so, while staying with kirsty in edinburgh, i offered to look after her kitten - fitz, while she went home to dundee for christmas. ordinarily, you know me to not be a cat person, but fitz is the type of cat that doesn't demand a lot of attention, is kind of daft-but-funny, and who just sort of gets on with it. he's an indoor cat, but definitely not a lap cat. in fact, i've never heard him purr.
plus, i knew rebekah would love to have a cat for christmas, so it was decided. kirsty bundled him up in his carrier box and brought him round to the flat before heading off on christmas eve, for three nights in our care. as soon as he arrived, he was curious. he looked in every nook and cranny, jumped on every surface, scratched and sniffed at every thing, just to get a feel for the place. as any dis-placed animal would, i suppose. after kirsty left though, his behaviour changed.
he started panting. and when he wasn't panting, he was mewing. like, it was an uncomfortable amount of mewing. the internet offered all kinds of advice on cats in new homes, and suggested his actions were fairly normal. even kirsty wasn't bothered about it, so we kind of... left him to it. later that night, two more friends arrived from london, and his curiosity turned to terror from all the hustle and bustle, and he hid under the sofa for the rest of the night. no more mewing though, so that was something.
during christmas day's wild antics of breakfast prep, present destroying, dinner prep, and sofa dwelling type activities, we barely saw him. he stayed under the sofa, coming out for a touch of leftovers and a drink when needed, but mostly he stayed put. see? a cat who needs no attention is one i like. thing is, he's only a kitten - i'd had thought he would be a little more boisterous than this. again, the internet (and kirsty) gave us no reason for alarm, so that was that. he had woken us up early on that day with mewing and door scratching, so that night we decided to leave the bedroom doors open so he could come and go as he pleased.
other than a paw to the face at seven am and him making himself welcome on my head while i slept, it seemed to do the job. he was mostly quiet that morning, and i literally did not see him after that for hours. the girls did though, and there was hard evidence of his existence; snap stories with him, instagrams of him, i had heard him at one point - we knew he was around.
after lunch, the girls went out and left me to watch my stories in the dry and warmth of the flat. without checking, i had assumed fitz was still under the sofa, and just cracked on with my tv watching. a few hours later, bex returned from the outside and joined me on the sofa for a bit. a while later still, she was in the other room when it hit me that i hadn't ~heard the cat in hours. the whole time they'd been gone, i hadn't so much as heard a paw scratch the wooden floor boards, or his daft tail brush up against the cords underneath the sofa. so i looked. i couldn't immediately see him, so i grabbed my phone, turned the torch on, and got down on my belly to have a proper look. nope, not there. i pulled the wicker baskets out from under the telly - another place he was known to hide. nope. not there either.
and instantly, i panicked. i went into bex's room to see if she had him. she didn't. "he's not under the sofa" i said, voice shaking. she stopped what she was doing and looked back at me in the mirror, thinking the same thing i had been thinking - he's got out. the daft beast has got out.
we tore the flat apart. looked in cupboards and under chairs and inside light fittings. we looked in the stairwell, and made that stupid noise you make when trying to lure a cat. we looked ~inside the sofa, in case his tiny opposable thumbs somehow managed to unzip the fabric lining and he'd managed to crawl inside. we checked for loose floorboards. we double checked in beds and under pillows and inside suitcases. we spent hours pulling the flat apart before considering he might have left the building.
he's an inside cat, and it was wet out. he wouldn't know where he was, or what to do, so we figured he would't have gone far. we grabbed our coats and headed to the street. we looked in bushes and under cars. and when i say we looked under cars, what i mean is that i got down on my belly, in the rain, in the freezing cold night, and looked under every car on the street with my torch for this cat. at this point, not because i cared about him, but because i cared about kirsty, and he was my responsibility. we spent half an hour or so making that noise on the street before rebekah decided he might have tried to go home - that he might have hated us so much that he'd walk home in the rain - despite not knowing where the fuck he was or where the fuck he came from, so we walked to kirsty's. in the rain. at six at night.
i mean, he wasn't there. of course he wasn't there. but i think what we were actually grateful of was the fact he also wasn't flat on the street anywhere. he was nowhere. he had vanished.
we trudged back to the flat, shaking and scared, and regrouped on the floor in the hallway. desperate, we googled numbers and facebook pages for missing cats. it was boxing day, so all we could do was leave messages, hoping someone would get back to us with some information. whatever we were doing, it was procrastination for me calling kirsty to tell her i'd lost her wee pal. i'd been avoiding doing it since the moment i realised he was gone. finger on button, i sat in the lounge, ready to make the call when suddenly rebekah yelled out from the kitchen "he's in the fucking cupboard!"
i dropped the phone and ran to find the dustiest, scarediest kitten you've ever seen. his eyes were wide, his ears were alert, and when i grabbed him off rebekah, his tiny heart was beating so fast inside his shaking body, that he let himself be cuddled by the two people he'd wanted no affection from in days.
i'd checked that cupboard. twice. he was not in it when i looked. so we investigated: the back of the cupboard had one board missing, and was open to the bones of the flat. exposed plumbing lines and kitchen pipes and a whole lots of dust could be seen, and not a lot else. but...how did he get in? we checked under the cupboards. nothing. next to the cupboards. nope. and then it dawned on us: the washing machine. we had used the washing machine earlier in the day, and he was curious. we ~obviously made sure to not let him inside it, because, not murderers, but there was a cat-sized gap next to the machine that would have also lead to the exposed wall. he'd obviously crawled in to have a look, then either got stuck, or found some mice to play with, but either way, he wasn't bothered about us.
in all our calling his name in the flat, he not once made a sound. no cries, no mewing, not a peep. not a scratch. so he clearly was having a fine time without us, but man alive did we instantly put a stop to any future hiding by blocking up the gap and not letting the little sonofabitch out of our sight again. for the rest of the night, the cat stayed in my presence. he actually - of his own accord, didn't even go under the sofa. i think maybe his little adventure might have scared his socks off a bit, and so human company was more than welcome after that.
lessons we leaned during this adventure of his: we suck under pressure. the "missing cats of scotland" facebook page responds within 12 hours, not nine (it was boxing day, we'll let them off). rebekah's neighbours are arseholes who don't answer their doors, even when their lights are on and christmas music can be heard within. i don't like letting people down, and am prepared to lay in puddles of edinburgh's finest street water to ensure i don't. i love all animals in my care - even cats, especially when they're missing.
don't ever ask me to look after your pets, folks. chances are, it's a no from here on out.