I used to believe that those old cartoons featuring a cat stuck in a tree were fiction. After all, what animal equipped with keen vision, sharp claws and an innate sense of balance would willingly enter a situation from which it could not extricate itself?
And then I wrote about Tank, a Silver Spring feline that got caught between floors during a home renovation, forcing his owners to knock holes in the ceiling to free him. When I invited readers to share their lost cat experiences, I was inundated. Cats seem determined to use every one of their nine lives. Birds and mice must wonder, “And we’re losing to these guys?”
Take Karen Jagielski and Joe Cassidy. One evening, Joe came home and detected a strong smell of poop and the sound of pitiable meows from somewhere in the kitchen of their house in the District’s Brookland neighborhood. Their cat Zoe had crawled under a cabinet where a toe kick plate had fallen off.
“After trying to extricate her, he finally resorted to pulling out the whole cabinet, which, being a cheap Ikea cabinet, was destroyed,” Karen wrote. “So, we had to redo the kitchen and it looks great. I swore to my husband that I did not put my cat up to it, but we do call the remodel ‘Zoe’s Kitchen.’ ”
Joan and Brian Evans of McLean, Va., remember when their cat, Theodore, was tempted by the open door to their second-floor laundry chute. The cat jumped up to the chute, lost his balance and hurtled two stories to the basement.
“Fortunately there was a full laundry cart at the bottom to break his fall,” Joan wrote. “As Theodore regained his composure, he mounted the basement stairs with an air of ‘I meant to do that,’ but the telltale sign of surprise was his very dilated eyes!”
As soon as Kathleen Tindell and her late husband, Jim, moved into their Woodbridge, Va., house, their cat, Winston, went exploring. He climbed to the top of some shelves in the laundry room and somehow managed to go through an unfinished ceiling into the adjacent family room, walking along the ceiling tiles of that room.
“We were watching TV our first evening in the new house when one of the ceiling tiles bowed down, then the next one over, then the next one,” Kathleen wrote. “Clearly there was something there! My husband thought it was a raccoon that had gotten in. I said whatever it was, we had to get it out of there, so I put on some gloves and pulled the ceiling tile down.”
A very surprised-looking Winston fell into her arms.
Tiles can be delicate, and Jim accidentally poked a little hole in the replacement. Wrote Kathleen: “My husband died a year later, and I treasure the hole in the ceiling.”
Winston isn’t the only cat who knew how to make a dramatic entrance. Barbara Lokitis’s childhood cat, Lollipop, once crawled into the area above the suspended ceiling in her basement. “We were in the midst of grace before dinner, eyes closed and holding hands, when the entire suspended ceiling crashed to the floor,” wrote Barbara, of Ellicott City, Md. “We had no idea what happened until we saw the cat frozen in fear on top of the mess of ceiling tiles and twisted metal.”
Early in their marriage, Fairfax’s Jim and Diane Kurtz moved to a house in Lawton, Okla., and bought a kitten they named Sooner. One Saturday, Sooner went missing. They could hear meows that seemed to come from the bathroom near their bedroom. A plumbing access hole in the baseboard next to the bathtub had apparently been too attractive to Sooner.
Jim and Diane figured he’d find his way out, so they left to run some errands. But when they returned there was still no sign of Sooner — and the meows were fainter. “That was when one of us remembered Sooner was wearing a flea collar, and we immediately concluded he must have gotten it caught on something in the wall or under the bathtub,” Jim wrote.
They spent the day fretting, walking from bathroom to bedroom, following his weakening meows and trying to determine exactly where the kitten was. Eventually they decided to go to bed, hoping Sooner wouldn’t expire overnight.
“We were completely drained emotionally and exhausted physically,” Jim wrote. “As we got ready to retire, I threw back the heavy bedspread. A plopping sound came from the foot of the bed, and a very disoriented Sooner wobbled into view. He gave us an accusing look as he lurched off to the litter box.
“It turned out we’d made poor Sooner up in the bed.”
I have plenty more cat tales to share in future columns.
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For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.