The Prodigal Cat

I’ve told the story of mama kitty’s acquisition and her surprise kittens, but I haven’t talked much about the time she ran away.
It was a chilly day in early November when Jacob, who was working midnight shift at the time, rushed to pick me up from work. I could see panic wild in his eyes. I stood to greet him: “What’s wrong?!” I braced myself for news. “When I got home from work this morning, Mama Kitty escaped. She jumped right over my gear and pranced down the street.” “You haven’t slept, have you?” I asked: the answer was clear. His eyes were rimmed red and his face, pale. “No, I was out looking for her.” “Have you seen her since?” “No.” My thoughts thudded with fearful possibility.
I wrung my hands as we walked out to the car. Both of us, silent. We looked for hours, notified the neighbors, recruited a search party. We left food and her blanket on the porch in hopes she would find home. But the thought that prevailed: how does one lure a blind cat home?
She was gone for three days before we caught a glimpse of her, perched pretty in front of my neighbor’s house across the street. Not thinking– just– reacting– I dashed across the street to scoop her up in my arms and bring her home. Not so. She scurried under my neighbor’s shed so fast. I could hear her behind the fence, meowing. It broke my heart knowing that she was so close but still unreachable. As soon as my neighbor pulled into her driveway, I stammered:  “My cat is behind your shed. Do you think we could get in your back yard to take a look?” She couldn’t be nicer, but her response jarred me: “Oh– that blind stray? She’s definitely feral. I hadn’t see her around for awhile.”
I wanted to respond with “No! She’s not feral! She’s not a stray! We adopted her! We love her! She has a name, a home, and value!” But I didn’t. I went in the yard to find her, but she was gone. I was so desperate to find her. To bring her home.
I prayed and prayed. Mama Kitty was gone for 11 days, right before Thanksgiving. We caught her once in the wild, but she lashed out so hard against Jacob that we had to let her go. She didn’t want to be caught. She didn’t want to come home. We were both exhausted and bleeding. Bleeding for one that essentially rejected us. I was really close to giving up, letting her be feral. But– the search continued.
One night, late, my spirit stirred– J had already left for work, and I walked in the other room. I looked out the window, and the rain misted gentle, creating a halo under the porch light. And there she was. Sitting right across the street. Looking–as much as a blind cat can look– directly at me. And so– I hatched a plan–a risky one–but a plan nonetheless. I knew that if I went to her, she would flee fast. She had to come to me. It was her choice. It must have been 1 am, but I opened my door wide. I opened a can of cat food. Her ears pricked. I saw them. I tapped the metal can: click click click. I did this over and over. I spoke to her soft: “Here Mama kitty!” Finally, she walked across the street. We played this game for two hours, at least. I left a trail of food on the porch. She followed it. I left more food inside the house, and I hid behind the door. Timidly, timidly, she walked in the house. I waited, prayed, waited, and then closed the door so fast she didn’t have time to run away. I fell on the floor in gratitude. She was home. And right now as I type, she is sitting at my feet, swaying slowly to sleep.
And, though I’ve said this before– I know Mama Kitty is a cat and I am merely her keeper. But after this experience, I can’t imagine, fathom, or wrap my finite mind around how God watches over us, even when we aren’t looking for Him. He doesn’t give up on us, even if we give up on Him. He adopts us;  He gives us a home; He calls us by name; He values us; He loves us.
I am grateful.

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