Last week I had the scare of a lifetime. Make that nine lifetimes. The world came to a standstill when my cat, Poopsie May, disappeared—and apparently was trapped in the wall.
As the youngest of my brood of five, Poopsie has always had a special place in my heart. Even though she’s a big girl of five, to me she’ll always be the adorable little four-month-old tyke who wandered into my life one summer day. The door had been open because I was outside getting the mail. When I returned, there was this tiny gray tabby kitten in my kitchen, head deep in one of the cat’s food bowls.
She decided to adopt me. I christened her Poopsie. I don’t know why, she just seemed like a Poopsie. She was a smart little thing, responding instantly to her new name.
Poopsie’s all grown up now, but she’s retained her kitten personality. And she is the sweetest little angel in the world. She comes when she’s called, tearing over to me as soon as she hears my voice, and jumping into my lap, purring like a brand new Porsche. She reaches out to me, meowing, until I pick her up and kiss her, whereupon she butts her head against my face and the purrs get faster and louder, until you’d swear she’s going to take off into the clouds.
I keep my patio door partially open for the cats because they all came to me as strays and once an outdoor cat, always an outdoor cat. But they always come when I call them. And if she’s not outside, Poopsie is invariably in her spot on the back of the sofa when I get up in the morning.
On this particular morning, however, she wasn’t in her spot. And she didn’t come when I called her. At first I wasn’t overly concerned. It’s not that unusual, after all, for cats to play hooky occasionally, wandering back home after a day of exploring. But when, by the next morning, she was still missing, I was distraught. I kept calling and calling her, to no avail.
On day three, the situation took a terrible turn. I was in the kitchen when I heard faint meows. They seemed to be coming from the adjoining laundry room.
“Poopsie!” I screamed, running toward the sound. The meows got more frantic. I followed them to the area near the water heater, a recessed enclosure with walls of rough, unfinished two-by-fours. One of the two-by-fours was missing, and that’s where the meows were the loudest. Oh my God. Had Poopsie somehow climbed up the wall and fallen down into the opening?
But the meows seemed to be coming from up above. And they were moving, growing fainter, until all I could hear was a ghostly, plaintive mewing at the other end of the room over the washer and dryer. She had to be moving around inside the wall. There was no other explanation.
The whole thing had something to do with the roof, I was sure. The day Poopsie disappeared, my landlady’s handyman, Nick, had been working on the roof and making a lot of racket. Poopsie is very scared of strangers and loud noises. Had she been up on the roof and gotten spooked? She might have tried to hide from the commotion and somehow fallen through.
The next few days were harrowing. I called Nick and he came by and cased the joint from head to toe. Of course, Poopsie didn’t make a peep, no matter how desperately I called her. Was she even still alive?
“She can’t be in the wall,” Nick surmised, “because there are studs every foot, blocking any movement. I don’t see where she could be caught in the basement, or the attic.” He shook his head. “Cats can really do disappearing acts.”
Later that evening, I heard the meows again. And again, they were coming from the area behind the water heater. By this time I was crying, begging Poopsie to hang on for another day. She responded by wailing piteously. And then the wails grew fainter, and finally all was silent again.
Meanwhile I called my landlady and longtime friend, Brenda Bont, who was in Florida. “If we have to, we’ll tear a wall down,” she promised. “But don’t lose hope. Remember that old song, ‘But the cat came back…’”
“Yeah,” I said. “There were all these verses. This guy tries to get rid of this cat in all sorts of horrible ways and it keeps coming back.”
“That’s right,” Brenda laughed. “Just remember. The cat came back!”
My friend and fellow cat lover Cyndy Mikulyuk gave me the number of an animal removal business in Ludington. “They have special equipment that can locate animals in walls,” she explained. I called the number, and they immediately sent the nicest young man out. He arrived with a hand-held device that looked like a tiny TV and ran it along all the walls in the laundry room, the attic and the basement. No cat. Then he checked all along the outside of the house.
“I notice someone’s been working on the roof,” he said. “I think your cat might have chased a squirrel up there—I saw a lot of walnuts on the ground—and somehow got into the roof. Have the guy come over tomorrow and open up the roof and I’ll check to see if she’s anywhere up there. How long did you say she’s been gone?”
“Five days,” I sighed.
“She’d be in pretty bad shape by now,” he said gently. “Very dehydrated at the very least. All we can do is hope.”
I was preparing myself for the worst when, a few hours later, the meows started up again.
“Hang on, Poopsie,” I yelled to her through the laundry room wall. “We’re going to rescue you tomorrow morning. Just hang on a little longer.”
As for me, I’d been an absolute wreck for five days. I couldn’t eat or sleep. All I could think of was my baby, slowly dying somewhere in the walls or rafters. And I couldn’t get to her.
At around 7:30 the next morning, I was getting ready to call Nick when I heard an odd noise outside, by the laundry room. It was a rustling sound, like branches falling. And then, a few minutes later…there was Poopsie!
She strolled through the patio door as perky as could be. She was the picture of health, fat as ever, her fur thick and glossy. She jumped up on the back of the sofa in her usual routine, meowing for a kiss, as if she’d just been out to take the air.
Was I hallucinating? I reached out to touch her, convinced that in my addled state it was only a mirage. But nope. It was Poopsie, all right.
“Sweetheart!” I cried, gathering her up in my arms. “WHERE have you been?”
Because I don’t speak cat, I guess we’ll never know. I kissed her and held her tightly, and she squirmed like a little kid. I let her go and she trotted into the kitchen, sniffed the food bowls, took a bite or two and a couple of sips of water—and ran to the door, all ready for another toot.
“You’re never setting foot outside again!” I yelled.
So I think I finally figured out what happened. Poopsie had been up on the roof the whole time. She probably ran up there after a squirrel and couldn’t figure out how to get down. You know the old “fireman save my cat” stories. So she walked back and forth above the laundry room, and found a warm spot to sleep, somewhere in the roof. It had been raining, so she had plenty of water. And she probably dined on a squirrel or two. Eventually she jumped onto a tree branch and came down, cracking branches on her way, which would explain the rustling, crackling noise I heard just before she showed up.
Anyway, I called Brenda with the good news.
“See? What did I tell you?” She laughed triumphantly. “The cat came back!”
“But the cat came back the very next day.
The cat came back. They thought he was a goner,
But the cat came back. He just wouldn’t stay away…”