My response to grief, guilt, and maximum stress is a flurry of activity either cleaning or cooking: my attempts to regain some kind of control in my life. When my Dad died, all I wanted to do was make cinnamon buns. Fortunately, there were willing recipients.
A short time ago, I adopted a stray cat. She is probably about a year old, maybe two. She was found with kittens, captured, spayed and rather than release her at her former location, she was taken in by a Rescue where I found her.
Initially, she was housed in a large dog crate in my shed. She was to be a barn cat, so the shed would be her home. Here, she had a “house” thanks to the local liquor store: a cardboard box with an entrance cut into one side, and lined with towels. A litter box, water bowl and feeding bowls completed the jail. Soon she had a toy mouse that squeaked when touched.
Despite many conversations, she was too shy to venture forth; she would huddle at the back of the crate when I attended to her immediate needs but I hoped she was getting used to my voice and relating that to a source of food.
After a week, I left the crate door open a few inches, enough for her to get out to explore the shed, if she was that courageous. She was. And, although exits were blocked, one was not blocked sufficiently: on the second day of the crate door being open, she escaped completely from the shed. I saw where she had worked the items at the exit, pushing them out of the way to get out through a cat door.
Grief and guilt swamped me immediately. I thought I had lost her. I had let her down. It was clearly my fault for not blocking the exit more carefully, for not connecting with her strongly enough to touch her. I spent two days compensating, immersed in house-cleaning, attending to projects that had been put off for months (e.g. re-caulking the bath tub).
Then I noticed birds creating a fuss in the bushes, The bird fuss was moving so whatever the source of that was, it was moving too. I called her by the name I had bestowed on her. No response. No surprise there.
Finally, it occurred to me that she knows where the food is. She knows I won’t hurt her. Other cats who live or visit here on a regular basis can show her that it’s safe. It is possible that she has not gone far. I continued to leave food in the same place, in the shed.
Two and three days after her escape, the in-shed food has been eaten.
There is hope. I can stop cleaning the house.
The only photo of Tabitha, in jail
For more on cat and dog rescue, see the section on animals in Finding The Tiger, A Coming of Age.