Mistress of the Mix: Who Ya Gonna Call?

These days, when I visit my parents in Southern Oregon, the first thing I say when I walk in the door is, “Where’s that damned cat?” If you didn’t follow my saga of Lint, my dad’s cat, back in January, let me catch you up with the short version of the story (although you can read the entire cat tale right here):

On the very day my mother returned home after a three month stint in rehab after getting hit a car, my dad’s cat went missing. And the cat carrier. Things didn’t add up, and through some seriously savvy detective work, my sister and I figured out that my mom’s hired caretaker for the day was actually a cat burglar. After a couple of weeks we made a few phone calls, visited a few shelters, and eventually called the police. Although she denied involvement with the disappearance, a few days after the police questioned the young woman, the cat miraculously showed up 15 miles away in another city in a random lady’s backyard.

The cat carrier did not miraculously return, so my sister purchased another one. A soft sided carrier that zips open on one end which Lint loves so much she often sleeps in it.

Since her return, Lint has been the subject of a lot of attention, and my dad has finally begun teaching her some nifty tricks that are decidedly un-feline like. If you command her to sit up, she gets up on her hind legs and begs. If she demands entry into the house from a locked door, my dad will say, “Go AROUND, Lint.” And dangit if she doesn’t do exactly that. All the way to the other side of the house. And she fetches. I wish I had a video of it. If you throw her a ball of paper, she’ll run, pounce on it, and then bring it back to you and plop it down so you’ll throw it again. I think she learned it from my dogs.

She also generally rushes down the front steps to meet me at my car whenever I pull around the corner and up to the house, her little red bell tinkling as she runs toward us.

But last time I visited, there was no tinkling of a bell, no little black cat running in our direction to meet us at the driveway. So my first words when I walked up onto the deck and through the sliding door into the house was, “Where’s that damned cat? She wasn’t there to greet me.”

“I dunno,” said my dad. “She’s around here somewhere.”

I plopped down into a chair and started talking to my mom, who likes to situate herself in one of those Scandinavian half barrel leather chairs that swivel around. She always sits facing the side of the house that’s all picture windows and sliding doors so she can get the best view of the mountains on the other side of the valley from their house, perched on the side of the highest hilltop in town, looking down into the backyards of all their neighbors below.

A few minutes later something caught her eye, and she yelled for my dad to come look. We didn’t see anything – at first – but eventually my mom’s finger pointed out something high in a tree on the edge of the property line between my parents house and the neighbor below. It was that damned cat.

We estimated that she was about 30 feet off the ground at this point. But there was a lot more tree if she wanted to go higher. And she did. My dad and I walked out onto the cantilevered deck, and when the cat saw us, she crawled out even further on the branch, trying to get closer to us, but even when she went as far as a cat could go without falling off the end, she was still at least 20 feet away from the house, and even higher off the ground.

The rest of the day was spent trying to figure out a way to coax Lint out of the tree. And I already know what you’re thinking. Nobody ever saw a cat skeleton up a tree. I get it.

But you don’t know my mother.

Every few minutes my mom – who stayed in that chair all day long – would say something to the effect of, “Well, what are we gonna do to get that cat out of the tree?”

Using that line about nobody ever seeing  a cat skeleton in a tree didn’t work on her.

We devised all kinds of plans. The caregiver (a new and improved caregiver) and I went down into the backyard and stood at the base of the trunk with treats, calling the cat and trying to coax her back the same way she went up. There was quite a bit of movement in the right direction, but at one point Lint slipped, grabbed onto the branch for dear life, and decided she was fine huddled right where she was.

My daughter came over in the afternoon, and we came up with another bright idea that involved a long rope, a basket, a rechargeable battery pack from a remote controlled toy car that no one has played with in years, more cat treats, and my dad’s weird rubber band collection. “Finally,” said my daughter, opening up a drawer and removing a huge handful of used rubber bands of all sizes that in their previous life were wrapped around a newspaper, “Papa has found a use for these things.”

We secured one end of the rope to the heavy battery pack using about 30 rubber bands.  The other end we tied to the handle of a basket. Then we stood on the deck (and of course the cat was intrigued enough with us that she turned around and headed out to the end of the branch again), and took turns trying to pitch one end of the rope over the branch. The idea was to successfully hoist the basket up into the tree, that the cat would get into the basket by its own free will, and then we’d lower it down to the ground. Instead, we fell short on most of our throws, got the rope tangled in small branches the few times it landed anywhere near the tree, and we decided to stop altogether after almost taking out the neighbor’s window.

Frustrated and defeated, we reeled in the rope and convincing ourselves that if we just ignored the cat, she’d eventually come back down when she got hungry enough, we headed back in the house.

Meanwhile, back inside, mom had turned her barrel chair into a command center, and had surrounded herself with several phone books (who even has those anymore?) and a couple of senior resource directories, and was making phone calls. She was not giving up, dammit. It was 4pm on a cold Saturday afternoon, and she was not going to let the sun set without rescuing that feline. As I slid the door shut I heard mom leaving a message with her phone number, and I asked if she was calling the fire department.

“Don’t be silly,” she said. “I’m calling the window washers.”

It was kind of a brilliant idea, actually. It just seemed so cliche to call the fire department, but who else ya gonna call? Window washers actually made sense. Guys with ladders who aren’t afraid of heights.  I was kind of impressed that mom had come up with this idea all on her own.

And then they showed up.

Three guys. One ladder. A blanket, a can of cat food and a bag of catnip.

