Atticus. Oh Atticus. You absolute brat-cat.
Let me briefly recap the history of our little BrAtticus. Back at Easter in 2018, on my grandmother’s ranch outside of Quihi, TX, this tiny little cinnamon roll cat ran up to us, chased by dogs, scraggly and starving. He looked to be maybe six months old and was obviously living rough. We gave him some stew meat, and he cuddled constantly, as if he were very used to humans. He had no fear of us at all. But it was clear that if he had a family, he’d been lost for some time. We couldn’t just leave him alone in the scrub-wilderness. He wouldn’t have made it.
So, of course, we took him home. He was so good in the car, and let us hold him in the service station halfway home while they fixed our punctured tire, never trying to escape and purring the whole time. We got him home, gave him two flea baths –> and scheduled him for the vet. After vet visits and blood work, we found out that 1) he had no chip so no owners to contact, 2) he didn’t have any diseases he could spread to our cats, 3) he needed treatment for tapeworms (hence his starving state!), and 4) despite being under 6 lbs, he was likely fully grown around 1-2 years old. We took him in, where he instantly and miraculously bonded with the five-month-old problem cat (Jojo) who had been facing a return to the shelter to find a different family until this unexpected bonding. Thus, we became a five-cat household.
Despite our initial assessment, Atticus was likely never an indoor cat, and we have no idea how often he came across humans before us. Instead, it turned out that he was just a bit dumb, and because he was small, he responded to potential predators with purring, licking submission. He later grew into a 7-to-8-lb cat, and while he’ll never be as large as some of our others, he looks normal-sized. (We guess now that he was about nine months old and stunted from starvation when we found him.) Though he’s lived with us for 2.5 years now, he’s still bewildered all the time by his situation, as if the world of the indoors is just beyond comprehension. And he desperately wants to be outside again.
This has gotten worse lately. Back in July, when Jason was fixing the water heater while the rest of us were in Wisconsin, Atticus escaped into the front yard. Within five minutes, he had killed a bird and trotted up to the house with it in his mouth, happily purring through his offering. He was NOT happy when Jason took it away from him, and hissed as he was brought back inside. Since then, he’s escaped quite a number of times, and each time hisses and scratches when brought back in. If anyone leaves the house, he sits in front of the door and cries to be let out, which he never did until his bird-hunting escape.
Over the weekend, a cold front came through, and we opened the windows overnight. Now, we’ve had problems with cat-escapes before, so we take precautions and only open the windows about six inches. But we should have known better. When I got up to make coffee early on Sunday morning, I found the kitchen window’s screen pushed out, leaving a perfect escape route for a bratty, cinnamon-roll kitty.
The good news: none of our other cats bothered to follow Atticus outside. We don’t know how long the window had been breached, but because of something I heard on first waking, I don’t think it had been long. So we avoided a multi-disaster. But Atticus was gone. We searched the back and front yards, walked up and down the street, and called out for him, rattling treats. He’s a master at getting his collar off, too, which didn’t bode well. I had signed up to host a hike that morning and had to go, but told Jason to let me know if Atticus turned up.
Hours passed. We put a can of food out on the back porch to lure him. At one point during my hike, Jason heard a cat fight a few doors down, but it was too early to go knocking on doors and he could get no visual. Not long after I got home, Laurence spotted Atticus approaching the food on our back porch – so at least we knew he could find home easily – but when he tried to go catch him, Atticus took off running and escaped again. The next time we caught sight of him was 1:30 that afternoon, when he began to walk through our back gate into the yard. Ambrose tried to approach him that time, but again, Atticus ran.
There’s a green space behind our house. It’s technically commercial space that belongs to the electrical union, but it’s just trees out there right now. Jason grabbed the cat treats and went out into that area to hunt for our missing cat, because by this point we knew he had to be hungry. He found Atticus curled into some tree roots several houses down, and spent some time coaxing him with his voice to allow Jason to approach with treats. Eventually, Jason managed to snatch him and restrain him to his chest and bring him inside.
Atticus was terrified. I don’t know what sorts of things he encountered or how badly he may have been hurt in that cat fight. What I do know is that he was scared to come home, because he knew he’d done something he wasn’t supposed to do. He was also very hungry, and so dove into the pile of treats and can of food we gave him as we looked him over for any potential injuries. (He appeared to be fine except for some scraggly fur and swollen eyes that looked like a bit of an allergic reaction to something.) It didn’t take long for him to get back to normal, and by the next morning, he was curled up with Jojo again like they’ve been doing since they first bonded in 2018.
Of course, this means we can’t really chance opening our windows at all anymore, sigh. But also hopefully it also means that Atticus has had his fill of the outdoors and will stop screaming at us and trying to escape constantly. We’ll see. Like I said, he’s a bit on the dumb side as cats go, and he may be up for another adventure in the near future…