The poet Burns wrote memorably about the best laid schemes of mice and men, which is that they gang aft agley. Truer words were never written. More than once have I set out with the best possible scheme laid out neatly before myself like an army cot, just to find myself moments later mid-agley, ganged and afted like the most unfortunate fieldmouse or drunkest Scottish poet.
Burns may have said nothing about the schemes of women and kitties, which is why my wife has pursued her latest venture with unmitigated optimism. It began maybe six weeks ago when we were coming back from the DQ and saw a tabby cat relaxing on our front steps. Since we have a tabby cat (Bertie), our initial thought was that Bertram had simply gotten out. (He tries that sometimes, and it’s probably amusing to the neighbors to see the two of us plodding about the yard trying to corral him as he runs and leaps about like a miniature striped gazelle. I should mention we live in the city, on a busy street, and have a firm indoor cat policy. The cats are only allowed out in their play pen or on a harness.)
We pulled into the driveway, which is around back, and my wife ran around to the front to grab the tabby cat on the steps. I went inside and saw Bertie lounging by the window. Clearly he wasn’t also outside, I concluded. I scored very high on the logic portion of my GRE, you see. I went out front and saw neither tabby cat nor wife–both had vanished. I wandered in and out and around for a while, wondering if I should call the police. Maybe kidnappers were luring unsuspecting women using kitties.
It finally turned out that my wife had followed the cat across the street to a fenced in vacant lot across the street, a miniature wilderness about 40 feet long and 20 feet wide we know is home to raccoons and other creatures. The cat must live there too, we reasoned. We couldn’t find her in the scrub, though.
Over the next few weeks, the stray became a familiar sight. We would see her streaking across the street, or digging treats out of the dumpster of the restaurant next door. My wife’s heart melted, and she decided she’d do whatever she could to help the poor thing.
What she could initially involved a Havahart trap and some kibble. The food disappeared a couple of times without the door slamming shut, but on the third day I peered out the window early in the morning and saw a restless kitty pacing (as best she could) in the small confines of the cage. My wife dropped me off at work and came back to get the kitty (the Humane Society doesn’t open until 9). We thought we’d have the cat go through the vet screening while we talked about adoption.
Well, this is where things ganged a tad agley. The vets there told my wife within seconds that our timid little trapee was a recent mother, and was currently nursing. My wife’s options were letting the kittens fend for themselves or releasing the mom back where we found her. It broke my wife’s heart, but she decided to let the cat go. She tried carrying the cat around at first, on a harness, hoping to find the kittens, but failed (and was bit in the process… requiring a round of rabies shots, which aren’t as bad as they once were, but are certainly no fun.) Now, Lucy is a gentle little lamb of a cat, but being trapped, caged, prodded, harnessed, and carried around all day presumably got to her. My theory is that she got close enough to the kittens for maternal instincts to kick in, and she really wanted to get away.
We have since been monitoring Lucy’s progress, putting out bowls of food and water for her. Lucy (Which is her name, now) now comes by daily, even meowing at the door to ask if my wife can come out and play. When Lucy sees me, she runs about 8 feet away, then turns and looks at me reproachfully. She is such a sad little thing. We are dangerously close to becoming 7-cat family! (My wife has used the best logic to ascertain that Lucy has three kittens, so we’d be adding 4 cats to the 3 we already have.)
We’re going to go searching for the kittens again today. We’ll see if such schemes bring joy to cats and wives, or end in the grief and pain the Bard of Ayrshire warns us of.