30: The Disappearing Kitten

30: The Disappearing Kitten

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

The Disappearing Kitten

You can always tell a real friend: when you’ve made a fool of yourself he doesn’t feel you’ve done a permanent job.

~Laurence J. Peter

I was living in New York City with my German Shepherd, Greta. Our studio apartment was on the first floor and featured something incredibly rare in Manhattan — our own back yard. It was the perfect place for a bachelor and his dog!

Now and then, friends would ask if it wasn’t cruel to keep a somewhat large dog in a decidedly small apartment. I didn’t think so. A natural watchdog, Greta spent most of her day on her rug just inside the entrance. I knew even if we lived in a mansion, she would stay at her post near the door. Plus, we took long walks and she had the yard. As long as the weather was nice, I would leave the back door open, so she could come and go as she pleased.

Nevertheless, I was becoming concerned that she was lonely during the day while I was at work. I decided to get a cat to keep her company.

So, one Saturday morning, I paid a visit to the ASPCA. Row after row of cages held cats of all sizes and all colors, all looking for homes.

As appealing as some of the adult and teenage cats were, I thought it would be best to get a kitten for Greta, hoping her maternal instincts would lead her to “adopt” it and become attached to it. After looking at dozens of adorable kittens, I settled on a gray striped eight-week-old female, still tiny enough to fit in a pocket!

When we got home, Greta thoroughly examined her new friend and then lay down on the rug to watch as she ate a little food. When the kitten was done eating, she promptly walked over to Greta and rubbed up against her.

Although her size and coloring made her look a bit like a wolf, I knew Greta was a very gentle lady who had never shown any interest in chasing cats. After a few moments, she put her head down and the kitten collapsed in a fluffy little heap, falling asleep right next to the big dog’s face.

Now she needed a name. Midnight, Sweetie, Speckles, Tommy — the names of cats I had known while growing up came to me, but none provided any inspiration. After an hour of mulling over other animal names, human names, names of places, names of colors, names of foods, I was no closer to choosing one for Greta’s kitten.

Suddenly, I remembered something from a high school literature class about a mythical goddess — an oracle named Cybele. Instantly, I knew that would be her name! However, I changed the spelling to the more conventional Sybil.

Greta and Sybil became pretty much inseparable. They ate side by side, cuddled together to sleep, and when I’d take Greta for a walk, Sybil would cry mournfully on the other side of the door, begging Greta to come back.

One evening, after Sybil had been with us a couple of weeks, I finished washing the dinner dishes and settled down to do some reading. I glanced at the front door, expecting to see Greta and Sybil curled up together. There was Greta, but no Sybil.

Not really concerned, I started searching the apartment. I looked under the couch and the dresser. I checked the bookshelves and the sleeping loft, in the bathroom and behind the stove and the fridge. No luck.

I rummaged through the kitchen cabinets and the clothes closets. I checked the windows to make sure she hadn’t climbed out to the back yard. I looked everywhere and just couldn’t find her. Running out of possible hiding places to search, I even opened the front door to see if she’d snuck into the hallway, although I didn’t remember opening the door after dinner.

Now I was beginning to feel a little anxious. I sat down on the couch and tried to figure out where she could have gone. What was I missing? Where haven’t I looked?

I tried to remember everything I’d done since coming home. I specifically recalled watching Sybil eat with Greta in the kitchen. Then, they had both lain down on their rug, and I hadn’t really noticed her after that.

After more fruitless searching, I was really starting to worry. Greta seemed to sense my concern and sat by my side. Stroking her fur, I said, “Greta, where’s Sybil? Get Sybil.” I guess I imagined she might suddenly turn into Rin Tin Tin and find her kitten. She didn’t. It was as though Sybil had disappeared into thin air.

Then I heard it — over in the kitchen area — a faint knocking sound. Greta heard it too, and we both went to investigate. I opened the cabinet, but couldn’t see her. I took out all the cleaning supplies and old grocery bags and looked inside with a flashlight. She wasn’t there.

Suddenly, the knocking started again. Oh no! Now I knew where she was, but could hardly believe it.

I opened the refrigerator door and was rewarded by a weak little mew. There, huddled in the back on the bottom shelf next to a bottle of soda, was a frightened gray kitten. Apparently, she had climbed in there when I was putting away the leftovers after dinner, and I must have shut the door without looking. Trying to get out, she had been hitting the soda bottle in the dark, and that was the noise we’d heard.

“Sybil, you little dope. Come out of there.” Too cold or too scared to move, Sybil just sat staring at me, probably wondering why I put her in such a cold, dark place.

Greta came over and stuck her muzzle into the fridge. That’s what Sybil was waiting for! She crept to the front and let me pick her up. I put her down, and Greta proceeded to lick her all over. I think she sensed Sybil was cold and wanted to warm her up.

After a minute, they both went over to their rug. Greta circled a couple of times and lay down. Sybil got so close to her that she was almost hidden underneath the big dog. She began kneading Greta’s side and soon fell asleep, contentedly purring. Finally, she was safe and sound, and back where she belonged — with her surrogate mom.

For the rest of the evening, Greta wouldn’t let her out of her sight. Sybil would try to explore the apartment, only to have Greta keep nudging her back towards the rug. Finally, Sybil got tired of the attention and arched her back like a miniature Halloween cat and hissed at Greta, who nearly fell over trying to back away from the angry little ball of fur.

Sybil didn’t soon forget her scary stay in the cold and dark. For days, whenever I opened the refrigerator, she would hightail it to the rug and watch me with big, wide eyes. I never worried about her getting trapped in the fridge again. Of course, I never stopped checking to make sure of it, either.

~J.J. Crowley

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