Smokey in the kitchen

The Melville Cat Leaves and Comes Back (Lockdown Day 95)

The Melville Cat normally speaks for himself on this blog. But today, for some reason, I feel like speaking for the two of us.

Smokey on the kitchen floor
Smokey, the Melville Cat, in his favorite morning sun spot on the kitchen floor.

I didn’t choose Smokey as a pet — he chose me. He had a perfectly good home already, with a wonderful lady who has become a dear friend. But for some reason Smokey decided his place was with me, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Because Smokey is an unconventional cat and came to me in an unconventional way (read this post, and the two posts linked at the bottom of that post, for a bit of the backstory), we’ve never had a conventional human-cat relationship. I definitely do not feel like Smokey’s “owner”. And even though we’ve been together for nearly a decade, Smokey is “my cat” only for as long as he cares to be. He is free to go at any time. And go he often does.

Smokey in the kitchen
Smokey in a sunbeam.

Not many people have “indoor cats” in South Africa; it’s hard to keep cats inside because of the way our houses are designed, and most people would never consider doing so anyway. Keeping Smokey indoors, even for short periods, is damn near impossible. I’ve tried keeping him in at night, to no avail. I’ve tried bribing him with food and catnip and showers of love.

But over the years I’ve had to accept that the Melville Cat likes to be out and he likes to roam. He won’t wear a collar and he stays out as long as he wants. He often disappears for a day or two. Once he ran away for three weeks and turned up nearly two miles away.

Smokey came into my life around the same time I realized I have a problem with co-dependancy. I’m certain this was no coincidence. In my relationship with Smokey, I must constantly practice letting go. I must accept that I’m powerless over the actions of others — especially those I love most.

Letting go is especially hard with Smokey, because he is a special cat. My relationship with him is different from the relationships I’ve had with other pets.

Heather and Smokey photoshoot 3
This picture says it all.

Last week, Smokey disappeared. He was on my bed at some point during the night on Tuesday. I didn’t see him on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.

On Friday night I finally broke down and posted about his disappearance on the I Love Melville Facebook group. A lady responded right away and said she was 95% sure she saw him about seven blocks away, walking across a neighbor’s roof.

On Saturday I spent half the day driving around that area, inspecting every tree and bush, calling Smokey’s name through the car window. I spoke to the lady at the house where Smokey might have been spotted. She checked her surveillance camera footage — no luck.

As a pet-owner (or in a my case, as a cat’s devoted human), there’s nothing worse than the feeling of “not knowing”. It’s terrible — especially during a global pandemic, when every bad feeling feels 1000 times worse — to sit inside on a cold winter night and wonder if your beloved is out there suffering somewhere. Did he get hit by a car? Injured by another animal? Lost? Or…Did he find a new human?

I’ll never know.

The only thing I do know if that on Saturday night, around 9:00 p.m., I was standing in the kitchen boiling water to put in my hot water bottle. I poured the water into the bottle, screwed the cap on, turned around, and there was Smokey. Just standing there looking up at me, as though he’d never left. He had been gone for four full days.

“Smokey?” I asked, tentatively, not trusting my eyes. “Smokey?…Smokey!”

I scooped him up and squeezed him, laughing and crying. He allowed it. Trixie, Smokey’s devoted little sister, scampered around my feet.

Smokey’s fur felt soft and not particularly cold. His breath smelled like an unfamiliar brand of cat food. When I put him down, he went straight to his bowl and ate heartily for several minutes.

It’s not easy being the Melville Cat’s human. But I’ll be here for him, as long as he’ll have me.

He’s sitting with his back to me as I type this.
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  • Reply Ellen June 29, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    Welcome home Smokey. You have made your mom very happy.

  • Reply AutumnAshbough June 29, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    I know the creeping dread of having a cat disappear for hours and even days. It’s awful. Usually, about the time I give the cat up for lost, the cat returns. Cat gobbles up food and purrs and it’s the greatest day ever.

    But not worth the hours of misery.

    • Reply 2summers June 29, 2020 at 7:01 pm

      That’s a very good summary of the emotions.

  • Reply Charmain Lines June 29, 2020 at 7:34 pm

    Your Smokey is a special soul; the final picture in your post seems to say so much about him. Our cat taught me a similar lesson in letting go and accepting her on her terms within the first week of coming to live with us. Thank you for sharing Smokey with us.

    • Reply 2summers June 29, 2020 at 7:35 pm

      Cats do have a way of teaching us things 🙂

  • Reply Catrina June 29, 2020 at 7:49 pm

    This reminds me of how I was once asked to look after two cats while the owners went to Kenya. I wasn’t very good at it – mainly because my brother forgot to give me the key to their house. 😳
    We managed to ”fix” the situation before the owners came home. By that time the poor cats had been a week without food. They still had some water, fortunately.
    When the owners came back, one of the cats disappeared and never came back. Can’t blame her! 😊

    • Reply 2summers June 29, 2020 at 7:51 pm

      Oh no, that’s terrible!

  • Reply dizzylexa June 29, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    That’s the problem with cats, as much as I love them they really are their own bosses. Love the photo of you and Smokey.

    • Reply 2summers June 29, 2020 at 8:24 pm

      Ain’t that the truth. Dogs (and maybe birds?) are easier in this way.

  • Reply Nancy McDaniel June 29, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    oh wow, I am so glad he came back. My two cats are exclusively indoors. This would make me crazy. Welcome home Smokey!

    • Reply 2summers June 29, 2020 at 8:34 pm

      I also miss having indoor cats sometimes 😂 It’s just not possible here.

  • Reply Lani June 30, 2020 at 6:35 am

    Awwwww. So damn stressful. Well then. Glad you’re here for Smokey to make it work. xo

    • Reply 2summers June 30, 2020 at 7:03 am

      Thanks. As I said, Smokey is a constant reminder of the things I don’t have control over in life 🙂

  • Reply David Bristow June 30, 2020 at 6:58 am

    An indoor cat – that’s an oxymoron for me.

    • Reply 2summers June 30, 2020 at 7:05 am

      In America it’s very common. I had several 100% indoor cats before I moved here – they adjust to it just fine. But in SA it’s really not possible usually.

  • Reply eremophila June 30, 2020 at 11:40 am

    I do understand Heather, and yes it’s tough. Mine are in at night but have the choice to explore during the day. There have been disappearing times…and worry, but I have to accept it. All of us have the right to take a risk.
    That said, Smokey IS a huge challenge!

    • Reply 2summers June 30, 2020 at 11:58 am

      Yes. He is who he is – no changing it!

  • Reply catji June 30, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    Unusual character.
    I wonder why he sits in the hedge for so long.

    • Reply 2summers June 30, 2020 at 2:08 pm

      He certainly is unusual. I don’t think he was in the hedge this time though – for a disappearance of this length he definitely went further afield. Someday I’m getting him a GPS!

  • Reply catji June 30, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    🙂 Oh yes, i know, but iirc he’s stayed there for more than just an hour or two.
    GPS…he doesn’t want a collar…you see those GPS trackers in wildlife documentaries – they’re huge! So much talk of Technology but tracker+battery still so big. You could ask the Bill Gates chip conspiracy theorists but..not really. 😀

    • Reply 2summers June 30, 2020 at 4:26 pm

      Hahahaha. Yeah he won’t even wear a regular collar with a name tag.

  • Reply mindbeautysimplicity August 4, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    Aww 🥰 so precious. I myself have an orange tabby (at my parents house) he’s 12 years old!

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