I’ve spent the past few days setting up stakeouts to stalk a cat.
There is a mama cat in my new neighborhood that recently had kittens. My sources say they were born on or around June 1st. No one has seen the kittens yet, but mama cat (who will be properly named once I get to know her better) is obviously nursing a litter, and she comes out of her hiding place to eat the cat food that people are leaving out for her before disappearing again to wherever she has her nest.
Why am I stalking her? For several reasons.
Reason #1: Kittens!!!
Duh. I want to see her baby kittens and snuggle them and play with them and convince my hubby to let me have one or two of them. * I’m hoping there’s an orange one because 80% of orange cats are male, and I want a boy. (It’s a fact, you can look it up.) Plus, 90% of orange cats are trouble, and I love the troublemakers. (This statistic is not so much “factual” as estimated based on personal experience. For data points, see: Rusty, Tiger, Murcott, Phoebes, and Zeus.)
Reason #2: I agree with Bob Barker.
This is mama cat’s second litter, and she needs to be done. She’s young and deserves to enjoy her life without being tied down. And there are too many stray cats around here already. So, my plan is to find her, feed her, befriend her, locate her kittens, and when they’re old enough to be weaned, take mama to be fixed. The babies too, of course.
Reason #3: I think mama cat wants to be found.
She’s not feral. She allows humans to get close and lingers curiously nearby after eating. With a little patience, it won’t take long for her to trust people. I’m pretty sure, when her babies are old enough, she will want to bring them somewhere safe. I want to be that safe house.
So far, my stalking has been mostly unsuccessful. The problem is that the block where I live has very few houses but lots of sheds and bamboo thickets and woodpiles where a smart cat could make a nest. I’ve meowed outside a couple of likely locations ** and “here kitty-kitty-ed” near several more and listened for tiny, adorable mews, but no luck. I climbed into my parents’ treehouse and sat for half an hour watching for movement, but no luck. I put a bowl of kibble outside my house in view of my reading corner and read/watched for an hour, but no luck. I’ve realized I just have to be patient (<– not my strongest trait) and wait. The next time I see mama cat, I’m going to dash outside with a can of wet food, sweet-talk her while she eats it, and then follow her to her lair. ***
Despite the fact that I don’t have any kittens to snuggle yet, my stakeouts have not been completely in vain. While I haven’t found a troublesome orange tabby, I have found a stillness I didn’t know I was searching for.
I’m a fidgety person. I cross and uncross my legs when sitting, pace while talking on the phone, pick at my fingernails while reading, and pause movies half a dozen times to use the restroom, get a snack, write down a random thought, or walk outside to see if the moon is full. I used to hang out at a coffee shop once a week with a good friend who we’ll call El (because I’m not sure if she wants her real name in my blog and because I’m really into Stranger Things right now). I was always fascinated by how still El could be. While I shifted in my seat, adjusted my ponytail, stretched my back, took my sweater off and put it back on again five times, El simply sat. I talked with my hands, scratched my elbow, and popped my knuckles. El sat. During the drafting of this blog post, I have rearranged the pillows in my chair, laid on the floor to stretch my back, and taken at least five breaks to look out the door and see if mama cat is strolling by. (She isn’t.) Meanwhile, back in Austin, I’m certain that El is sitting serenely at her computer without so much as a twitch. (Though perhaps she is smiling while reading this.)
My fidgetiness isn’t a usually a problem, so it’s not something I try to change about myself. When I want to practice being still, I go to yoga or take a nap or choose to see a movie in the theater where I can’t pause it because I’ve randomly decided to water my plants. But stillness was necessary this week while stalking mama cat. I needed to stay in one place for a decent period, not make too much noise (except for the occasional meow), and limit my own movements so that I could notice if something around me stirred. When the reward is the possibility of kittens, I can calm my fidgets. Although no kittens appeared, I did find benefits to being still. Sitting in the treehouse, straining to hear the mewing of hungry baby cats, I heard so many more birdcalls and squirrel chirps and insect buzzes than I normally would have. Staying in one place and watching for movement below allowed me to see more clearly what was right in front of me: a cobwebby hole in the tree, ants climbing the bark, the delicate veins of an oak leaf.
My stakeouts have reminded me how important it is to stop and be present in the moment. There’s so much to see, hear, and notice when we take the time to be still and breathe.
Also, somewhere there are kittens, and I intend to find them. Wish me luck.
* I have a sneaking suspicion that my husband doesn’t read my blog anymore. Perhaps I’ll find out for sure after this post.
** Yes, I’ve been meowing in my new neighborhood. I’m not ashamed of it. Before you get concerned that the neighbors might think I’m weird, you should know that the neighbors are my parents, and they already know I’m weird. They’re WHY I’m weird.
*** This is probably a good time to remind everyone that I don’t have a job right now.