Talk about bad luck…

When we originally started this blog, it was intended to be a place for us to share our experiences of living in Europe, the highs, along with the lows. Admittedly, I assumed this would be mostly highs, with a random low or two mixed in (I mean, we are living in Europe after all!). However, it seems that low has come along sooner than either of us could have imagined.

This weekend, we lost Meatball. By lost, I mean in the literal sense: we don’t know where she is. Despite the fact that we live on the 3rd floor, she was able to escape out of the window. Heartbroken doesn’t even begin to describe how we feel. Obviously, this is a bit of a story, so I’ll try to fill in the details.

Since we have been here, we have worried about blocking the windows so that she couldn’t fall out. Air conditioning is not a common occurrence here, so opening windows is a must. As such, we have come up with a couple of solutions. For our large, living room window, we cut the existing shade and glued screen in four large squares. Adding Velcro to the bottom of the shade has made the perfect “kitty keeper”. For the bedroom window, we used a metal laundry rack that came with the apartment to block her from escaping. All in all, two solid solutions to keep the cat safe. The one unaccounted for, and ultimately doomed window: the kitchen window.

A bit of backstory to the kitchen window: it is about 4-5 feet off the ground, and it is a small square, perhaps half the size of the two windows I previously mentioned. The window itself does not open all the way, just swings out a bit. Being that we are on the 3rd floor, our windows essentially lead to nothing, just a 30-foot drop straight down to the street below. The one exception is the kitchen window, which has a fairly wide gutter just outside. It is probably 8 inches wide and fairly sturdy (I stood on it, more on that later). This gutter extends about three feet to each side of the window and then ends. Therefore, in our minds, even if Meatball were to get out that window, there is nowhere she could go (again, a large drop to the street).

 

Bedroom window with make-shift block. It worked perfectly!

Up until this weekend, it has been fairly cool so we haven’t had to open the windows much. This week, however, the temperature finally hit normal summer temps, ~80 degrees, so the windows were open. Both the living room and bedroom windows had their respective blocks in them, and Meatball seemed to be enjoying the fresh air (although obviously not happy with the new higher temperatures – she is certainly a cool weather cat). The kitchen window, which we had only been opening a few inches so as not to temp Meatball, was opened as wide as it would go, about 10-12 inches. Being that July 4th is not celebrated here, Whitney and I decided that there would be no celebrating on Friday night and a movie on the couch would suffice. Long story short, we watched the movie, Whitney went to bed, and I followed an hour or so later. On my way to bed, I made sure to shut the large window in the living room and checked to make sure Whitney had closed the bedroom window. The kitchen window never entered either of our minds. Besides, a gutter leading to nowhere wasn’t much concern. At the most, we figured she would get out there and just lay. This is the same cat that darts back into the house if we try to take her outside.

The next morning, I woke before Whitney and quickly realized that Meatball was not in the bed (she always sleeps in the bed). Assuming it was due to it being hotter, I got up to check all of her regular spots. She was nowhere to be found. Almost immediately, I remembered the kitchen window. When I looked out on the gutter, I found only a small pile of her food that she had vomited up (typical Meatball) and nothing else. Obviously panic set in and we went scrambling to find her.

Fast forward a few hours and we realized that we were in more trouble than we thought. The obvious solution to the missing cat was that she had just gone up on the roof and was sleeping in the sun. Again, we live on the 3rd (and top) floor, so checking the roof was no easy task. The same window Meatball escaped from soon saw me slithering out of it and standing on that same, 8-inch wide gutter. From the gutter to the roof involved a jump up onto the window facing, and then another 4-5 foot climb to the top of the building. Despite all of this, Meatball was nowhere to be found. I even did this climb a second time to double-check. Again, nothing. In the meantime, Whitney found Meatball’s collar on the ground immediately below the window. That means her identification, with contact information, is no longer with her. Talk about bad luck…

We spent the better part of the day yesterday looking for her. To add to our bad luck in this situation, there are literally 10-15 cats in the surrounding streets and houses. Despite the fact that the large majority of them are extremely friendly, only a few have collars/identification. Therefore, a grey and white cat without a collar does not stand out here. We did spot one cat that looked just like Meatball and we chased it for quite a while. Only after cornering it in an alley and having it scratch me and tear holes in my shorts did we realize that it wasn’t her. We haven’t seen that cat since.

Aside from going out to look every 30-40 minutes, we have put up flyers, registered her microchip with the national database (so if she turns up at a vet), posted a missing pet ad online, and emailed pictures to the local animal shelters. On Monday, Whitney is going to take flyers to the nearby vet offices and pet stores. The major problem we have is that we have no idea which direction she could have gone. There are too many bushes, cars, sheds, fenced-in yards, and dark corners to check.   Having fallen so far, we are obviously concerned that she is hurt. Being a cat, we fully expect her just be in hiding. Perhaps she will come out once she heals up a bit? We have no idea. We don’t even know where to look. We have checked everything we can in a large radius around our apartment. We’ve found lots of cats, just not ours.

So to recap: Meatball got out of the kitchen window. We know this because we found her vomit on the gutter and her collar on the ground. Additionally, it seems that she tried to walk along the gutter and then jump to the bedroom window sill. There is maybe about a foot gap between the two surfaces and this window is sealed shut, on the opposite side of the bedroom from the open window she had been enjoying. Therefore, she had never seen it open and only sat on the inside looking out (nearly every morning since she has been here).  The window sills are concrete, narrow, and pointed down at about a 45-degree angle. This morning we found scratch marks on the concrete where she had tried to dig in after jumping. The thought of her trying to catch on is sickening. Seriously, why would she do that?

The SEALED bedroom window that Meatball often enjoyed from the INSIDE.

So that’s where we stand. Meatball is out there somewhere, potentially hurt, and we can’t do anything about it. We’ll continue to go out and check around, hoping we can eventually run across her. Our hope at this point is that she at least remembers where she fell. To help, we have put out food, some articles of our clothes (for scent), and her favorite catnip toy under the window where she fell. We’ve heard stories of cats falling from great heights and surviving for months or even years before being found. We just hope Meatball can be one of those stories…

Come home soon Meatball!

Until next time,

Shane

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We are two Americans living in the Netherlands with our fat cat, Meatball. The Shwits is a diary of our time abroad!

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