We left town early this morning — I’m in Seattle now and I don’t want to leave. But yesterday we were rushing around all day, packing — plus preparing for my family’s visit to Ann Arbor the very next day after I get back into town. The day was frenzied, getting the dogs ready for their stay at a friend’s house for the week, and getting the cats ready for the cat sitter, and locking up the house, washing clothes, cleaning, painting, cooking. I finally turned in after 12:30, knowing the alarm was going to go off at 6 to catch the plane.
But Steve was up later — past 2am, as has been happening a lot lately because there just aren’t enough hours in the day for all he wants to make and do (that’s probably true for me, too, somewhere inside of me, but mostly I can close my eyes and sleep at any moment — that’s my new party piece).
Near 2am he heard activity at the cat door.
We have a great cat door. It leads from the mudroom into the garage, and then there’s a second one that leads from the garage to the outside. It’s a small enough size that the dogs have never bothered to even stick their noses through. Each door actually has two flaps, both of which are magnetic. This magnetic double-flap system keeps it insulated so the cold from the outside doesn’t get into the garage and the cold from the garage doesn’t get into the house. That’s a pretty complicated cat door system, but, after some training with the cats, it has since worked for us.
There was a lot of activity at the cat door at 2am. Loud and clumsy. Steve saw our white cat, the clumsier of the two, inside looking at the mudroom, just sitting there. So Steve walked over to see what could be making all that noise, and what he saw was not a cat: it was a raccoon. In our house. Its front paws up on the table where we keep the cat food. A raccoon in our house.
Sometimes when I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I’ll walk in the dark hallway and be a little bit afraid that I’ll step on some present our white cat might have left for us — he’s been known to kill mice and leave their guts on the floor, yup. But I’ve never been afraid that I’ll find a raccoon in my hallway.
And of course this happens just hours before we’re about to leave town for a week — this potentially catastrophic event, this animal that, if Steve had not been awake so late, could have torn apart our kitchen — and it’s about to have a week to try again.
Steve made a loud sound and the raccoon dove back through the cat door — through the really complicated double-flapped magnetic cat door system that leads to the garage that leads to the outdoors. But less than a minute later, its head was poking back through. Steve made another loud sound. He opened the garage door and spooked it outside.
Then he waited in the garage with the lights very dim, a broom poised above his head.
When the raccoon poked its head through the cat door that leads from the outdoors to the garage, Steve let that broom fall right at the raccoon’s nose with enough force and surprise that maybe, maybe, if it’s smart enough to know how to get into our house, then it’s smart enough to know to not come back.
Then he closed off our much-researched, so carefully-created cat door system, propping up boards and boxes of books.
But our black cat was still left outside, on the night of Ann Arbor’s first frost, just hours before we were to leave town for a week.
I woke at six, heard the story, and raced outside, calling our cat’s name. She came within seconds. I scooped her up in my arms and warmed her and brought her to her food bowl. I realized while filling her food bowl why all her cat food, which I had been keeping in the garage, had disappeared so quickly just the day before, the bag of food dragged out to the middle of the garage and clawed open by an animal I should have understood was not a cat. I usually keep the cat food in a airtight container in the garage, but it had recently been taken out and left open, and that must have been what initially lured the raccoon in.
So now both our cats are inside, or at least I hope they are. And I’m in Seattle. And I’ve learned that raccoons are pretty smart. Though hopefully that raccoon won’t remember in a week’s time about its adventure into our home, and maybe we can open the cat doors again, and I’ll only encounter my own imagined fears in my hallway in the middle of the night.