We thought he was a goner: The Final Chapter. Really.
In fact, lots of the sites I had looked at recommended just hanging out outdoors a lot as a method of maximizing your chances of seeing your kitty. However, since this was now early November, in Vancouver, and there seemed to be approximately 2.5 hours of daylight per day, and it was cold enough last week that even taking out the garbage without a coat was distinctly uncomfortable, I'd been hoping something else would work.
Plus, even with the assurance that Shy Kitty was probably nearby, I wasn't sure exactly where to look. We live on a big block that is chock-full of sheds and back porches and shrubbery and undergrowth; presumably, there were hundreds of places where he could be. A neighbor had called a few days earlier and said she'd seen a cat running across the street a few houses down, but a flashlight search over there had proven fruitless. I started printing up fliers to distribute around the block, and planned to spend a couple of days asking permission from neighbors to poke around their yards. At night. With a flashlight.
Then, just after we'd used up our ink cartridge on new fliers, Renaissance Woman said, "You know, I wonder if he's in that little storage room under the porch. It's just the kind of place he likes." It was true. At our old house, he used to sneak into the dirt-floored basement periodically and hide there under the old boxes and wood scrap until we starved him out. I remembered seeing Neighbor Cat perched on some old mattresses under the porch, looking smug, way back at the beginning of our search. I hadn't looked in the shed because there was an old door leaned most of the way across the doorframe, and it looked too hard to move. But of course there was plenty of room at the bottom for a cat to squeeze through.
So at about 10:30 on the night after Halloween, I prepared to Just Sit. As instructed by the website, I wore warm clothes and brought out some cat food, a flashlight, and a good book. (I skipped the recommended pillowcase and gloves.) I sat down under the porch, near the propped-up shed door but not too near. I mushed the wet food around in the bowl and let the spoon clink around a bit, just the way I do when I feed Shy Kitty at night. Then I turned on the flashlight and started settling in for a long vigil.
But I hadn't even had a chance to open my book when I heard a pathetic "MEOW" and Shy Kitty peeked his little cat face out of the shed.
I didn't move; I was scared to scare him away. He slunk closer and started chowing down on the wet food.
As I've said, I'm not the most doting or responsible pet mom. But while he was eating, I channeled my inner cat lady and did my best. I told him quietly how good he was, how smart he was to stay hidden and safe, how much we'd all missed him, how happy I was to see him again. I felt kind of dopey doing it, but it helped keep me calm at the very least, and he kept eating.
I came a little closer and petted him, and he let me and kept eating.
Finally, when the food was almost gone, I grabbed him around the middle and picked him up. He yowled and pinwheeled his legs in the air, but I held him out and ran around the side of the house to our door, where I rang the doorbell with my elbow. RW let us in, and our cat-grieving days were over.
We let the Mermaid Girl out of bed to see him, even though it was almost 11 and she really should have been asleep.
Shy Kitty complained a lot that night--"He's telling us it's all our fault, and asking how we could have let him stay out all that time," RW interpreted--but aside from that, he seemed not much the worse for his ordeal. He was extra affectionate for the next few days, and so were we.
Now we're all pretty much back to normal. Except sometimes I think of how I despaired of ever seeing him again, and I give him a little extra nuzzle under the chin.