble the loaded towel against his chest as if the round mass curled-up inside the towel was a slippery greased pigskin.
“What tremendous excitement! That combative kitten is a real wild cat!” I bellowed all out of breath from observing J.T.’s frenetic ordeal.
“Yeah Dad! Maybe it plans attending either Villanova or the University of Kentucky!” my son cynically panted. “I definitely need to be in better shape and intend to spend more time exercising at the gym! But thanks for helping me pursue and isolate this extremely evasive animal! That dependable broom you’re holding sure came in handy as a persuasion device.”
After J.T. gingerly inserted the disoriented Knight inside the cage to accompany Tiger, my wife abruptly opened the dining room door and anxiously announced, “Tiny’s definitely hiding behind the dining room breakfront! I just heard it meowing after I had opened a can of tuna fish and placed it on the dining room floor!”
“Let’s be as gentle as possible!” I related to J.T. “We don’t want this furry creature arrest to be a harrowing experience for us and a traumatic one for poor Tiny.”
“Maybe Mom can film the adventure and send it to Animal Planet!” my son laughed. “On second thought, maybe she should just destroy the evidence!”
The credenza/breakfront must have weighed over five hundred pounds but J.T. and I gradually maneuvered it back and forth until we budged the heavy object an additional foot away from the wall. The back panel was around three inches above the floor and it had allowed just enough room for Tiny to wriggle underneath. Soon the petrified kitten emerged from the crevice and reflexively tried making its desperate escape. It fiercely scampered upon the polished hardwood floor (next to the wall) in my direction and upon detecting my’ illustrious presence, Tiny accomplished a full backward somersault in mid-air, thumped against the wall and then rapidly headed toward J.T.’s position. Two seconds later the acrobatic phenom performed a similar mid-air act of dexterity and next again proceeded fleeing toward me. Tiny remarkably launched itself to a knee-high level and its all-or-nothing lunge resulted in the animal being contained between my thick winter gloves.
The terrified kitten clawed and wiggled around and then temporarily eluded my grasp by wriggling free and then flipping itself around as I incompetently fumbled to regain its control. Tiny scratched away (at my heavy coat at greased-lightning speed) while simultaneously executing its super-impressive circus-like gyrations. Much to my relief J.T. was successful at putting his familiar blue towel over the animal’s head, thus preventing it from engaging in any more hectic havoc. And then demonstrating marvelous precision, my son skillfully deposited Tiny into the cage so that the hard-to-catch kitten could be reunited with Tiger and Knight.
Accompanied by my wife and my son I drove the three stubborn prisoners to the Delaware Valley Animal Clinic over in Mullica Hill where we presented the brood along with the forty-five dollar contribution.
“I thought you had said that you had four kittens,” the alert receptionist mentioned. “Where’s the fourth little guy?”
“Midnight had shrewdly escaped our entrapment scheme!” I solemnly confessed. “If we ever catch the little savvy imp I promise to bring it right over!”
Upon completing our important mission and then arriving back in Hammonton, the three of us immediately spotted Smarty and Midnight prowling around in our backyard. We automatically explained to each other that the two wanderers were searching for the whereabouts of their beloved missing companions. But we humans were in for a rather shocking surprise.
Amazingly three carefree itinerant kittens came ambling around the corner of our home’s “Great Room” and the newly arrived trio appeared to be identical reproductions of recently conveyed Tiger, Knight and Tiny. ‘Is this some sort of weird paranormal mirage or illusion?’ I conjectured. And next a fourth kitten having jet-black fur made its backyard debut. ‘How could this be? Midnight astoundingly has an identical twin!’
Then I perceptively noticed that long-lost Midge rounded the corner and appeared on the scene and I finally understood exactly what had happened. Midge was indeed a female and had returned home after giving birth to a litter that was almost a facsimile to Smarty’s. And my wife and J.T. speculated (and subsequently believed) that amorous Gramps had proudly fathered both families. At least their theory did make some sense out of what at first had been a rather confusing riddle.
“The cycle’s being repeated!” my wife moaned. “We’ll have to collar the new ones while they’re still naïve and easy to catch! “Apparently Skip’s cage won’t stay empty for long!”
A week later my wife, J.T. and I re-did our thirty-mile excursion to Mullica Hill but this time with “five furry inmates.” J.T. humorously joked about how we had admirably completed our splendid roundup without ever being reported for animal cruelty to the local SPCA. All throughout the forty-five-minute trip the five imprisoned cats sat mum in Skip’s huge cage resigned to their fate and feeling quite comfortable resting and traveling with their familiar companions. Upon returning to our Hammonton home J.T. had a pleasant surprise in store for Joanne and myself.
“Here’s a little token to fondly remember our spectacular cat escapade!” J.T. said as he very deliberately handed me a sealed envelope.
“Can you give me a vague clue as to its contents?” I genuinely requested.
“Yes, just think of a series of poems written by T.S. Eliot!” our son (who was pursuing a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing at Rowan University) uttered just to intentionally prolong the suspense.
I hastily opened the envelope and much to my elation discovered a rather appropriate gift. “Look Joanne! Tickets for two to see the play Cats now being presented at Philadelphia’s Forrest Theater!”
Jay Dubya (author of 41 books)