It is 4:30 AM. Do you know where your feral cat is?

Early this morning, oh so very early, I woke up to pee and slung my legs reluctantly off the bed to make my way across the hall when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Sure it was an optical illusion, I rubbed my eyes and squinted into the still very early darkness. Yes, that was definitely *something* making its way through a pile of my clothing that was stacked not very neatly against the window.


My first thought was that our foster, Spencer Cassadine, had burrowed into that pile and was stuck and possibly drowning in my tunics and leggings and OMG, I should have actually put away that laundry like Laura requested. I began hurling clothing onto the bed, sure my laziness had killed that sweet kitten.


I grabbed my cellphone, turned on the flashlight and begun hunting.


So I assumed I had simply imagined it. Spencer was after all a solid 9 lbs, 18 months old and had been living free in our bedroom for weeks. He was capable of navigating my pile of unfolded winter pajamas.

I turned to head for the bathroom when I everything became clear – the door to the feral crate in our bedroom was swinging open just like in the scary movies but minus the telltale squeak.


Helena looking so innocent in the bathroom in earlier days. Isn’t she gorgeous?

On Thursday, we took our feral mama, Helena Cassadine, for a vet check-up and relocated her from the bathroom to the crate in our bedroom. This was intended to socialize her and was a very well thought out plan, informed by experts. We’d had the crate for over a year and had no operational problems. It is a 4 foot vertical crate so she could perch on trays to watch the world through the bedroom window, enjoy the warm air from the furnace, and get more incorporated into everyday life.

When she moved herself from the ground level crouch to the second level blankets, we thought it was good sign. In a day! I had no idea she was planning an outing. She never outed herself. She was a very good girl in her previous room.

But now at 4:30 AM, Helena was loose in our bedroom. Our door was closed and major arteries were blocked, but it wasn’t exactly feral cat proofed, not even a little bit.


I woke up Laura with a loud grunt and said “Helena got out of the crate, she’s on the loose.” Laura sprang out of bed, turned on the lights, and the hunt was on. It was lesbians versus cat.

We eventually found her under our bed, watching us with her big yellow eyes. Blink, blink, blink she deceptively assured me of our bond.

TNR Pittsburgh
Helena has moved into her new digs

While I scrambled to block the bad spaces with pillows, slippers, blankets and whatever, Laura penned her in with a feather duster on an extended arm. I then sprawled on my side of the bed with a yardstick to urge her to move on down the bed to her crate.

Nope. She was good.

I tried for a solid 20 minutes to slide her along and yelling randomly “use the thing to block her egress” at Laura who was vainly cooing to Helena to just go back into the nice crate. When Helena bit the yardstick and ripped it out of my hands, I knew things were going south.

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Soon I was armed with the dust mop and Laura grabbed a broom. I slid Helena along the floor do the foot of the bed using only my right arm that is now by the way 3 inches longer than my left arm. She was hissing and spitting, but emerged into the light of the room. Then we realized Spencer had reclaimed his crate privileges, likely because he was terrified. Laura pinned her down, while I tried to remove Spencer who scratched the hell out of my arm.

Fuck. But I finally desperately drove him out of the crate and he took shelter in some far corner of the room. Too bad, Helena lapped the room and took up residency back under the bed.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Our entire relationship of 18 years was fueling this moment of coordinated effort and stifled attempts to cast blame on each other. OH MY GOD, I just wanted to go to bed. We briefly debated leaving her out until the morning until we thought of all the places she could hide.

So I crawled under the bed and began sweeping her, sort of like a curling game, certain that my shoulder was going to explode, with the dust mop. We got her out again and cornered beside the crate.

“Build a tunnel! Build a tunnel!” Laura stage whispered to me as she kept the cat in the corner with her broom. Hastily, I piled an old tv, hampers, slippers and socks, a blanket, pillows, and the empty cat food bin around her with one hand while making sure the dust mop of doom was keeping her from making a break for it. She was not coming out of that corner.

Laura had the stroke of genius. We had an old carrier in our room that was doorless, the cats used it as a napping spot. We grabbed it and reorganized the tunnel to leave it as her only avenue of escape from the assorted threats of the floor cleaning implements.

To my utter shock, she went into the carrier and I quickly covered the front with the dust mop (my new BFF) then somehow picked up the both of them without reducing pressure on the fake cover – apparently, this is my new superhero skill. I tried to switch tactics and sweetly deposit her in the crate, but she was once again stubbornly wedged far from the sweep range of my dust mop. So I put the entire vertical carrier into the crate and closed the door. I then wrapped the door latches in anything remotely resembling a string – shoe laces, robe belts, cat toys.

It took 90 minutes to accomplish, but we got her done.

The room looked like a tornado swept through. We had no clue where Spencer was hiding. The other cats were roaming the hallways, frantic to know what was going on. We both fell into bed. I lay awake, holding my breath and listening for the sounds of Helena freeing herself from the crate and soon enough I was rewarded when she scratched her way up to the crate shelves. I creeped over and slid the crate cover down to give her some solitude to contemplate her fate.

She blinked at me.

I fell into a sleep disturbed by relentless stress dreams that she had escaped again. And again. And again. Each time, the crate was undisturbed except for the slight blinks of her big eyes. Finally, I gave up and got up to start the morning. Laura kept sleeping, rightfully so.

My entire body ached. I swallowed ibuprofen with cold coffee and made my way into the rest of the house. I knew that what had happened is the carrier I mentioned had been knocked against the crate and unlocked the latch. It was an accident, no one was hurt, Helena was back on her blanketed shelf blinking. Spencer emerged. He forgave me for his unhappiness as I realized how many new punctures he put into my arm. Sigh.

Helena at rest

I was tempted to crawl back into bed for four hours, but I figured moving around was the best way to shake off the aches and pains. It wasn’t every night I spent 90 minutes waving a dust mop around our bedroom and crawling on the floor in my pajamas trying to juggle my cell phone flashlight while eyeballing a small pissed off cat. Stretching it out seemed wise. I fed cats a doublebreakfast out of guilt, made coffee for me and tea for Laura, tidied the kitchen and the bathroom.

Helena is fine. She moved around her crate, blinked at me, and looked out her window. I replaced the makeshift doublelocks with a sturdy set of zipties. The carrier was removed. I am now working my way through the very large pile of clothing that has to be refolded and put away. I even started planning to move my office from the sofa to the attic so I can atone for my sins by spending more time with the attic cats.

I ache. Laura aches. But we got her resecured. And found quite a few missing socks and other clothing items.

I have no great words to wind up this sweeping tale of bedroom cat escapades. I’m refusing the low hanging fruit of word play, sobered by the fact that I still have a lot of clothing to fold as well as honoring the dust bunnies who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

I was proud of myself for not crying, whining, or giving up. But I did flashback to the night Ana, our little dog, died in the middle of the night after having seizures and causing middle of the night furor with a much sadder outcome. I shoved those thoughts away and kept my eye on the cat in front of me. But I’m sad again for Ana. And apprehensive about my dreams.

Just another night in cat lady paradise.

PS: Helena is going to need a barn home. If you can help with that, email please.

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feral cat escape
The scene






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