Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The unexpected houseguest

Monday I was working outside, and it was one of those days where I had to shuttle between what I was doing and the tool chest in my basement, looking for the right wrench.

I came in on one of those trips only to see a neighborhood cat, a gray tabby, strolling out of my bedroom. The open door to my back deck had been an irresistible invitation to this curious kitty. When he saw me he panicked. I was between him and the door so he dashed down the stairs and into my basement. I looked for him but didn't see him. I figured I'd just leave the back door open and he'd come up, see it was OK to go out and he'd leave.

I never saw him go out, so I wasn't sure he was clear of the house. I eventually got my project done and closed the sliding glass door. That night I conducted several searches of the basement. If you're like me you have a whole bunch of stuff in your basement, and hundreds of places for a cat to hide.

Here's what I learned about cats from a feline expert on National Public Radio. When a cat is scared or feels threatened it will head for the nearest safe-looking spot. It might be under a bush or under your house. His instinct is telling him he's in danger and the way he handles it is to become completely still and quiet so an enemy can't find him. You can walk up and down the street calling for Murgatroyd, when Murgatroyd is under the bush by your back door.

So late last night I was getting ready for bed when I walked into the upstairs hallway and there stood the tabby, who immediately took off again for the basement. This time I got smart. I figured he'd been in my house without food or water for over 24 hours. I took a dish of cat food downstairs. Sure enough, he had his head stuck out of a space, less than 12", from the roof of my downstairs bathroom to the basement ceiling. Aha. If I was a cat that's where I'd want to hide, all right. I held the dish up to his nose and as soon as he smelled it he was out of his hidey-hole, down the wall and following me to the door. I put the dish down and as soon as he stuck his muzzle in it I went back in and closed the door.

Now the problem is since he'd been in the house all those hours he's peed and pooped, and if it's in that 12" space where I can't get, well...I guess I'll find out when I start smelling something in my basement.

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