I have written a few times about my cat, Gurdy, including an explanation of how I found him covered in oil in a car tow lot. Perhaps due to his memories of his rough early years--or perhaps because he is also a generally odd cat--he developed a moderate case of agorophobia, refusing to take a step outside of the apartment even when I left the door open all day. If I carried him out of the apartment, he would leap from my arms and lunge at the doorknob, hoping to somehow activate it to open the door so he could go back inside.
A few weeks ago he worked up the courage to take a few steps out onto the landing; another day he stuck his head through the rails lining the stairs, and looked down; then he settled on stepping down one stair, where he crouched beneath the edge of the floor and spied on me as I moved around my apartment. It clearly felt exhilirating for him to flirt with danger, a whole step down away from the security of Inside.
Then one night, he disappeared.
He had walked into the kitchen where I was standing at the sink, and meowed a few times. I ignored him, as I presumed he was begging for more food. Then he walked outside to the landing, as usual, and I presumed he went to sit on his stair. A few minutes later, I walked past the door, but the stair was empty.
I looked around my apartment, under the bed and in the closet at all of his normal hiding spots, and I called his name a few times. Like a dog, he would always come running when I called him, but this time there was just silence. With nowhere else to look, I went downstairs to check by the front door, which is just a flimsy screen. The screen was bent open slightly, with enough space at the bottom for a cat to fit through.
So I walked around the building calling his name, to no avail. I went back upstairs, grabbed his bag of Greenies treats, and stood outside shaking them. Nope.
Gurdy, despite his grandiose self-image and street-cred early years, is not a tough cat. He's about half the size of the strays that live around our building, which are fed gluttonously by the old ladies who leave cans of tuna outside every morning. Despite his love of wrestling with my feet, he is a bit of a wimp--in a tangle with a friend's Daschund, Gurdy barely got in a few swats before curling into a ball and crying. (No one was hurt.) Needless to say, if he couldn't handle Biscuit the Daschund, he would be no match for the various feral feline beasts that prowled the perimeter of our building. Nor would he be a match for the speeding douchebags in their day-rental exotic cars who roar up and down the streets of South Beach, mowing down everything in their paths.
Translation: I pictured him dead and I panicked.
As I stood in the middle of my apartment, right then I decided to let fate take its course. He had come into my life unexpectedly, as I scooped him from beneath my car without considering the commitment of actually owning a cat and living with it, like, every day. If these months were all I was meant to have with him, then I did my best for him, and for me. I pondered deep, meaningful words of wisdom I had read on Hallmark cards, like "life is a journey" and "love all of God's creatures however we can" as I reminisced on the good times with Gurdy. I hoped I had made his life better by giving him a solid start, so he could go out into the wild--
--and I heard a scream, which came from right outside of my window. I don't know why, but I looked at the clock. It had been eight minutes since I noticed he was gone. I heard the scream again, although I really didn't know if it was a person or an animal; I had never heard it before. But it was so loud. I presumed, somehow, it involved my cat.
I ran downstairs. My neighbor, startled by the noise, also opened his door to see what the hell was going on, and I passed him as I pushed past the flimsy screen. There weren't any people there, but in the bushes next to the building the biggest raccoon I have ever seen IN MY LIFE was slowly clawing his way through the branches. And on the other side of the bushes, against the wall, there was a small blur of white fur, furiously clawing at the air. Gurdy.
The cat wasn't hitting anything other than the surrounding leaves; his swipes were pre-emptive, as if he knew things were about to get real, and like a car driving through a car wash he hoped he'd land a punch on that fat beast before it got to him. Apparently it didn't occur to Gurdy to just run, although he was somewhat trapped in a corner. If he could've spoken words, I imagine he would've been screaming COME AT ME BRO! COME AT ME! swipe swipe swipe swipe swipe...
The raccoon, bloated from many meals of canned cat food left out by the neighborhood old ladies, was terrifyingly huge. However, his girth also limited the speed he could get through the bush to eat Gurdy. So as he lumbered through the branches, I had time to find a rock and throw it, from a distance that I could run back inside in case the thing had rabies and changed direction to me. The rock just hit the ground, but the noise startled the raccoon, and it ran through the fence to the abandoned building next door. And all was quiet.
I shouted his name, and he sheepishly crept from behind the bush. He just squinted at me, confused, bewildered.
I held open the screen and pointed up the stairs. He looked down and, tail drooped in defeat, he slowly trotted inside, up the stairs, and under the bed. Unfortunately for him, he was also covered in dirt, so a bath was also in his near future. It was going to go down as A Really Bad Night.
So yeah, my cat got out and almost got into a fight with a raccoon but I chased it away.
Eight minutes of exhilirating freedom, followed by thirty seconds of pure terror.
Gurdy hasn't stepped a paw outside of my apartment since.