I house-sit for a small handful of people when they go on holidays away, leaving me with their animals to look after. Usually, it’s a standard affair — look after animals, maintain the house, notify them of any problems, rinse and repeat.
It’s hardly a “rinse and repeat” affair when you inadvertently lose a home-owners fur-baby due to your own callousness and inattention. It can happen to anyone. All it takes is for an open door, and bam: suddenly you’re hearing meowing outside the back door when there definitely should not be a cat out there and discover its partner has gone walk-about.
The cat in question, a long-haired tabby called Sebastian, made off in the afternoon with his partner-in-crime (and occasional bully) Snatch. Their routine involves taking them outside every morning to be put in their outdoor cat enclosure. But it’d been raining on this particular day, so I chose to leave them inside — evidently, they didn’t appreciate that.
I assume they snuck past me in the lounge to make a run for it through the back door’s dog flap that leads into the backyard. Snatch, in her wisdom, decided she didn’t like it in the rain, and as I approached the back door to collect a dog bowl, she started making a loud racket demanding to be let inside (cue my rather intense horror). Sebastian was nowhere to be found — and I tossed that house upside-down searching for him, even checking inside the washing machine on the off-chance he was, for some ridiculous reason, in there. As much as I am a repeat house-sitter for these guys, I’m not clairvoyant: I’ve no chance of locating Sebastian’s hiding places.
My uncle-in-law (son of the homeowners) also came to double-check everything. On all three days he came to search, neither of us could locate Sebastian. We did, however, discover that during the chaos of searching for the missing cat, I’d also lost their remaining pet frog too. Some house-sitter I am, aye.
Regular readers of mine may recall I do suffer from anxiety — and losing a beloved cat that isn’t yours is a high bar for my anxiety medication to clear. My mind scrambled, trying to determine penance and morally correct the mistake(s) I’d made. Poor Snatch couldn’t go anywhere without me taking note of her every move (though she was quite receptive to me cuddling her on the couch — rather unusual given she’d previously spent entire days in the homeowner’s bedroom with Sebastian). The two dogs remained within arm’s reach. I remained up until just past midnight in hopes I’d catch Sebastian wandering around the property, but of course, he never showed himself. I left the outdoor enclosure open with a bowl of food out for him, too. Nada.
What is penance? Repentance for mistakes? Is there a book of karma that dictates what exactly one can do to correct an error as devastating as this? Short of apologising profusely (which I was already doing) and paying for the cat’s replacement (which I financially cannot do), what act could possibly equalize the mistake of losing someone else’s beloved family member?
I don’t know. My brain didn’t, either, because somehow I equated “lost cat” to “I should donate blood.”
(I wish I was kidding.)
I booked an appointment with my local blood bank and got out of the house for a while to clear my head. The house was starting to close in on me. And Playstation recently collaborated with Donut King to put out special Playstation donuts — so I tried some of them in Bendigo then returned to the house once more.
To cut a long story short, an hour after I left the house, the homeowners arrived and discovered Sebastian in his cat enclosure. I’ve recently informed my uncle my Christmas gift to his parents will be a reflective cat collar, maybe with an Apple Airtag attached to it.
Donors at Lifeblood are treated like royalty. You’ve never seen a more generous medical staff. Free food and drinks (and stickers!) as far as the eye can see. As I began my health check prior to donation, my nurse was thrilled to see this was my first time donating.
“What made you decide to donate?” she asked.
“I lost someone else’s cat,” I said. She blinked, processing the information. A confounded twinge hit her brow. Concerned she may believe the cat had been permanently lost, I continued, “but it’s okay, they found it again.”
I don’t think that helped my case. She didn’t respond and moved on to a different question.
Outside of that, I was the Blood Queen for a solid half-hour.