Moving to a new apartment (especially if those that allow three cats and a dog are few and far between which, as discussed in a previous issue, is enough to drive someone mad) is not for the faint of heart. It requires packing everything into boxes and crates, including all your hopes and dreams, and hoping you don’t leave anything behind. It means putting your faith in strangers who will then transport your stuff to your new home, and crossing your fingers nothing gets broken along the way.
For me, it also means dealing with four fur-babies, all of whom have their own ways of making sure all hell breaks loose.
Two months ago, when I finally moved into my new home, so many things went wrong. I made three mistakes, all of which (almost) ruined moving day. It was no surprise that these events involved—who else?—the cats.
Instead of scheduling moving day ahead of time, it eventually became an impulse decision.
That was my first mistake. I didn’t have enough time to prepare my fur-babies, which meant I was ill-equipped to deal with their stress.
While the movers took our boxes out to the truck, I tried to get my three cats in their respective carriers. I managed to get Merlin, the grumpiest one, into his crate without a hitch. Mimi, who was so smart that she knew how to escape a carrier right before you could lock it, was more of a challenge, but she was eventually secured in a carrier.
However, Sitti—the most excitable of my three cats—hid before I could come get her. The problem was that she hid where the sun literally never shone.
Not putting everyone in their respective carriers before the movers came was my second mistake. Despite Sitti’s size (she had the healthiest appetite), she managed to climb up the walls and hide in one of the beam gaps surrounding the tray ceiling. The gap was too deep for me to fish her out with my arms…and too high for me to do much else.
An hour had passed yet Sitti remained in her hiding spot. No food or toy could fool her into abandoning her newly discovered comfort zone.
With the moving truck waiting outside to start the first of several trips to my new apartment and the sun having set hours ago, I decided to come back for Sitti later that night.
Locking the doors behind me and knowing she was still inside was the most heartbreaking thing to happen to me that day.
Or so I thought.
Sitti’s situation was sad, but not without a solution. Since we had to make several trips to move to my new home, I would still be coming back to my old apartment that same night.
But why would Sitti be the star of the night if Mimi could steal her thunder? Mimi, after all, was the smartest of them all, which meant she was also the naughtiest.
After the truck had unloaded the first batch of boxes at my new home, I found Mimi meowing and yowling noisily in her carrier. I knew what she wanted: freedom.
I let her out and allowed her to explore the apartment. That was mistake number three.
After hearing too many horror stories about cats getting lost, I developed an obsessive habit of checking on my furry family and making sure they were all accounted for. No window stayed open without a sturdy screen; no door remained open for long without me standing nearby.
However, a cat could still go missing. This tragedy could happen to anyone.
While preparing to go back to the old apartment to get Sitti and start what was hopefully the last leg of the relocation, I went to check on Merlin. He remained in his crate, hissing occasionally, refusing to explore the room I put him in.
He was grumpy, which happened to be his norm.
Mimi, however, was nowhere in sight. I checked all the rooms, but there was no sign of her.
Did she try to escape when the movers let themselves out? Was she still in the building? Could she find her way back home, given how new her surroundings were?
My heart rate sped up. I couldn’t swallow. I could hardly even breathe. The fear I felt was paralyzing; suffocating.
I knew what was happening because I’ve read about it so many times in medical school. However, I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.
I was having an anxiety attack.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
How could I go back to get Sitti if Mimi was missing? If I left, it would take hours before I got back. Every minute Mimi went missing meant greater odds of her ever coming back.
It was too much. I made too many mistakes that day. It was all my fault, but my cats were the ones who had to pay for it. The thought of losing Mimi was the last straw.
Overwhelmed and feeling defeated, I choked back tears and called my boyfriend.
I knew I was in a situation that I couldn’t handle alone. If I did, it would be the mother of all errors, the one that would ensure that Mimi would never be found.
I asked my boyfriend to go get Sitti and take care of the boxes I left at the old house. Meanwhile, I stayed at my new apartment, searching every nook and cranny, combing through every floor to make sure I found her.
Hours passed. I still couldn’t find Mimi.
I put out food for her, hoping her bottomless pit of a stomach would guide her back to me.
Then, it all started to sink in. Mimi, the cat who forced her way into my life even if she already had another human, the cat who almost died on my doorstep—the cat who captured my heart the moment she scaled my screen door like a spider—was gone.
I retreated to my new room. I slumped to the floor and finally allowed myself to do what I’ve been wanting to since the moment I left without Sitti: cry.
LOST AND FOUND
I wailed like a banshee. I knew my new neighbors could hear me but I didn’t care.
My Mimi was gone.
I went through hell trying to find a new place for my cats, one that could provide all the space, sunlight, and fresh air they needed. I found the perfect home for them, but of what use is it to Mimi if she wasn’t there to enjoy it?
I looked at the walls of my new apartment. I was starting to hate them. I looked at the recessed lighting, the chandelier, the tiles—they all seemed ugly without Mimi.
Then, I saw something swish under the console table. It looked like… a black tail!
Could it be? Was Mimi hiding there all along?
The space was too tight for an adult cat, more so one with quite a pooch. But I went down on all fours and looked under the table.
Staring back at me was Mimi!
I would recognize her anywhere, even with the lights switched off, even while she was trapped in a small space under a table. I would recognize those funny-looking black Korean bangs anywhere!
I would recognize those eyes—they’ve always been too big for her face.
They’ve always been perfect.
HOME SWEET HOME
After all the drama (and my stupidity), life was finally back to normal. Sitti, skittish as always, still refused to go beyond an invisible line by the kitchen.
Merlin, on the other hand, transformed from a moody old cat to an affectionate, playful feline. His grumpiness might have been due to inadequate space, what with two cats invading his territory in under two years. All he needed was more space, which he now had.
Topper, the only canine in the bunch, couldn’t complain. He enjoyed late afternoon strolls, thanks to the shade provided by trees with spreading canopies throughout the subdivision.
As for Mimi, she still ruled the household, looking out from our second-floor home at the mammoth trees near the gushing stream, watching the neighbor’s dogs play in the rain, and basking in sunbeams with Sitti by the glass door.
Topper, Merlin, Sitti, and Mimi are finally where they should be: home.
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s October 2017 issue.