And these weren’t just ordinary guys. I mean, they were, but they were actually incredible to behold. I felt like I was in a time warp.

They were freaking rock stars.

And by that, I mean one looked exactly like a negative mirror image of Guns N’ Roses front man Axl Rose with long, straight, jet black hair and a blue bandanna around his head, black jeans and a black leather jacket. Straight out of the 80’s.

The next guy seemed to have arrived directly from a 1992 Nirvana show at the Crocodile Cafe. Shaggy blonde hair, blue and white flannel over a dingy white t-shirt and jeans. He even smelled like weed.

And the third,  oh the third. My favorite. He was a dead ringer for Prince. When he went back to calling himself Prince, in the 2000’s, straightened his hair and kept his bangs long. He had the perfect coffee and cream skin, a pencil thin mustache, and if I remember correctly, eyeliner. This guy – who could seriously make a living at parties as an Artist Formerly Known As impersonator – was clad in black skinny jeans and a Batman shirt. Anybody remember when Prince did the soundtrack for one of the Batman movies? Yeah. That happened.

Well, they did turn out to be super heroes.

The sun was starting to go down and time was a wastin’, so the Cat Busters scoped out the cat in the tree, grabbed a long ladder from atop their station wagon, and headed down to the back yard. After a short huddle to figure out a game plan, they sprang into action. Axl stashed the can of cat food in his pocket, and started climbing the ladder, as Prince and Kurt Cobain held it in place.

After he’d reached the end of the rungs, Axl started shimmying higher up the tree and out onto the long branch. Perched 20 feet further out on that branch, the cat just stared at him. Prince and Kurt left their post, and unfurled a thick blanket. I’m not sure if this was a measure meant to soften the landing of the cat or Axl, but either way it was adorable, even if it was futile.

Axl opened the lid, and stretched his arms out toward the cat. He inched a bit further out onto the branch, hoping Lint might get a whiff of Fancy Feast. He coaxed. He cooed. He said, “Here, kitty kitty.” He argued with his fellow rock stars about what to do next.

And then I remembered the cat carrier. Lint loves her cat carrier, right? It occurred to me that there was a slim possibility (instead of an absolutely zero percent chance if it was any other cat in the world) that Axl might be able to persuade Lint to get into the cat carrier, even if it was 40 feet off the ground. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

My daughter ran down into the back yard and handed over the cat carrier to the rockers, and Cobain climbed up with the carrier. Axl shimmied back down the branch to the trunk, and grabbed it along with a long metal pole which I believe normally had a window cleaning squeegee attached to the end. He slung the strap around his neck, and climbed back out again in the growing darkness, stopping to rip open the bag of catnip.

I know, its super hard to see. But that’s Axl down at the bottom, a bag of catnip in his mouth, ripping it open. Way up at the top, that’s Lint. The other rock stars are still holding the blanket, out of frame.

Axl climbed as high up and as far out as he dared, and – while holding the pole – reached around for the carrier. He unzipped the end, and then reached into his pocket and pulled out the bag of catnip. He waved it in Lint’s direction, and then tossed the bag into the carrier, all while holding on to the tree. Then he unslung the carrier, slipped the long pole through the shoulder strap, and started slowly pushing it along the branch towards the cat.

And damned if that cat didn’t just get up off her haunches, walk over to the cat carrier, and climb inside of it.

She gingerly tested it to make sure the entire contraption wasn’t going to tip over sideways and crash down to the ground (although Prince and Kurt Cobain were standing underneath holding the blanket again just in case). And then the second smartest cat in the world – because the smartest would’ve never gotten stuck up  a tree in the first place – just climbed right in.

Axl ever so carefully used the pole to pull the carrier back towards him enough so that he could zip the door shut, then he backed himself down the branch, to the ladder and finally down to the ground as the audience applauded wildly, all three of us.

When they brought the cat inside and let her out of the bag, I was amazed at how unfazed she seemed to be. But the guys were pretty stoked with themselves, and despite the cat’s nonchalance about the whole episode the rest of us were totally impressed.

After all the high fiving and going over their crazy scheme that actually worked, I said, “So this afternoon, were you all just sitting around getting high and watching Ghostbusters or something, and when my mom called, you thought, ‘Heck ya, we can do this. We’ve got nothing else to do. Activate Wonder Triplet Powers!’ and then you jumped into the Cat Busters mobile and saved the day?”

Axl, Prince and Kurt looked at each other and smiled goofily and said, “Yep, that’s pretty much it!”

I asked how much they wanted, and they said they had no clue, they’d never done anything like this before, usually they were in the window washing business, not the cat saving business. I think they would’ve honestly done it just to be able to tell the story to their friends next Thursday night at Buffalo Wild Wings. but we took up a little collection and ended up with about $100, which they seemed happy with. They handed us one of their window washing cards, and I told them they should really think about getting business cards made up to advertise their new skill.

Meanwhile, Lint remained nonplussed. She was stoned out of her gourd now, rolling around in a pile of catnip inside the cat carrier.

That damned cat.

A crazy cat story like this one deserves a streaming playlist that is just as crazy. Check out Here Kitty Kitty, which weaves together a bunch of popular hits from each of my rock stars, plus some of the best kitty themed songs that I haven’t already shared in the past. And then there’s the songs that take it up a notch and unleash the catnip, from albums designed specifically to relax cats that are stoned on the stuff. Not even joking. You can’t make this stuff up.

Valerie Ing

Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.

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