The Doctor Cat’s Less-Than-Excellent Adventure

To begin with the happy ending: very grubby Doc ate a little chicken and is falling asleep hard.

To begin at the beginning, at about 6am New Year’s Day Doc and Sextus tore through the room madly rampaging, I think with rodent attendant, and tore out again. Then I didn’t see Doc again all day.

By about 3 I started to worry a little, because at the very least, the boy doesn’t skip meals. But I had fed the front and back porch ferals so he could have just eaten outside. By dinnertime, though, I was frankly worried, and began calling him

And calling him.

With traffic noises, and airplanes, and people walking by, and people washing dishes in apartments, it can be difficult to tell whether or not you hear anything. So I called him at 6pm, and at 8, and 10. Tom and I both though we heard him, very faintly, somewhere in the yard next door where all the constuction is. I dug up the developer guy’s number to try to get into the house I thought it might be coming from, but it ends up he was off in North Carolina (1am, woops). His workmen would be there in the morning though.

So we keep trying. At midnight we both thought we heard him, faintly. And I discovered that our tenants’ cat was also missing. well, Not really missing. they could see her in the window of an apartment in the house behind us. I went and checked, but she clearly was saying MEW in a squeeky voice, while Doc says MEROWL in a baritone. So I kept calling at midnight, and 3am.

At 7:45am the contractor turned up next door, and let us in to search for him in both the main house and the carriage house, no sign in either. So back to the basic neighborhood search. we were still intermittently hearing something very faint which might be a cat.

Finally, growing somewhat bolder about intruding upon other people’s spaces in the daylight, I went through a closed (but not locked) gate that passed by a gated basement door, and heard him clearly for the first time. That door was a metal grate behind glass, so I could see a long, empty hallway. And hear my cat.

To the right, there was an apartment window. I could see into a tiny apartment. I called, but he didn’t come to the window. I went back to the door and could hear him. The hallway was a very-Berkeley landlord conversion thing. What had once been basement storage space had been retrofitted to apartments and a laundry room. The wall by the door was clearly a late addition, and had lots of pipes running into the top of it. And that’s where Doc was.

Much hilarity ensued. The management company had a phone number, so I called and arranged for my new friend Alexis to come by and let me in. He sounded dubious about the whole thing. I sent Tom off to buy a chicken, for cat-attracting purposes. I rang all the tenants to get let in, because I wanted to actually confirm where Doc was before there was an impatient guy to deal with as well. Number 7 let me in, and helped me find the basement. Luckily she heard Doc yelling at me, because when Alexis turned up Doc wouldn’t make a peep. On Number 7’s word, Alexis agreed to send over his maintenance guys to make a hole for the cat (cost $100) – soon. He’d call.

So we headed home to feed Other Cats. David and Allyssa (our tenants) reported on the return of their cat and to let us know Doc hadn’t been in with her. Cos they are Swell people. Then there was a slight mix-up when Alexis called but the answer phone picked up and he didn’t think to leave a message. I’d gone upstairs to make sure Sextus was – as I thought – upstairs napping. I worried because he’d followed us around all morning, and I didn’t want him getting into trouble. I heard the phone ring, and ran for it, but they’d hung up when I got there. Le Sigh.

Which was basically the beginning of a Three Stooges episode. I called Alexis’ wife when I’d missed the call, and eventually Alexis called me back, to tell me the guys were already over there. So we immediately ran over. They had finished knocking a hole in the bottom of the wall, and said “No cat there, he must have gotten out already.” When I made exceedingly unlikely noises about this possibility, one of them poked his head in the hole, first said, “Nope, no cat.” Then he looked up, and said, “Oh, there he is, up in the pipes.”

So I got on the floor and was looking, and saying, “Hey I don’t think he can get down, I think we need a hole where he actually is.” At which point The Guys just took off. So I called Alexis’s number again, and spoke to my new friend his wife again, explaining that the cat was still in the wall because it couldn’t reach their hole. So she took the message, and we waited. And met Mr. Apartment B, who is a grad student in German, and knows people we know, and was quite helpful and nice – also perhaps not wanting a dying cat in his wall? I got a flashlight and studied Doc’s position closely, and figured out how he could be gotten out.

Apparently Doc had initially become trapped in the basement hallway. Perhaps someone had left the gate open and then later it shut, trapping him. And it being New Year’s Day, and term being out, the building was relatively empty.
No one noticed a yowling cat. Being a Bright Boy, Doc noticed the gaps in the sheetrock at the ceiling level, where the pipes went through, and perhaps thought they would take him through the walls and outside. The mesh gate was right there, and he could have climbed it. However he reached it, he behind tufts of floof on a rough spot on the pipes on his way through. But inside the wall there were many, many pipes, all very close together, and Doc is a good-sized kitty.

