How I Met an Emma
In the Fall of 1999, a friend of mine was feeding a litter of four orphaned kittens living under a dumpster behind his apartment building in Kearny, New Jersey. We were never sure what happened to their mother, but as winter was approaching, it became clear that the four needed to find shelter, and soon.
The two males—one all grey, one all black—were fairly easy to lure into a cat carrier with some tuna, and found a home, together, in Manhattan. My friend took in one of the females, a willowy tabby. That left the shyest one of the bunch, a cinnamon tortie that’d I’d taken to calling “Emma,” and I decided to adopt her myself.
Easier said than done. She was extremely wary of people, skittish, and quite wild. But we were determined, and, now November, it was beginning to get cold. So we set back out with more tuna and laid a trail for Emma to follow into our cat carrier.
It’s one thing to catch a wild animal in a Have-a-Heart trap that springs shut once the animal is safely inside, as it had when Grey Cat had been “adopted” years earlier in a rather similar parking lot in Hoboken. It’s quite another to catch a virtually feral kitten in a regular cat carrier, attempting to somehow yank the door shut with a long piece of string, hoping to rush in and secure it before the unwitting victim wises up and flees.
Which, with Emma, happened on our first attempt. After she finally followed the tuna trail and had nosed into the carrier, a yank on the string alarmed her and she took off like a bottle rocket, and we scrapped trying to catch her that evening, sure she wouldn’t reapproach the strange tuna-scented plastic people-box again that night.
The next morning it was colder still. I remember lying on my stomach on the cold asphalt with the string in my hand, waiting for the nervous kitten to slowly nibble one bite of tuna at a time, her belly to the pavement as she crawled cautiously across the parking lot, drawing ever nearer to the carrier. She froze at the sound of every passing car, then would resume her slow progress toward the box. Nibble, nibble…sniff…freeze…nibble…
Finally, she was at the door of the cat carrier. One paw in…nibble. Sniff. Another paw. Then three paws…finally, I jerked the string and darted for the carrier, slamming the crate door—on her tail! She screamed, fought, slammed her tiny self against the cage door; desperate, I cracked the door slightly, she attempted to hurl herself out, all claws and screams and, panicking, I slammed the crate door closed and managed to lock it.
Hell hath no fury like this trapped kitten. She screeched, she yowled, she scratched, she bit the metal bars of the carrier, she threw herself against every side of the crate in terror. It was simply horrible. If I hadn’t been so convinced that she’d never make it through the winter on the street I’m not sure I could’ve survived the 20-minute drive to the vet’s office with this going on in the back seat of my tiny car.
Poor thing, she’d never been in a cage, a car, a building, or, worse still, a veterinary office. But that’s exactly where we wound up next.
Next Time: Emma Meets the Vet
Chortled by Obsidian Kitten at 10:11 AM