‘I feel like the McCanns’
I’m supposed to be writing this morning, but instead I’m sitting on the couch with a big pot of worry in the base of my stomach, peering out the window, because maybe, maybe, maybe my cat will appear there.
She disappeared on Tuesday night. We’d only moved to our new flat six months ago, and it’s taken her a while to go outside. She seemed to be getting back to her old self after two house moves in the space of a year. Before that, we lived in Chorlton for years, and she was pretty confident about Going Outside. She is a nervous cat, jumpy, and will dart away when you walk past her. She was a stray, found years ago by a neighbour of my parents in Eccles. She’d been living under his shed. She was emaciated when he found her. She’d got her front leg stuck in a cruel pink and diamante studded collar, and it had bitten into the skin under her arm. When she was found, the word was septic and smelt awful. The neighbour came over and told us about the thin whit cat he’d found, so my dad and I took her to the RSPCA. They couldn’t track her owner, and the rest is history. I’ve no idea about her early life, but she wasn’t socialised well; she will always be fearful, but she is also a lovely, cuddly and gentle cat. She loves a duvet more than anything. She also loves lying on books.
I’m not normally someone who sleeps well, but on Tuesday I was shattered. At bedtime, she miaowed at the door to go out, so I let her outside, but went to bed, took my sleeping pills and forgetting I’d just let her out. I went soundly to sleep. I didn’t remember till the morning, and in the morning Tinkerbell was nowhere to be found.
I feel like the McCanns, leaving their child in an apartment. How could I forget my little cat had gone outside? Even in the morning, I didn’t at first realise she was still out. What kind of pet owner am I?
She’d also got lost last summer, when I lived at a different address in Chorlton for a few months. That time she jumped out of the window, and just disappeared, only to return three days later, covered in dirt and ecstatic to be back. She was not so happy when she had a bath afterwards though (which still didn’t remove all the dirt).
I had no idea where she had been. She was so dirty it was as if she’d been to a Cat Festival for three days. In the meantime Tinkerbell almost trended on social media, with so many people in Chorlton posting about her disappearance. I haven’t started the social media thing yet because I’m still hopeful she is just hiding somewhere nearby, and will return again in the next day or so. Maybe that’s also what the McCanns thought.
This morning I had to phone my vet and the microchip company, who both accusingly said, ‘Didn’t you lose her last year?’ I didn’t tell them how this time was basically my fault for leaving her out all night.
There is another player in this story. A neighbour’s cat called Harry. We call him Dirty Harry because he’s been trying to evict Tinkerbell and install himself as our new cat. He is a real character, super confident and trots around like a little dog. Once he chased her away from our doorway, and then mooched over to me, rolling on his back as if to say, ‘You don’t need her. I’m much better.’
Wednesday night, I woke up at two am to go looking for Tinkerbell. At night, when it’s quiet, seems to be the best time to look for her. I called her name, up and down the street, like a lost ghost, ‘Tinkerbell!’ while shaking her bag of treats. The problem was Dirty Harry was out (his owner lets him out a lot) and he started following me around as I called for her in the dark. He even followed me right down the street, jumping on fences and walls to see what I was up to. It was like in Columbo when the murderer follows Columbo around, trying to distract him. I realised, ‘It was YOU, Harry. You chased her off the property.’ But Harry just rolled over, wriggling his soft Machiavellian tummy.
Today, I am putting up posters around our flats in Fallowfield, and later, I’ll post flyers through letterboxes, guilt and anxiety inside me, like two raging ogres.