...when you adopt cats.
Meet Charlie Chaplin and Honey Bee. We adopted them just over a year ago, on February 13th.
My family and I drove across the country last December, moving from our home in New York City to L.A. This move further isolated us from our families in Miami--where we're both originally from--so a couple of months in, we decided to expand our clan with these two furbabies, giving our unemployed selves something new to do and care for.
The first night we brought them home, Honey managed to get comfortable after just a couple of hours--letting us play with her and pet her a bit--but Charlie was not having it. He hid in the tiny cat condo we bought them, and refused to come out until after we had fallen asleep. To help them get used to us, we decided to spend the first couple of nights in the living room with them, not letting them have run of the whole house.
After two nights of more of the same, we woke up in the living room to find Charlie missing. He was obviously a shy kitty so we both figured he was hiding. We searched the house for hours. Checking-in with all the cat forums, we discovered how common this cat trick really is. "Be patient," everyone told us; "he'll come out eventually." But after 5 days, we lost hope.
The house we live in has a fire place. We tore apart the kitchen, laundry room, living room, and even rooms they had no access to. Then we checked the fireplace. Finding what appeared to be cat hair and paw prints, we assumed he'd somehow climbed up and out of the fireplace.
We were so devastated, but continued to leave food out for him, just in case he managed to hide in the walls and would eventually come out.
On the 6th day, alone in my apartment, I heard a noise in the kitchen. Looking to see Honey in front of me by the TV, I knew it wasn't her. I get up to see, there on the counter, a second cat--one that's much too quick and skittish for me to reach in time before he darts off and disappears again. I didn't even have a chance to see where he hid.
As soon as Thomas got home, I told him I'd seen Charlie. Of course he didn't believe me. We hadn't seen or heard from that cat in almost a week. We'd moved the appliances, checked under and inside all the furniture, looked absolutely every where.
Even so, we bought and installed a camera, and turned it on in the kitchen, to see if we could spot him.
We put food and water near, along with a litter box, and waited. Eventually, we spotted a little paw creeping out from underneath the cabinets! But where was he?? We would open the cabinets and there would be nothing but pots and pans and Tupperware--no Charlie.
Finally we discovered a negative space in the corner within the cabinet, underneath the counter. The board along the bottom was not a board at all but a rubber strip that could easily be manipulated by a terrified cat looking to squeeze through and hide.
At first we left him in there, to allow him time to come out when he was ready, but he wasn't eating and we got impatient. After another day or two, we began to actively coax him out. Then Thomas managed to get a leash around his collar, which we used to slowly pull him from the space. He was not happy. He hissed, and scratched, protesting to be left alone, until finally, sinking his teeth into Thomas' finger, completely cracking his finger nail. "Charlie bit my finger," Thomas joked; but his poor nail took 2 or 3 months to heal.
That's when I decided, no more coaxing. I pulled him out, put him in the bathroom with the help of a towel and quick thinking, and left him there with the essentials until we could come up with an alternative. We were so happy he was okay, but so sorry we had to put him through further trauma to get him out.
The next day, we took him out of the bathroom and put him in a kennel until we were able to get a large cage where he could roam, that would allow us to keep an eye on him.
Placing the kennel, a litter box, and the cat condo in the large cage, Charlie was able to hide in plain sight. The security of the cage gave him confidence, and just a few day in, he began to play.
After a couple of weeks, we felt comfortable enough opening his cage and letting him explore.
Which meant him and Honey could get reacquainted.
Soon, Charlie became even sweeter than Honey.
We removed the cage, the kennels, and eventually, even the cat condo was abandoned.
A year later, and it seems we've all found a home.