First Step: take two swigs of Bailey’s Irish Cream. Oh, none for me, thanks, but you’re going to need it for your first go-round at trapping a homeless cat. Pick up the smooth dark bottle, cool to the touch; twist off the black plastic cap (snap!) Inhale the spirit of Ireland as you hoist the open bottle to your lips, throw back your head, and allow the chocolaty, tingly river of love to linger on your tongue before you wave it on down your throat. Repeat. Put the cap back on the bottle and return it carefully to the cupboard (you may need it later!). Exhale. You’re ready.
Now, dressed in your black sweatpants, gray sweatshirt, and brown hiking boots, you open the patio door which reminds you with its high-pitched squeal that it needs to be oiled when you return. The lemon tree’s sweet, lively fragrance envelops you. You step onto the grainy asphalt deck and bend down, taking care to avoid the fiery pain you sometimes get in your right knee. You grab the handle of the wire mesh cat trap inside of which is a metal spring-loaded plate that you will set once you’ve arrived at the targeted cat’s outdoor home. You wipe your feet on the thick sisal door mat, close the patio door with a thud, then carry the trap through the white-carpeted living room to the front door. You grasp the cool, brass door knob, give it a turn. It opens onto the white cement landing. Jake, your short-haired, line-backer-necked gray cat is sleeping in his blue plaid flannel bed near the jade plant. He briefly opens his eyes and greets you with a short “mew.” You set down the trap so you can bend over and scratch him under his chin. “See you later, Jakey,” you say to him in that baby-talk way you adopt when you talk to kitties. “I’m going off to catch one of your cousins.”
You pick up the trap with your left hand so your right is free to hold onto the white railing while you walk carefully down the stairs. The crisp afternoon air and bright sun lift the dread you felt earlier. Maybe this will be fun, after all.
You head toward your carport to your white Nissan Altima. The local Waste Management company truck is rumbling into the driveway for its weekly pick-up, setting off your car alarm as it passes. You reach into your pocket for your keys and press the little “off” button on the remote before the entire neighborhood rises up against you.
You open the back passenger door, carefully setting the trap on the newspapers and black plastic tarp you previously placed there. The inside of the car smells musty now; so, as soon as you slide into the driver’s seat, you open the windows. You run through your mental list to make sure you have everything you need: several cans of Trader Joe’s tuna for cats, can opener, paper towels, terrycloth towel to cover the trap once he’s inside, cell phone, camera, sun visor, patience, love. Yep, all set.
You buckle your seatbelt, insert and turn the key in the ignition, and back carefully out of your carport into the driveway.
You offer up a brief prayer to no one in particular. Oh, please, let him go into the trap.
You drive to the parking lot near Sammy’s outdoor home. He’s the one you have set your sights on, a beautiful, Siamese kitten, the son of Lily, a fierce, black kitty who has already been fixed. Alas, no more beautiful kittens.
You pile the trap, the paper bag full of the cans of tuna, towels and the rest of your supplies onto an old luggage carrier, strap it all down with colorful bungee cords, and head off down the blacktop path. You’re worried that the metallic squeaks and moans coming from the rickety cart will scare Sammy away. The fragrance of the wild sage delights and calms you. You stop several feet short of Sammy’s favorite dining spot, the plank of plywood covering the drainage ditch. You release the bungee cords, set the paper bag on the ground, lift off the trap and place it on the plywood. Buddy, a large black cat, has already come out to check on the proceedings. Little Bear, a small gray neutered male, is fast approaching. The others can’t be far behind.
This is the impossibility of the task you have accepted - how to target the one kitty, Sammy, while keeping the others away from the trap which now reeks mightily of the tuna you’ve placed inside.
You set the lever on the trap and – wait. You stand at a distance and watch as Sammy approaches. Sammy is following suit. No, no, you silently scream as Little Bear enters the trap and gobbles the tuna you’ve placed in front of the spring-loaded metal plate. You’ve no choice but to yell at him, thus sending Sammy scampering into the bushes. You hold out some tuna to entice Buddy to follow you on down the path away from the trap. It works! Sammy returns and starts nibbling again, moves slowly into the trap, further, further. But, wait! Little Bear sneaks out of the bushes and oh, dang! He’s going into the trap, too. The trap is small and the only way Little Bear can get at the rest of the tuna is to nudge Sammy further into the back of the trap. He does. Bam! Little Bear backs out just in the nick, leaving Sammy trapped and thrashing. You holler, “No, no, no, Sammy, it’s all right” as you run toward him, waving the towel, and flinging it over the trap. Your heart is pounding; Sammy is mewing, his eyes wild. You collapse onto the ground and cry. However, Little Bear, has already started nibbling at some of the tuna you dropped onto the plywood in front of the trap.
Bailey’s. Did someone say Baileys?
Rosie is the author of "They Had me at Meow: Tails of Love from the Homeless Cats of Buster Hollow." Be sure to check out Rosie's book and pick up a few copies -- great for Easter or Mother's Day gifts!