Imagine your childhood climbing structure. Now make it have two, maybe three times as many bars, so close together your head can barely fit through them. These are mostly just vertical, but there are a few horizontal pieces, something like your full-body length, or more, apart. Just enough of them that you couldn’t just  slide to the bottom. Doc was crammed in between the vertical pipes, held in an upright position, with his back feet on a horizontal pipe perhaps an inch in diameter. He couldn’t get past this horizontal pipe to get to the bottom where the new hole was, and he couldn’t get back through the original hole, because he couldn’t climb far enough up from that single horizontal support. I can’t even guess how he managed to turn around to get his head upwards. I have no idea how long he was stuck in there. I could see him trembling.

I developed a plan. Since Moe and Larry hadn’t come back yet, and since I figured I could probably do anything they could. and since I would have the additional benefit of actually doing what I thought needed to be done, instead of whatever their primal doofus brains think is a good idea, I decided to Go For It. Since we were still waiting for The Guys, I went off and fetched a small saw. And since we were still waiting for The Guys, I carefully sawed through the sheetrock on either side of Doc, and had Tom (who has big strong hands) break it off horizontally. Twice, and then I had it far enough down that I could see Doc’s head.

At that point Alexis the manager came by, sans The Guys, and was actually amazed to see The Cat In The Wall – having clearly come by, instead of The Guys,  in order to deal with the crazies. I don’t think he was terribly happy with the new hole in the wall, though my job was smaller and neater than the Guys’ since they had just bashed in a hole with a hammer. Maybe he will come after us for more money for damages, or maybe he won’t. I think he was prepared to be Quite Crabby until Doc’s head came in view. Doc has that effect on people.

After that, it was just a matter of talking to Doc until he shifted so that I could grab enough cat to get him out of there. This was a little complicated by the fact that I am only 5’5 and the hole was actually a little over my head. So that took a while. Tom went off to get a step ladder, because Doc likes Tom, but I am MOM. I kept talking to Doc. Doc was deep into traumatized cat space, which uses a different part of their little brains, so it was hard to get him calm enough to approach me. But he finally did, and I got a hand on each side of his shoulders and just tugged. It wasn’t as smooth as it might have been if I were taller, and luckily he doesn’t seem to be injured, so I got him out of there: cold, dusty and stiff. I settled my hold on him, and started for home. When I reached back and shut the gate, Doc just EXPLODED out of my arms, and headed home on his own. I think that gate is now A Bad Thing, a Kitty Room 101. I met Tom with the ladder on my way home, and Doc arrived at the kitchen right with us.

Doc is only just coming out of trauma mode now, maybe an hour later, having already crashed and woken up three times. The first time I left him flattened on the floor, and went upstairs to fetch Sextus, thinking having his buddy around might help. I picked up Sextus, and met Doc on his way up the staircase, hollering. Evidently I am NOT allowed to go away yet. The second time he fell asleep on the rug, in mid-groom.  The last time he came to find me in my usual couch spot, and stretched out, and purred. He’s my boy.

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31 responses to this post.

  1. Holy crap. My heart is in my mouth and I am exhausted just hearing this story.
    I just want to collapse in a heap. It is unbelievable that you could hear him and find him and get people on the phone. It’s just astounding.

    I am so so so so so glad, Lauo. I will definitely share this story with Ashlee. Oh, cats, dear cats, please stay home.

    Reply

  2. We are all a little limp at this point.
    Doc is asleep with his head on my knee, with mad REM stuffs.
    Every few minutes he stretches and resettles.

    Reply

  3. Murray has put on close to three pounds since they found him. He lost over five pounds. It was truly a wonder the boy survived.
    I still can’t believe you located the Doc.
    I need to take a pill. How do you spell “relief”?

    Reply

  4. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!!!!!!!!!! thank you for letting us know up-front that all is well now. SO upsetting! Traumatizing for cats and attendant humans.

    Poor Doc. PTSD-ish for a while, I guess. And poor you, too. But hooray for OK outcomes.
    (((((((((gentle hugs for all))))))))))

    Reply

  5. Glad everything turned out okay. I’d say, “And that’s why our cats are house cats” … but they find places in their own house to get themselves “lost.”

