In the end, she just walked into the forest and did not come back.
Peaches (aka: “P-Chan”) who was not the least bit adventuresome. She did not wander widely. In fact, her central interest in life was her food bowl. Monday morning, we were up early to take our son Ryan to the airport. As usual, P-chan complained about the distressingly low level of food in her food bowl. I fed her a little. We opened the door and hustled Ryan’s luggage into the car. By this point, P-chan had nibbled a little food and darted between our legs onto the deck. Nothing unusual about that. We closed the door and left for the airport.
The nagging worry did not begin until the evening. When P-Chan did not come back, Tomoko went out and walked around calling her name. When that did not work, I took a powerful flashlight and walked all around the house looking under every overhanging object and into every corner. Perhaps she would be back in the morning.
She did not come back in the morning. We looked again. And again. On Thursday, I put on heavy clothing and rubber boots and walked the full extent of the overgrown greenbelt, checking streams and caves. Nothing.
- – -
P-Chan was a Christmas gift for our kids in 1997. I was not enthusiastic. I knew that a pet would bring with it extra cleaning chores. I drew up a detailed contract that outlined each child’s responsibilities for cleaning up after and caring for our new pet. All the kids enthusiastically signed the contract. What a waste of paper…
We then went to the SPCA and were introduced to a cat who was about 6 weeks old, already spayed, already trained to eat dried cat food. The selection was immediate.
We named her “Peaches” based on her fur color. However, we are a Japanese-English bilingual household and “Peaches” very quickly morphed into “P-Chan”. As for our new family member? She spent the first several days hiding under the heavy hutch in the dining room. After that, she gradually came out and worked herself into the routine.
To my utter surprise, within a week or so, P-Chan decided that the most desirable sleeping spot in the house was on my left shoulder while I was lying on the couch attempting to read or watch television. She would lie there purring, slobbering, licking my face and digging her claws into my shoulder.
When P-Chan was just a bit over a year old, we had our first big adventure: an assignment in Japan. The logistics of transporting P-Chan to Japan ended up being one of the most complicated aspects of the assignment. You don’t just walk on to an international flight with a cat. We checked the different airlines and found wildly different rules and procedures. One airline would happily check your animal as baggage, as long as you did not require that the animal be alive when delivered at the other end. Finally, we found a combination of airlines that would allow a cat on board as long as the cat was stowed under the seat in an approved cat carrier.
How was cat hygiene going to work? Most cats can’t simply hold it for the 24 hours or so of door-to-door travel from Austin to Tokyo. I suggested that we might buy disposable diapers and cut a hole in them for P-Chan’s tail. Tomoko and Erika scowled back – Dad was not funny. (although I have since seen dogs in airports fitted exactly this way) We really did not have that question resolved when Tomoko came back with the approved cat carrier. P-Chan was much larger than the cat carrier. I suggested slathering her in olive oil to make it easier to slide her in…. More scowls. Dad was REALLY NOT FUNNY.
Eventually, IBM paid a special service to drive a van from Houston to Austin (175 miles each way) to pick P-Chan up and drive her to Houston. They then held her for two weeks, waiting for a day in which the temperature on the tarmac in New York would be less than 60 degrees F.
Once she arrived in Tokyo, P-Chan walked around the new house complaining loudly for about two days and then settled in to her normal routine.
We returned from Tokyo in the summer of 2001, exactly reversing the procedure with the airplanes and vans. P-Chan arrived back in Austin, complained loudly for a day or two and then fell back into her normal routine of placing herself squarely on top of anything that seemed to have our attention, a record player for example.
Newspapers and magazines were a particular favorite. We purchased a special spray bottle for the dining table to shoo her off of it. I used it consistently. Tomoko, of course, used it much less consistency, like…ah..well…almost never. P-Chan loved to help Tomoko read the newspaper.
Of course, P-Chan was always there when I needed a nap. Very helpful. As soon as I sat down anywhere in the living room, or even in the kitchen for that matter, P-Chan was right there.
Over the years, P-Chan became less sprightly. Instead of flying half-way across the room, she would cautiously work her way up from ottoman to sofa to get to me, but she would always get there.
This point was one of the first warning signs. About a month ago, P-Chan suddenly lost interest in coming to see me. For that matter, she lost interest in just about everything except her food bowl. Tomoko reported P-Chan walking around looking confused and complaining sadly as if she were looking for someone. Clearly something had changed. P-Chan was fifteen years old, not ancient but certainly a healthy age for a cat. I did some research and identified a pet cremation service in Austin. We knew her days were numbered.
- – -
Clearly, there are a number of possible scenarios.
- Predators are a possibility, but an unlikely one. We are on a greenbelt, but we are at the top of a small cliff. P-Chan was normally timid and did not venture much past our driveway. Besides, we would have expected to find evidence of a struggle.
- Streets? P-Chan never ventured into the street. We did not find her in the street.
- Another House? Sometimes cats get bored and go find another house to live at. In fact, Tomoko had experienced precisely this sort of feline visitor before we got P-Chan. However, we don’t think this scenario is likely.
We believe that P-Chan knew that it was time and went off to find a quiet place.
The worst part is not getting a chance to say goodby. We are still wandering around the house and bumping into various pieces of cat equipment that we acquired over the years. We are putting them away, one-by-one.
In the mean time, we can only hope that P-Chan died quietly in her sleep and wish that she may rest in peace.