Evidence of Life {or heard but not seen}

When you have an indoor cat - years can go by without even the closest neighbors knowing that you have a pet. Bear and I live in a complex of attached residences - you see the residents walking their dogs all the time (and in all kinds of weather - which makes me thankful for that gnarly litter box) - but how does anyone know I have a cat? Well, this is Bear we're talking about - he makes his presence known. LOUDLY.

{As an aside to the issue of outsiders being aware you have pets - I recommend getting a sticker to put on each ground floor window so emergency personnel know there are pets inside - and how many - just in case you aren't home or something has happened to you and your pets need rescuing. Additionally, I also keep a card in my wallet - with an emergency contact's number - not so much for me - but so that some one will know my pet(s) require care in an emergency if something happens to me - which my emergency contact has promised to provide}.

I have no doubt the neighbors hear some of our battles over brushing his teeth and clipping his claws. There's always a lot of squealing on his part (really? a full grown male cat squeals like a little girl?), and lots of cursing on mine. Bear welcomes neither of these tasks and has no problem letting me and anyone else (probably within at least a mile radius) know that he is not happy. I often wonder if the neighbors think I'm abusing him or killing him - because he really throws a tantrum. For the first five years I had him, I actually thought clipping his claws or brushing his teeth might hurt him because he is so dramatic. Each time we visited the vet, I'd ask the vet (just to be sure) if either of these undertakings could possibly hurt Bear; after the first five times of being looked at like I might be crazy for even asking the question, I now just try to reassure myself that it couldn't possibly be as bad as he makes it out to be (which is believable given he can convince me his food bowl is empty and he's starving even when I KNOW I filled it only a few hours ago). 

Other Bear-related activities that become loud: when he wants food NOW and he follows me around meowing loudly, or when I accidentally step on him (which doesn't happen much anymore because I'm now used to him following me everywhere so I automatically always consider where he is relative to me). Bear meows constantly and loudly whenever he's in his carrier - but once the car is moving, the sound is almost deafening. As I mentioned in a previous post - after I caught him to have him checked out by the vet before I brought him inside - he nearly tipped the carrier over banging around and howling like a banshee. I was in the back of the apartment - with the door to the outside closed - and I could still hear him loud and clear. And when I moved back to my hometown with Bear, we rented a truck and Bear was so loud that we didn't even last an hour before we gave in and let him out of the carrier. My father didn't believe how loud Bear could be until he had to transport Bear in his carrier - and my father has noticeably impaired hearing when he doesn't wear his hearing aids, which is pretty much all the time - but even he couldn't miss how loud Bear is; it's become a bit of a joke between my father and I - he always suggests bringing Bear along on trips because we both know what a noisy proposition that would be (and I think there's a bit of admiration on both our parts for Bear's ability to vocalize his displeasure). 

Perhaps the most disrupting use of his vocal cords occurs when any of the neighborhood cats come around. And he really does howl and caterwaul. L.O.U.D.L.Y. By the sound Bear makes, I can usually tell if the cat is just passing through (the howl only lasts 5 minutes and sounds a lot like, "Hawoe?!?! Hhhhawoooooea?!?! Hawoe?!?! Hawoooooe?" as if he is trying to make the cat aware of his existence and begging it to stay for a little while) or sitting outside to exchange "googly" eyes with my cat (this caterwaul lasts for as long as the cat stays - the record is two hours - and as the cat starts to leave, sounds mournful, guttural, and a lot like the "Hawoe," mentioned above). At times, with all this howling and mournful meowing, I've gotten out of bed just to check that he's not dying - even though I know better. The cats who usually come around don't make much noise - except for one guy that matches Bear in volume and also bangs his rump against the outside of the window (which scared me at first because you don't exactly expect to see a cat throwing himself against your window). 

Only one time (that I know of) did a visiting cat "out" Bear to outsiders. The visitor was standing on our stairs where his owner could see him - making googly eyes at Bear. The owner was yelling at her cat - in something that sounded a lot like Russian - and I'm guessing included some cursing because he was watching Bear who was looking out the screen door (I opened the door so he could look out and maybe enjoy the visit more than just through the window), instead of going home as she was calling him inside. Thankfully, I heard the woman start to come our way and closed the door before the rather imposing woman stalked all the way over to retrieve her cat, mumbling all the way. She was NOT happy.

The landscapers for the complex also know Bear exists. One day they were working in the garden in my side yard (which is in front of my window) and I heard one of them yell, "This @#$%^&*! damn cat is watching my every move! What the hell?" So of course, all the other guys nearby had to come and take a look. I wanted to go outside and ask if they were really that unnerved by a cute, little (indoor) kitty cat. 

I rent my residence - and the owner knows I have a cat. But it's become a joke that he doesn't really exist because she's  only seen him once through the window - otherwise, he hides when she comes around. But no one who sees the inside of my home would really question that I have a cat (or at least an imaginary cat): between the cat paraphernalia and the toys scattered everywhere (plus the fur, broken blinds and torn up carpet) - his existence is hard to miss - even if he rarely makes an appearance for anyone but me.

Of course, the best chance my neighbors have to realize I have cat is through our outside adventures. A few people have  probably heard me cursing and chasing Bear around to get him inside (after another escape) - before I started letting him out under supervision (go figure - I "let" him out and he doesn't run or make me chase him). And then there are the neighbors who definitely know Bear exists. As I said, I've started letting him out under supervision - basically while I get the mail or take the trash to the dumpster. Since my side yard is contained and he doesn't even seem interested in going up the first set of stairs to the courtyard, I feel okay about leaving him there for 30 seconds or less. But in that 30 seconds, if my neighbor comes out of his condo (even though he can't actually see the damn cat - and the cat can't see him), or a small animal gets too close to Bear (squirrel, bird, even buzzing insects), or someone walks by with a dog (even though they can't see Bear either - and he can't see them) - he howls loudly and bangs on the door with his paws to get back in. The irony is that the people and dogs would not even know he was there, but for his howling. 

And if I had any doubts that people could hear him, they were dispelled one night by a woman walking her dog who asked me (as I was walking back from the dumpster), if I heard "that noise." I was hoping she wasn't referring to Bear, but then she said, "It sounds like someone's cat is dying! I think we should go see what's wrong - it might need help!" If she hadn't mentioned investigating, I'd probably have let it go, but since I didn't want her following me home, I admitted that it was my cat and he wasn't dying, just scared because he heard her and her dog. She looked at me skeptically, probably thinking it sounded more like a DYING cat than a scared cat, but moved on. I have no doubt she thought I was doing something to Bear (locking him out?), but if I never let him out for these short periods, he'd escape anyway. And my vet pointed out that it was probably good for him to "expand" his comfort zone (in a safe way, like my contained side yard where he can't be seen by other pets and isn't in danger of running away) - and theoretically make him less scared of everything. So far, that has not come to fruition. That howling cat on my front porch - banging on the front door with his front paws - and all poofed up, with his tail between his legs - is a pretty good indication that he's terrified (and no doubt exists) - even though he keeps demanding to be let out on these short excursions. 

Momma! Feed me! Love me! Right MEOW!

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