Mr. Mao’s brief taste of freedom

Published 12:29 pm Thursday, June 13, 2024

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My worst fear.

Paul’s worst fear.

Our recently rescued, rehabbed, and snipped feral cat, Chairman Mao, had escaped.

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We have a door to our mudroom that, unless you push hard when closing until you hear a click, has a tendency to bounce back open and, in leaving in a hurry to run errands, that is exactly what happened.

Returning home, Paul at the wheel, we were greeted by our dogs Poppy and Posey, their entire bodies wagging, trotting down the steps of the front porch.

“How did they get out?” asked Paul, alarmed.

“I’ll bet it was the mudroom door,” I said, fear gripping my heart. My feet hit the ground before the car rolled to a stop, and I ran around the side of the house. “Cat count!” I called back at Paul. “We need to do a cat count.”

Once inside, I could hear Paul, as if assembling a line of enlisted troops ordering a count off.

“Mia! Georgie…William…”

Bernie suddenly shot up the mudroom stairs behind me. He’d clearly decided 90-degree heat wasn’t worth playing Lion King in the flowerbeds.

“Bernie!” I yelled to Paul. “Bernie is accounted for.”

Paul left the hallway and met my eyes in the mudroom. “Mao’s gone.”

“Could he be hiding?” I asked out of desperation and hope. Paul shook his head.

“Don’t panic,” Paul reminded me. “Remember, he’s feral and has survived on his own for at least a couple of years. He won’t waltz into a coyote den.”

“But the hawks and the owls…” I was close to tears. “And he’s not a macho Tom cat anymore. He’s been neutered; his coat’s all soft…he’ll be like RuPaul trying to defend himself in those woods. It’s almost a full moon tonight. He’ll stick out like a sore thumb out there.”

Hearts heavy, we returned to the tasks that awaited us. Paul had a conference call, I had to unload a truckload of hay. It was impossible not to worry—I’d seen two coyotes in the small field just a week ago. I checked my phone (who wears a watch anymore?) 


In thirty minutes, I’d be bringing in the horses for dinner. At 5 p.m., the dogs and remaining cats had theirs.

At 4:55, the shortest prison break in history came to a close. Feeling the sensation of being followed, I turned my head as I left the barn to see Mao, full of bravado despite missing his danger puffs, trotting purposely behind me, tail in the air.

“Mao!” he barked—and I do mean barked— as if to say, “M.r Mao WANTS HIS CHOW!”

“Get in the house!” I barked in reply, then stepped aside so that he could pass before me into the mudroom.

With nary a glance at me, he hopped over the threshold, leaped upon the washing machine, and yowled until his kibble was delivered.

Mr. Mao is in da houzzzzz!