Pluto, our beloved cat and friend, disappeared.
We had someone spend the day in our home on Monday, rewiring and reconfiguring our internet for increased speed, and that sent Pluto and his brother, Tobi, into hiding, as it always days.
Both cats are afraid of nearly everyone except immediate family.
When the work was complete and the technician left, Tobi returned from his hiding spot in the basement, but Pluto did not. I waited all night for him to reemerge, worried about why he was taking so long to come out of hiding. Around midnight, I finally found him in the basement, hiding in the back of a cabinet adjacent to a tiny, cat-sized crawl space into the wall. With some coaxing, he returned to the first floor for a bit and sat beside me before I finally went to bed.
But the next morning, he failed to reappear when I came downstairs to feed him and his brother. Both cats always greet me as I climb out of bed every morning, waiting for their morning meal, meowing for me to hurry up, but Pluto was nowhere to be found. As the day rolled on, he was still missing. We had a furnace technician come into the house for the annual service on our boiler, which probably frightened him again, but after that technician left, Pluto once again failed to emerge.
I conducted a complete search of the basement, including sticking my head into crawl spaces that only the cats can traverse. Charlie and Elysha conducted similar searches throughout the day. A new hole had been made in the drywall by the internet technician, so I tried to follow that new crawl space, worried that he may have somehow become trapped in the walls.
I waited and worried all day long.
The last time Pluto went missing like this, we eventually found him unconscious in the litter box. By the time he and I arrived at the veterinary hospital, he was not breathing and his heart has stopped beating. Miraculously, the doctor performed CPR on Pluto and brought him back to life. She discovered that stones had collected in his urethra, sending his potassium level skyrocketing and stopping his heart.
Gender reassignment surgery guaranteed that this would never happen again, but when cats are ill, they hide, and our home has plenty of crawl spaces in which to hide. My fear was that Pluto was either sick or injured and would eventually die in the walls of our home. Nearly 24 hours had passed since he had been seen, which meant he had already gone a full day without food or water.
I was panicked.
Then Elysha reached out to a Facebook group populated by women who attended Smith College who also love cats.
A little niche, I know, but Elysha loves those ladies. It’s one of those good reasons for Facebook to still exist:
Good people gathering to share and discuss happy things.
Several of the ladies informed Elysha that their especially anxious cats had been known to disappear for 2-3 days after a stressful episode. Since our internet technician spent a long time in the basement, cutting holes in the walls and running wire, perhaps Pluto was still panicked about his encounter.
I doubted it. I was almost certain that he was hurt or sick or already dead, but it at least gave me hope.
Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption once said, “Hope is a good thing, maybe best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
I hoped Andy was right, both about hope and my furry friend.
So I went to bed with a heavy heart, finding sleep almost impossible. These cats… they nestle in the center of your heart, and the thought that one might be suffering or worse destroys me every time. They bring me so much joy on a daily basis, but even a hint of illness or a momentary inability to find one sends me spiraling.
I tossed and turned for a couple hours, unable to sleep, until I could no longer toss and turn. A cat was lying across my legs. I hoped it was Pluto but knew it was Tobi. He sleeps on my legs often. Still, I offered up a little prayer and peaked.
It was Tobi, staring back at me in the dark.
Pluto was on the other side of the bed, lying against Elysha’s legs, also staring back at me.
You don’t realize the amount of fear and anxiety that has built up inside you until the reason for that fear evaporates. Lying in the dark, in my bed, I wept. Eventually Pluto came across to my side of the bed and took up his customary position against my chest. A second later, he was purring.
Thank goodness for those Smithy cat lovers. The smidgen of hope that they offered meant the world to me. The possibility, however unlikely I thought it to be, that Pluto might simply reemerge from the basement in a day or two sustained me. Truly, it allowed me to move forward with a modicum of sanity.
Andy Dufresne was right. “Hope is a good thing, maybe best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Pluto is sitting in the chair beside me as I write these words. He’s purring again. The big bad internet man is gone. Once again, he feels happy and safe.
When I awoke Elysha last night to tell her about Pluto’s return, she was just as relieved as me. Then she said, “Remember this the next time he goes missing. Okay?”
A kind thought, but a ridiculous one, too.
These cats, like our cats, Jack and Owen, and our dog, Kaleigh, before them, nestle themselves in the center of my heart, and no logic will get around that worry when one of them goes missing for a day or more.
But next time I’ll have some hope, at least. It’s not a lot, but in times of fear and panic, it’s also everything.