    Reply

    • I had a cat who found a hole in the sheetrock, and would go and hang out inside the walls of the bathtub.
      She had kittens in there.
      It was very odd.
      You’d put your ears underwater, and hear tiny squeaks.
      But she could get in and out okay.

      Doc just has an extra dose of ridiculous adventurer cat.
      (She says, contemplating indoor catness.)

      Reply

      • Murray was begging to go back outside about a week after they brought him home. Needless to say he hasn’t been let out yet.

        Reply

      • Our macho tom cat (well, he was a tom without the balls, ahem) used to enjoy hiding in the crawlspace under our dining room. The first time we heard him meowing down there, we flew into a panic and my husband got cobwebs all over himself crawling around, trying to catch the cat. Then we realized the little turd liked it down there and didn’t want to be rescued. So the crawlspace became his catcave or whatever cats call their favorite hiding spot. Doc however is a very lucky boy to have been found and rescued by his Mom. I hope he learned his lesson and will stay home where there are roast chicken and laps to sit on.

        Reply

  6. Poor Doc! Why do I think that he’ll be raring to go back out (if not to Teh Ebil Place) as soon has he catches up on his sleep?

    This is why my kitties stay in. My heart couldn’t take it.

    Have you cleaned some of the grunge off the tired boy?

    Reply

    • He took a brief break from napping to go steal the feral’s food.
      So yeah, the boy is still an idiot.

      I’m not working on the grub until he gets more rest.
      He ate chicken and cheddar and the feral’s food.
      And is sleeping again.
      I don’t know which of us will recover first.

      Reply

  7. oh, Doc. he couldn’t have a better Mom and Dad

    Reply

  8. Posted by Brown Suga' on January 2, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    OMG. Poor Doc. Good thing you persisted in your efforts to locate him!

    Reply

  9. What an astounding rescue. If I ever get lost, Lauo, I want you on the case.

    Reply

  10. If I ever get stuck in a wall, I know who I’m calling!

    Poor Doc! Hope he gets his equilibrium back soon.

    Reply

    • I think he’s got it back.
      He went out to pee, and came back with a small rat.
      Le Sigh.

      btw, I haven’t seen a caught bird for years, my guys are all rodent catchers.
      I suspect it’s because they have a lot available.
      Again, sigh.

      Reply

      • Posted by aubrey on January 8, 2012 at 5:47 pm

        The rat was clearly a gift of gratitude. It’s an odd currency, but cats expect one to Understand and Accept. Questions are not an option.

        The sprawled feathers of a destroyed bird are traumatic to see. Boyfriend has spied a dove couple in his garage, and there are cats roaming his neighborhood. I do worry.

        Bottomline – glad your boy is back.

        Reply

  11. Posted by geologywoman on January 3, 2012 at 1:32 am

    I am so glad he came out pretty much okay! How stressful and some people just do not get it – this impatient guy for example. It’s not the holidays without some sort of crisis, it does seem in our lives to be as such.

    Reply

  12. *eyeroll*
    And a big laugh at “He went out to pee and came back with a small rat.”
    Do goldfish and cats have the same 3 second memory?
    Or was he saying in a Scarlet voice “With God as my witness I’ll never be hongree agin.” ?
    *laugh*

    Reply

  13. Aww, poor Doc. So glad you got him home safe and sound. *hugs* and *purrs* to all

    Reply

  14. Egads! I’m glad your purrrrsistence paid off! 😉

    Reply

  15. Wow, what an ordeal! I’m so glad that everything turned out ok. Doc, don’t get yourself stuck anymore!

    Reply

  16. Glad all is well. Don’t think Doc would settle for being an Inside Cat, though. Hungry would never have settled for that! Although I suspect Sonja and Karma might have loved it, they never got the chance.

    Damn walls and sheetrock and pipes, anyway!

    Reply

  17. We had a similar situation when we live in Maine. Housemate”s kitten got trapped beneath the floorboards of a gigantic Victorian house. What a fun two days that was! Great description of the Three Stooges moments. Glad all is well.

    Reply

  18. Holy Shit!!!! That is not a Happy New Year incident, thought it ended well. And pshaw about holes in sheetrock. Easy to fix. In fact, so easy to fix, shame on whoever left the whole in the wall in the first place. They got lucky it was a sweet kitty with a worried mama who got trapped in there. Imagine if some possum had done the same thing and they’d had to extract that!

    Reply

    • I am now trying VERY HARD not to imagine possums in my walls.
      EEK.
      (I have possums on the back porch again, what with having to feed Wolfie and Yellow-Kitty-In-The-Basement out there.
      I do not want pet possums, plz.

      Reply

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