Check Your Engines: An Animal Story (by Hannah Alexander)

Once upon a time, fourteen years ago, I stepped onto the front porch of our house and caught a mama cat nursing three half-grown kittens. She was a pretty thing, as were her kittens. Calico and tortoiseshell. But I immediately discovered the kittens were feral. They scattered in a panic when I spoke.

The mother, however, had once been tame. She looked at me and purred, then hissed, before she ran off after her kittens.

I spent the next few weeks feeding them, luring them closer, convincing them to trust me. Then I betrayed them by setting up a live trap, since I couldn’t get them close enough to grab them.  One by one, Mel and I caught them and took them to the vet to be spayed. Despite that horror, they began to trust us. Other cats followed, many of them old and frayed, but tame. They knew to find a home and ask for help. We took them in. I couldn’t imagine how so many cats could get lost so easily. I once thought some heartless people just dumped them near our corner. But over the years I’ve discovered that there is one specific way cats, in particular, get lost.

Skip forward to the present. This past weekend, Mel and I took Data (above) and Prancy (below), our rescue cats, out to a safe place in the Wyoming wilderness to see if they would enjoy it.

They did NOT. Data climbed right back through the open car door and hid. Prancy climbed into the car, but she hid under the hood, where I had to extract her from the top of the engine. (The kittens, by the way, all have good homes.)

The next day I drove back to our home in Nebraska with the cats. They hate traveling, and Data was especially vocal about it. He yeowled for two hours, as is typical. I became irate. I yeowled back. I finally found a wilderness area where I could stop and let them out because Data needed the litter box. He took off into the field and found a nice bush for privacy while Prancy just disappeared. I couldn’t find her anywhere, so I looked under the hood of the car.

There was a cat on the engine, but it was not Prancy!

Some poor little gray cat from our new home in Wyoming had climbed onto the engine for warmth sometime the night before, and ended up over a hundred miles away. Worse, he was so frightened he slid away and disappeared before I could catch him. I called and called and he never appeared. For a while I wondered if I was hallucinating. But I realized that we’d had cats hitch rides with us before. In fact, we found Data sitting on the top of a semi truck tire in a Walmart parking lot when he was a little kitten. He had obviously caught a ride the same way–under the hood or hidden somewhere under the truck. It’s a cat thing. Dogs don’t do it as far as I know. Now I have to ask all the neighbors in Wyoming if they’ve lost a cat, and confess that I unintentionally deposited their pet in the Laramie Peak Wilderness area east of the mountain pass. I can only pray that some kind soul in the homes nearby will take this little lost cat in.

From now on, before we embark on long trips, Mel and I will check under the hoods of our cars. You might never know how many little cats have sought warmth out of sight under your hood and found themselves lost in a strange and frightening world. Be kind to strays, because many of them have lost their homes and don’t understand why.


About alexanderhodde

We love to hike, we love to read, and we love to write. We are active in a small house church that recently moved into a building that was once a parts store, so life is fun and exciting for us.
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2 Responses to Check Your Engines: An Animal Story (by Hannah Alexander)

  1. Judy says:

    I try to remember to pound on the hood of the car before getting in to go anywhere.


  2. We’ll have to start doing that now that we don’t have a garage.


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