For the past few months our beloved cat, Portia, who is anywhere between 14 and 16 years old, has had a few medical problems. She is on steroids to control inflammation within her nasal passages, and another drug to control an over-active thyroid. She is a good girl and although she doesn't enjoy the pill-taking process, she does enjoy the slices of chicken or ham which follow; indeed she looks forward to them. She is not obviously ill and enjoys food, play, food, curiosity, food, and is fairly active during the day. Oh, and did I mention food?
So when she went out at about 3 pm yesterday we thought little of it. By 5 pm Portia hadn't returned for her customary snack but it was a warm afternoon and experience has shown that she doesn't "do" heat, so apart from remarking on her absence we took little notice. When she had failed to put in an appearance by 6.30 we knew something was wrong and began a local search. Neighbours were approached and searches were made of gardens, garages and houses. We learned that on at least one occasion Portia had entered a neighbour's house during our kitchen installation and had spent the afternoon on their small daughter's bed! What an education it would be if cats could recount their daily adventures to us mere mortals!
At this point there are two things to bear in mind. First, Portia wears a collar with a bell. The collar also has an attachment to operate the cat-flap. The bell is sensitive and sounds distinctively whenever she moves. Second, we live in the middle of a wood and in some parts the undergrowth is very dense at this time of year. Knowing that Portia has never ventured far from home we began a methodical search of the wood calling all the while in hopes of either seeing her or inducing movement to activate the bell. Nothing. Our Number Two Son and his wife arrived to assist, but despite widening the search the failing light eventually defeated us and we returned home somewhat dejected.
Earlier in the search The Wife had rung the local branch of the Cats Protection League to enquire if they had perhaps received a cat fitting Portia's description, and left a message on the answerphone. We decided to do a final sweep before retiring to bed, so armed with torches we plunged again into the wood. As diligent a search as possible in the circumstances was made, hoping to find any trace, but again nothing. Most of the neighbourhood had retired by this time and we would not have been surprised if the police had received reports of strange ghostly goings-on in the woods by torchlight! Our gloom had increased by the time we again returned home determining to resume on the morrow armed with sticks with which to search the undergrowth. It was now 11.30 pm. The Wife and I sat dejectedly trying to map out a strategy for the next day, when suddenly the cat-flap operated and in bounded Portia, tail fat, yelling for food and water, and a look of recrimination in her eye that clearly blamed us for her absence!