My cat, Comet, has always lived the wild life, ever since we adopted him as a kitten. We let him roam free outside, he won't allow a collar, he catches birds and mice to eat, he uses no litter box.
I had the worst of bad feelings on Sunday afternoon when I realized that Comet was nowhere to be found. The thought crossed my mind that maybe we shouldn't have been so easygoing about letting him out onto the city streets, especially at night. Both the closets and the dryer were empty, and there was no ball of fur on the bed or on top of the clay-firing kiln in our basement. I felt a deep pit in my stomach and I thought about where he might be out there. He was a small tabby cat and the world was unimaginably huge in comparison.
That night I lay in bed, sobbing and unsure what to do. Comet could be anywhere, in a car down the road, stuck in a garden, or maybe—I forced myself not to think about it—maybe even dead.
The next morning I awoke and rubbed away dry tears. I felt horrible about all the times that I clapped loudly to scare Comet off the computer desk, or the times when he nipped me because of the ways I'd patted him or brushed him. He was surely a very sensitive cat, but I felt guilty about his disappearance.
I spent the early part of the morning posting flyers around my neighborhood that my dad had designed the night before.
Comet Is Missing!
If you've seen this rascal,
please let us know.
He could be sleeping in your yard,
eating your food,
Wanted by the Authorities
The poster offered a reward and listed a phone number. Centered on the page was Comet, just his head showing when the picture was taken of him in a brown paper bag. The color reproduction of the photo looked so real; I yearned to reach out and touch his soft, short fur. In the picture he looked so cute with his large green eyes and little pink nose. His expression was so innocent-seeming, which made me think of the times that I got up early in the morning, and Comet would swat my feet and bite my ankles out of eagerness for his food. Innocent. Yeah right, I thought, and almost smiled.
As the morning grew older, I put Comet's face all over the neighborhood, on telephone poles, light posts, and in the window of the local pet store. Wherever I looked, I saw my lost cat's face. I will not give up hope of finding him, I told myself.
I was in higher hopes when I answered the phone that afternoon and learned that someone might have found Comet. A friend of a friend had found a cat whom he was keeping at his house. I hung up the phone and prayed that it would be him.
The San Francisco weather was breezy yet warm when I walked across the street to the light green apartment building where this person lived. I entered the building and scaled a flight of red-carpeted stairs, taking them two at a time. The suspense was too much to bear.
I was led into a bright kitchen, where food and water bowls were laid carefully on the linoleum with a litter box nearby. We went into the living room where there were couches and a view of the street. Then my eyes landed on a cat lying atop a bookshelf in the corner.
For a split second my heart sank and I lost hope. "That's not him," I said confidently, eyeing the feline who had just begun to wake up after a nap in a sun patch. But as the cat got up, the moment of realization made me ecstatic. It was Comet! He hopped down for a pat on the back, and I fed him a chicken treat that I'd brought from the cupboard at home. I couldn't stop stroking him with immense pleasure; it was all too good. It turned out that Comet had somehow gotten onto the roof of the apartment, and had gotten stuck in the light well. "My upstairs neighbor heard him meowing all night, so I found him and brought him in," said the man who had rescued Comet.
After gratefully thanking him, I gently picked Comet up and carried him down the stairs and back across the street. I felt the hard asphalt on my feet as I kept Comet in the firm cradle of my arms. Now that I had been reunited with him, I felt as if I could never let him go, but I decided to put him down once we reached the opposite sidewalk because of his restlessness.
When he reached the concrete, Comet seemed unsure for a moment and stood still, and I was unsure as to whether he wanted to go home, or if he had no care for it anymore. I began to jog to encourage him forward, and right away he broke into a full-out cheetah run. When we reached our house, Comet skidded on the concrete and came to an abrupt stop, only to continue running, taking the front stairs of my house by twos. He was so happy to be home; he beat me to the front door by a couple of yards. He always does.