In 2009, we adopted a cat from the local humane society. She was an 18-month-old tabby who was rescued with her kittens. She came with the name Kendra, and we decided not to change it, as it was clear she had a lot of uncertainty in the beginning of her life. The least we could do was let her keep her name. She was a sweet girl who had trouble adjusting to us at first.
But she did eventually settle down, and we slowly all got used to each other. We wanted her to be an indoor cat. She clearly preferred to be outdoors in good weather, and we reluctantly agreed to her demands after she peed on the couch. We are easily persuaded by urine, apparently.
Over next few years, she became more affectionate. She slept with us at night. She’d come for treats and even let the kids pet her gently. It seemed like everything was going well.
But the noise and chaos of our two-kid, three-pet household was not always easy for her.
She’d stay out all night in the summer. Once she was gone for three weeks, then sauntered through the door one morning like she’d never left. I suspected she had another family, because she wasn’t hungry, thirsty or hurt when she came back.
So when she was gone for several days when in July, I wasn’t particularly worried. In fact, it wasn’t until we hit about five weeks of not seeing her that I started to get concerned.
I put up flyers in the neighborhood. I went to the pound. I put a posting on Craigslist. People called. Other cats were found. No Kendra.
I have an active imagination. My brain thought of many things that could have happened to her, none of them pleasant. We were worried.
A neighbor mentioned in passing that we should try the retirement community that is on the other side of his fence. We thought this was a good idea, since it bordered her “territory.” And even though it’s about 1 mile drive to get there from our house — due to the odd whims of our city street planners — to a cat who can climb a fence, it’s basically right next door.
We put up more flyers on the mailboxes. Eventually someone called. “I think I’ve seen a cat that looks like yours.” The description matched, so we drove around and realized this little pocket of the retirement community had its own mailbox that we missed the first time. We made more flyers. We posted them on Tuesday morning.
Tuesday evening, we got the call.
The lady on the phone was elderly, and she had been feeding a cat like ours for almost three months. We were excited. We raced over there with the kids in tow.
It was Kendra. After almost three months, she was living the life of luxury on this lady’s porch.
Our excitement at finding her was quickly quelled when we realized that we were so close to our house, there was no way she was lost. And she had been free to roam the area, never going inside the lady’s home at all.
She wasn’t lost. She left.
The kids did not take this well. Tears were shed. But it was clear to us that as soon as we took her home, she’d simply pop over the fence at the next opportunity.
She made her choice. She wanted to stay.
It’s hard not to feel rejected. It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for ourselves, even though I said, more than once during those months we thought she was lost, that all I wanted is to know what happened to her.
It turns out knowing what happened to her wasn’t quite as reassuring as I thought it would be.
I dropped off her cat bed and some toys the next day. I saw Kendra one more time, cautiously watching me from afar as I handed over all her vet paperwork to the elderly lady.
“Don’t worry,” I told her. “I’m not going to take you away.”
It turns out something we thought was lost was actually found all along.