Since we moved last month, the cat has been desperate to be an indoor/outdoor cat rather than just an indoor cat. We thought this was a great idea as well: no more catbox, a wider world to explore, maybe less cat hair inside and on us... there were myriad benefits. And, as it turns out, one major drawback we completely overlooked. She went out via her cat door sometime on March 1st to prowl around the neighborhood, and never came back. We didn't really notice on the 2nd until after dinner out, when Pete happened to mention that he hadn't seen her all day, and I realized I hadn't seen her that morning.
We poked around the house - no kitty. We called out the back door - no kitty. We started to get worried and did a more exhaustive search of the house, including the basement, the attic, all the nooks and crannies - no kitty. We walked around the block calling for her as loudly as we dared at 9:30 at night - someone else's kitty, but not ours. We went to bed, despondent, at 10:30, only to both wake up hearing an imaginary cat door around 2 am. I didn't get back to sleep until almost 4 when my brain convinced me that I'd heard her come in and I slept like a baby.
All day on the third I was beside myself with worry and sadness. (You wouldn't believe all the Law & Order, "that's how we knew he was a sociopath" scenarios stored in my brain for just such an occasion.) I had no idea how much I loved that little cat and how important she was to my sense of well-being until she disappeared. All day I was saturated with that low dread in the pit of your stomach that accompanies all terrible inevitabilities that leave you powerless: losing a pet; taking home a letter from your elementary school teacher addressed to your parents in very stern-looking penmanship; accidentally breaking someone else's favorite toy; accidentally deleting a video game save when you're over half way through the game; realizing your computer has melted down and your hard drive is toast, and you never actually got around to backing up your thesis. No amount of crying will help, and worse, it won't even make you feel any better.
We filed lost pet forms with the county and Dove Lewis, Pete went out to Troutdale to look through their books of "pets in our custody" pictures, and I posted an add on Craig's List. When we got home we called and called - no kitty. We made a Lost flier to hang around the neighborhood in the morning, and went to bed. Our depression was rather intense given that cats do this all the time, we had no evidence that she was hurt or killed, she has all her tags and is registered with the county and the Humane Society, and has a microchip. Laundry lay fallow in the washer; dishes sat unrinsed on the countertops... The only things missing from a non-cat-related depression were empty boxes of girl scout cookies surrounded by crumbs and two shlubs in pajamas watching Maury on the couch.
Last night I again didn't get any sleep. Around 3:30 something was drawing me up out of sleep. I thought, "Goddamnit, kitty, shut up!" and then immediately, "Omigod, kitty!" I was up and fully awake like you wouldn't believe. There she was, getting muddy footprints on our comforter and meowing to beat the band. Never were two people so happy to see a cat before. We immediately took out the cat door, which was good, as after eating three bites of food she immediately made for it again. She's about three pounds lighter (which is also probably good) and not as soft and glossy as before, but it's out talkative little kitty home again at last.
We have to figure out how to negotiate this indoor/outdoor thing. I don't know how to communicate to the cat that whether she needs to or not, we need her to come home every night. (It's because she's a cat: not great communicators.) But we'll figure it out. Right now I'm just glad that she made it home safe and sound and there are no little budding sociopaths in the neighborhood (that we know of).