Cats and Critters

I watched Ginger disappear down the driveway headed for his new life in the Southland, and turned back to my house, now empty. No Husband, no cat, all sons grown and gone. It was strange, not having anything or any one to spar with. How would I adjust? What was next?

There was no time even to ponder such heavy topics. Son No. 3 called. “Have I got an offer for you!” Ever the salesman, he continued, “How would you like to have a new kitten? Our neighbor was neglecting it so we did an intervention, but we really can’t add another pet right now, and please, please, don’t you need a cat? You do need a companion.”  Then he added, “It’s a beautiful Maine Coon cat named Natalie.”  Ah, I thought, a girl cat at last!

Ah, no. It seems that after everyone including the animal was happy with Natalie, the local vet announced (what is this, a family thing?) that it was indeed a boy kitty. Sigh. Yes, I will take Natalie, the boy cat. Isn’t he going to be a bit conflicted? Should I call him Natalie-he?

I soon learned he was a cat with an attitude. A royal attitude.  He would sit in my lap, but on his terms. He wanted his water source to be a slight flow from the faucet, if you don’t mind. When I went away for any length of time he would make his disapproval clear by turning his back on me for half a day, minimum. He had full confidence in and understanding of his identity; I need not have worried about any inner conflict. He was certain he was descended from the King of the Jungle.

Life took on a new rhythm as we both, Natalie and I, settled into our changed status.

Church had finished, and with gray skies gloomy above me, I looked forward to a quiet time at home catching up on my reading. The living room of our two story colonial had recently been redone.  Fitted with new paper on the walls, carpet on the floor, reupholstered chairs and especially fine sheers at the windows, it was warm and welcoming even on the grayest of days. As I settled to read, Natalie hung around close by; he was too royal a cat to jump in your lap at first.  He had to prove that he didn’t really need my lap and attention.

Quiet prevailed, disturbed only by his soft purring. Suddenly a thumpety bump followed by a crashing sound and screech brought us with a start to our feet.  In the fireplace behind the screen, a thoroughly dazed squirrel cowered, gathering his wits after falling down the chimney past the baffle plate. Instantly Natalie was on duty, nose to screen, tail switching madly.  He was on point like the best of our hunting dogs, fully focused on this interloper who responded by freezing his position.  We were at a stand off.
 
The question now was, what to do next? It would be impossible for him to get back up the chimney. If I moved the screen, the squirrel would be out of there like a shot and the last thing I wanted was wild life ricocheting around my lovely living room – or the rest of the house, for that matter. Clearly, we had a problem.
 
I called my neighbor for suggestions – no answer. I called the mayor down the street – no answer. Finally I called the fire department, explaining the situation in detail.  “I don’t need sirens and big trucks. Just please send a man who can catch a squirrel in the house.”
 
In short order a large fire truck with lights flashing pulled up in front of the house. Two young fire fighters, dressed in full regalia and large rubber boots came up the walk, empty handed.  “Where is your net? Won’t you be needing a net to catch him?”  My voice was getting a bit tight.  “Oh no, Ma’am, we’ll be able to get him all right. Don’t you worry.”  I was not comforted.
 
With cocky boldness the first man went up to the screen where Natalie was still on duty. “Surely you don’t want to move the screen,” I said, “because he will get loose, and then what?”  “I’ll just get him with my bare hands,” he replied. “Don’t you worry.”
 
He moved the screen. The next few moments were a blur of activity.  The fireman made a lunge for the squirrel, missing him completely. Immediately freed from his prison, the squirrel zipped to his freedom with Natalie right behind him, the two men behind the cat and me wringing my hands, worrying. Seeing daylight behind the sheer curtains, our home invader made a dash for the window. Cat made a dash too, climbing the sheers with his sharp claws.  “Do something!” I yelled. I could envision the curtains being torn to shreds. One of the men grasped awkwardly at the squirrel behind the curtain, hoping to capture him in the cloth.  “That’s the very thing I was afraid of,” I groused in exasperation.
 
Suddenly the squirrel managed to maneuver past lunging hands and guarding cat, streaking out of the living room, into the front hall and up the stairs. The chase was on. Natalie moved faster than I had ever known him to do, definitely faster than the two boot-laden firemen.  I stood there listening to the thump and thunder of feet going through the upstairs hall.  Our home had a back staircase as well as the formal stairs in the front; it led down to the kitchen which was at the back of the house. From there you could take a lower hall past the little office/den back to the living room.  
 
The commotion continued.  I stood at the foot of the stairs and then looked into the living room noticing the door to the side porch just to the left of the fireplace.  Aha! If we could just get him to see real daylight…  Opening the porch door, I put the slider in place to keep it open and returned to the hall.  A grey streak zoomed toward me from the kitchen, paused a split second, saw the open door and was gone.  Natalie was next, tearing around the corner.  When he saw the squirrel was gone, he sat down as if nothing at all had just happened.  Making their appearance last, here came the two men down the back stairs working their way to the front.  
 
“He’s gone!”  I walked over to shut the porch door, thinking to myself, no thanks to you.
 
“Yes, Ma’am, that’s good,” the first man said as they headed to the front door.  “If you ever need our help again, just give us a call!”

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