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Lost in Los Angeles: The Day My Indoor Cats Got Out

Wembley and Milo somehow broke through a second-story window screen. Turns out the cats took better care of themselves than I thought.

 |  Sep 24th 2012  |   8 Contributions


One night, at some point between 1 and 7 a.m., my two cats -- most likely during their fifth wrestling match of the night -- snapped through the window screen and tumbled out of my living room window, two stories off the ground.

Wembley, my delicate, pure white, green-eyed, 4-year-old rescue with a proclivity for preemptive hissing, had made a habit lately of lounging on a knit throw I had laid across a chair next to the open window. I’m assuming Milo tackled her and the two went hurtling out after the screen gave out. 

Wembley looking beautiful, as usual.

Up until recently, Wembley was enjoying life as an only cat. Milo the Siamese kitty was the latest addition to the household. Also a rescue, Milo had so far shown affection for stealing anything and everything I happened to leave out -- including raw almonds and homemade oatmeal raisin cookies -- and stashing them in his watermelon-shaped cat bed. Milo is cunning and, as a still-young cat, maybe likes to wrestle a bit too much for Wembley’s liking.

Milo just wants to be Wembley's friend. She's having none of it.

In the morning, we realized the cats hadn't sounded the alarm for breakfast, which the boyfriend normally gives into around 7. We shrugged it off and got ready for the day. And that's when we noticed the window screen in the living room was flapped open.

Wembley and Milo in a rare peaceful moment.

I didn't panic. Or, at least, not right away. I searched the apartment patiently as my boyfriend did the panicking. I figured they'd come back.  

I opened an Instant Messenger window from a former co-worker and wrote that the cats went missing during the night. "They're probably sitting in the bushes laughing at us," I typed. "Probably," she replied. "Revenge for all those hats you make them wear."

Wembley and Milo in those hats. It was for a birthday party.

I laughed and closed the window and prepared to deal with some work email. And that's when I started thinking: "Coyotes." I live in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, where the coyotes parade around like squirrels.

And then I thought, "OH MY GOD -- Franklin!" I also live next to a pretty busy major street (Franklin). Who knows if the cats had decided to dash across it? 

And that's when the panicking started. My eyes welled up and then came the uneasiness. I gave the apartment another once-over (knowing, again, how cats tend to be when they know you're looking for them) before snapping into autopilot and posting notices on every available outlet I could think of. By 8:30 a.m., I had set up a Google Voice number, and soon Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, Reddit, Instagram, and Tumblr had images of Wembley and Milo plastered all over them.

"Share, plz. Wembley (white), Milo (Siamese). Both have collars, are chipped, but have never been outside before and Franklin's a busy street and very close by," my hastily Photoshopped Facebook post read. "Hopefully they'll just return themselves, but just in case ..."

Looking back, I came off way calmer than I really was. My boyfriend returned, drenched, from outside -- luckily for us, Los Angeles was in the middle of a heatwave -- and frazzled. Nothing. 

He picked up the phone and dialed the local animal shelter, whose staff assured him that they post photos of found animals on its website as they come in. They took our information and promised to call if they saw any cats matching our description. 

We both decided to stay home from work that day. What if the cats returned while we were out? We searched again for them, this time rattling the container of dry cat food they normally respond to within seconds. Nothing, again.

Milo wasn't the one I was worried about. Milo knows his way around things. He plays with dog toys to match his energy and strength. He greets guests like a puppy, brings me his favorite squeaky carrot plushie every morning, and was always curious about going outside. I'd hold him in my arms whenever I needed to retrieve the mail or get something out of the car. Milo would find his way back home on his own, I thought. (That is, if the coyotes didn't get to him first. Actually, he'd probably try to make friends.) 

Milo with his favorite carrot plushie. He thinks he's a dog, I swear.

Wembley, meanwhile, was the primary concern: She hates unfiltered water, getting dirty, and pretty much anything that isn't me or my boyfriend. She was probably scared to death.

The boyfriend then ran into a concerned neighbor: “No one lives in that house,” he said, gesturing to the dark house next door with the overgrown yard. “You might want to check back there. A raccoon family and a possum live there, so you want to get [the cats] out.”

My boyfriend snuck down a narrow path of sharp juniper shrubs before he noticed a dark streak out of the corner of his eye.

“Milo!”

Milo paused and stared at him ... then promptly turned his tail around and walked down the path, further away from my boyfriend. 

“Milo!”

Milo stopped a few steps later. And that’s when Wembley popped her head out of the bushes.

“Wembley!” yelled the boyfriend.

“Meow!”

And, as my boyfriend swears, Wembley dashed towards him with no hesitation. “Like Lassie!” he says. He remains convinced that Milo had led him to Wembley’s whereabouts and was being protective over her the whole time they were outside. He scooped Wembley up and brought her inside -- she may have been missing just a few hours, but she was already covered in cobwebs and dirt, and she had turned a nice shade of taupe.

Wembley was covered in cobwebs after her excursion. Time for a bath!

Milo followed them home, where both cats were checked for injuries (none!), and welcomed with a late breakfast and a bath. The rest of the day was spent napping.

I alerted all the appropriate outlets that the cats (who are featured on my Instagram and Facebook way too often) had been located. "This had been stressing me out from 3,000 miles away, so, YAYYYY," commented one friend 3,000 miles away.

Wembley's still adjusting to having Milo around -- the other night she allowed him to give her ears a thorough bathing. The window in question has been repaired, but now remains closed during the night.

Milo, meanwhile, has learned how to open doors. Pretty sure I'm doomed.

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