Last week, during the full moon, my cat Natalie escaped out the back door at dusk. It is just beginning to feel like spring and she got a wild hair to go hunting. However, where I live there are many predators who’d love to snatch up a tasty house cat, and sure enough, shortly after Natalie escaped I heard the hoot of the resident great horned owl followed by a chorus of coyotes. Feeling a bit frantic I went out calling after the cat carrying a can of cat food and looking everywhere for signs of her. Around and around I went, front to back, inside the fence, outside the fence, looking for Natalie and growing more and more distressed. She was no where to be found.
I went inside for awhile to gather my wits and warm up and when I went back out the moon had risen above a low bank of clouds in the east and it had grown much colder. Again I called for Natalie and this time I heard her plaintive meow. She was up on the flat roof of my adobe-style house, sitting in a canale looking mournful. How she got up there I can only imagine but I knew she might not come down on her own until morning. I also knew that the only ladder I had was not tall enough to allow me to get on the roof safely. My husband, who would have held the ladder for me was out of town. So I spent an hour or so trying to coax her down, even going so far as to climb on the roof of the garden shed and try to grab her when she approached the food I placed on the canale. She darted away and I nearly fell off the shed. Finally, I gave up. At least she was safe from the coyotes who had now started their full moon howling in earnest. But if the neighborhood owl flew over he would see a tortoise shell cat about the size of a jackrabbit there for the taking. I hoped she’d put up a pretty good fight. I went to bed anxious and exhausted.
The next morning I borrowed a ladder from a neighbor that reached the roof safely. I crawled up and spotted Natalie, crouched down next to the chimney looking feral but unhurt. As soon as she saw me she ran to the canale she’d been standing on the night before and jumped without hesitation to the garden wall. By the time I got down from the roof she was waiting by the back door looking unperturbed.
So why am I telling this story? Frankly, I’m not entirely sure. I just know that I am puzzled by why Natalie, who hates the cold and hadn’t had her dinner would stay up on the roof all night and not respond to lots of coaxing to come down. Then, when I, her protector and friend, came to rescue her she jumped down immediately, as if to escape me. I am not pretending I will ever understand cat behavior but something about this little cat story reminds me of what we humans do when we are impulsive, stubborn and willful. If we are luck