Lefty left.


Lefty’s first birthday.

Previously published in The Wave.

I realized he was gone around 7am. After a quick search under the bed, in the hall closet and downstairs on the mound of laundry, I got the treats out. I started shaking the bag. That always works. My three other cats came trotting in but Lil Lefty did not.

My heart started pounding. I searched in every drawer, in the stove, in the washing machine, in the storage room, behind the Christmas decorations, under the porch. Everywhere.

The panic set in as I headed outside. I looked all over my backyard, on my front porch, under the cars on the street, in every corner of our back bungalow.  I started weaving through the tall grass in my neighbor’s yard. I looked in his shed and under it on my hands and knees. I saw a hole that led to underneath the shed. “He has to be there” I thought. “Lefty, where are you?? Are you out there little guy”. I search the whole block, traipsing around the front yards of all of my neighbor’s homes. I had a close call where I thought I spotted him. I hopped over a metal fence, cut my leg and frightened the cat away. It wasn’t my Lefty anyway. With blood running down my leg from scraping it on the fence, I hobbled home, crying hysterically.

The night before my cat went missing,  I had some friends over. We’re always very careful about keeping the doors closed so the cats don’t get out.  I even have a sign on the back door. Nevertheless, this time, I slipped up.

That Sunday, the morning I discovered Lefty was gone, I was supposed to head out to Long Island for a family party. I was torn whether I should go or not. Then I thought, “Maybe when I come back, he’d be at the back door or maybe he’s still in the house. I bet he’ll be on the bed sleeping when I return.” Cats are notoriously good at hiding. He was probably still shaken up by all the activity of Saturday night.

I ended up leaving the family party early. I couldn’t even eat my sister’s sausage and peppers.  I was sick to my stomach with anxiety and guilt.

It went from bad to worse over the next three days. Each morning I woke up, had coffee and searched, expanding the radius over time. I was knocking on neighbors doors, crying, asking if I could check their yards. I did this periodically throughout the day. I couldn’t focus on work, cleaning, or eating. I’d search for a while, then lay in bed numbly with Frasier (on  Netflix) in the background. Then back out searching again.

My friend Melissa suggested I post about Lefty’s disappearance on Facebook. I was apprehensive. I didn’t want to deal with the responses, “Don’t worry, he’ll turn up!” or the 15 notifications of the sad teardrop emoji thing. Despite my reluctance, I did it anyway out desperation. Within three minutes my post was shared by 22 people, half of whom were Rockawayites I didn’t even know. It actually made me feel a little better. The neighbors on the block were also so kind. Everyone pitched in to look for Lefty or to console me. Jill Lauri of Healing with Animals passed by my house.  I couldn’t get two words out before I started weeping and telling her the saga. Speaking with her gave me perspective, and calmed me down significantly. Another instance of generosity: I was making coffee and I heard someone calling “Lefty, Lefty, come on out.” I peeked out the window, it was my friend Jodi. Without being asked, she was walking up and down the block looking for my cat. The tears starting running down my cheeks again. The community cared. They didn’t just think I was a crazy cat lady who completely lost her shit.

On night three, my husband’s band The Forms was playing in Brooklyn but I decided to skip it. I couldn’t go out and be my usual happy self. My spark was gone. Instead, I set up a chair by the back door and read a bunch of blogs about what to do if your indoor cat escapes. I learned that my cat was fear-stricken and in a defensive survival mode. Cats that are disoriented will hide instinctually. Most often, cats won’t respond to your panicked voice or the sound of a treat bag shaking. I read that it’s best to speak in a normal voice as if you were talking to a friend on the phone. Indoor cats may venture from their “safe spot” between the hours of 7pm – 2 am and 4am-7am in search of food. Other things I learned to get kitty home: leave a litter box and an article of clothing outside to orient your cat back home by scent. If possible, leave a garage door open with sardines or tuna inside. After doing just that, I went to bed.

The next morning I checked the back door for Lefty. Then I remembered I kept the door to underneath my porch open (per my research). I looked in and the food was gone. I figured it had been eaten by one of the other strays I care for. I opened the door anyway and called Lefty’s name expecting disappointment. After three calls, a little orange head popped up!! Lefty quickly ran towards me with his tail high in the air. I couldn’t believe he was back. The ordeal was over. We both ran upstairs, I woke my husband up and said “We can be happy again. Lefty’s home.”


Baby Lefty when I first found him in my neighbors yard.


Lefty sleeping.