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Sense and Nonsense: Looking far and wide, then high above, to find lost feline

September 25, 2012

By Lynda Hollenbeck

Something happened recently to make me think of the day we lost a cat named Murphy.
The cat had been strictly an indoor animal for some time, though he was a rescue and previously had roamed freely — near the Courier office.
That was, in fact, what caused him to come to our house in the first place. He had had an unfortunate encounter with a vehicle and his injuries and subsequent surgery meant he could no longer be free and easy.
On the day of his disappearance, my late spouse was convinced Murphy had gotten out accidentally and he truly was worried that something bad had happened to him.
This may sound strange to people who haven't had cats as pets, but it was a legitimate concern for us, for several reasons.
He had already lost a tail as a result of his previous unfortunate experience. He didn't need to test another of his lives.
The missing cat already had proven it had no street sense, but that's pretty much true for any pet at our house. Others may fare well when allowed to roam the outdoors, but not ours.
Our street is a modified race track for a certain segment of the populace. The single block is just long enough for drivers so inclined to rev up their engines and test their speed.
"I didn't see him go out, but he probably got out when I was taking some things to my car," Ed speculated.
There were times when Ed was successful in enticing a feline runaway back into the safety of the house, but most of the time I had to become involved. This appeared to be one of those times.
When I could take a break from the office, I went home to participate in the search. I looked in all of the usual spots — adjacent yards, our shrubery, etc. — believing he'd be close by. I was wrong. I looked everywhere, but no Murphy did I find.
To make a long story short, or literally to cut to the chase, I eventually found the cat. He was quite safe, but was somewhere we'd never have thought to look for him.
I had stood out on the front porch and in the process my eyes turned upward. And there I beheld him in the weirdest place — high on a corner ledge just under the porch's vaulted ceiling.
"Murphy!" I said. "Why are you up there?"
I don't know if I expected him to give me a detailed explanation. The responses I received were a weak "meow" (he never meowed loudly) and a smug expression that could have been translated to "I fooled you, I fooled you."
I went into the house to enlighten Ed on the cat's whereabouts. He was amazed that Murphy would get up on that perch, which couldn't be comfortable, much less remain there for hours, which he did.
For the next few days, we continued to find him in that lofty spot. When he got tired of it, he stopped doing it just as suddenly as he started it.
What else can I say, except he's a cat. He did it because he was a cat and he could.
Murphy continued to occupy the upper ledge as his resting place for several days. Then when he grew tired of it, he stopped and and that was the end of that.
I guess I could say he became a second-story cat for a while, then retired. (The pun was intended.)
It's rare for a cat to come when beckoned by its owner, but that doesn't come as a surprise to most people. Someone explained the difference between a dog and a cat in this way. Call a dog and it can't get to you fast enough. Call a cat and the response could be: "Take a message. I'll get back to you later."
There's a lot of truth there, but for those of us who like cats, I have to say it's part of their charm.
Most cats don't wag their tails either, but they have their redeeming points. Would we really have wanted the feline to be a clone of the canine? I don't think so.
Occasionally, you'll meet a cat who will respond immediately when called by name. The late J.D. Hollenbeck would have done a complete about-face when I called his name, no matter what he was doing or where he was headed.
He was unique in catdom, I concede, but the accounts of his response are documented in the family.
My favorite cat-responding-when-called-by-name incident occurred several years ago with the late Katie Hollenbeck. She was asleep, unseen, on a kitchen chair, which was pushed under the table.
I walked into the kitchen and called her in the musical form I often did — using a parody of an old song: "Where's Katie? Where's K-K-K-Katie?" Immediately, one paw shot up into the air from her secluded space.
It was as if she said, "Here I am." She didn't make a sound, nor did she relocate. It was just a raised paw to show she was accounted for and on duty.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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