You know how every so often you hear a heartwarming story about a lost cat that somehow found its way home after months or years, braving swamps and forests and multi-lane highways to return safely to the bosom of its human family?
This column is not about that kind of cat.
This column is about cats that couldn’t find their way home from an overturned shoe box. It’s the third in my series of stories about cats, and other pets, that are a few brain cells short of a quorum. The Trilogy of Error, you might call it.
These are cats like Trogdor, owned by Elizabeth Fenton of Falls Church. “Before coming to live in my townhouse, young Trogdor had lived in an 11th-floor apartment,” Elizabeth wrote. “He found the change in perspective fascinating, and particularly loved being allowed outside. Perhaps he missed the view from on high, for one day I found him atop a neighbor’s house.”
Elizabeth spent all night trying to entice him back to earth, including miming the act of climbing down a house. In the morning, she went to the fire station.
“The firemen explained that they no longer rescue cats,” Elizabeth wrote. “But no sooner had I got home than the ladder truck turned up, and a senior officer sent three very young novice firemen (fire-persons?) up on to the roof to bring down a very hungry and scared young cat.
“Within a week Trogdor found his way up on to my roof — and again had to be rescued! But not by the firemen this time.”
Kitty Felde also employed the fire brigade when her cat, Penelope, climbed the tree outside her Los Angeles condo. “We figured she got up, she’d know how to get down,” Kitty wrote. “Not so.”
Penelope spent three days in the tree. Finally Kitty called the fire department and asked whether all those TV shows and movies and comics were true: Did the fire department really come out and rescue cats?
It did in her case.
“They brought out two ladder trucks and sent a rookie up to fetch Penelope,” Kitty wrote. “She, of course, was freaked out by the strange looking guy in the yellow slicker and gigantic gloves and started backing up. The guys in his squad were giving him a hard time on the ground. Eventually, he grabbed her and brought her down safely.”
I asked Mark E. Brady, chief spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department, about the department’s protocol. “We like the no-risk-to-life-or-limb rescues,” he wrote in an e-mail. “However, our officers and firefighters know that if we do not attempt a rescue and leave, a pet owner or well-intentioned citizen will attempt the rescue. Our philosophy nowadays is that with our training, our equipment and our safety precautions put into place, it is better for us to attempt a rescue, even if there is some risk involved, rather than allowing an untrained and ill-equipped citizen or pet owner to risk the rescue.”
Not all cats need rescuing, though some embark on ill-advised adventures. About a year and a half ago, Robin Clarke and her husband, Tom, moved with their cat from the Eastern Shore to an apartment at the Watergate. Overnight, Chairman Meow became an indoor cat.
In the spring, the Clarkes left their apartment for a few hours. Chairman Meow went onto their balcony and descended one story down to the balcony below — fortunately without plummeting 12 floors.
“No one has been able to figure out how this could have had a good ending,” Robin wrote. “Logically, because the balcony below us is narrower than ours, he should have fallen to the ground.”
Jim Wingo of Woodbine, Md., was leaving for work early one morning when he noticed the hazard lights flashing on his wife’s truck.
“My first thought was someone had tried to steal it,” Jim wrote. He approached the truck with caution and opened the door. Out flew Specky, one of the family’s cats.
Jim’s wife, Barbara, had been shopping the day before. He figures she didn’t notice Specky slipping into the truck. The cat must have climbed all over the interior looking for a way out, in the process stepping on the four-way flasher button.
“Or,” wrote Jim, “he was smarter than we think and was trying to signal us.”
Hmm. Probably not.
We’re nearly at the end of this year’s fundraising campaign for Children’s National. You can still show your support. To make a tax-deductible gift, visit childrensnational.org/washingtonpost or send a check (payable to “Children’s National”) to Washington Post Giving Campaign, c/o Children’s Hospital Foundation, 801 Roeder Rd., Suite 650, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
Your gift today can make a difference in the life of a child.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.