LYING IN WAIT FOR HOUDINI THE FOSTER CAT

by | May 16, 2024 | Lisa Black | 4 comments

By Lisa Black

Spawn of Houdini the cat, next to Lisa's Black's Schattenbraut

If you’ve ever perused my social media feed, you may know that last year I fostered four of the most impossibly adorable kittens ever.

This year the animal shelter gave me a mom cat with two newborns kittens, so tiny they never moved from the carrier. I set out the litter box and food dishes, and thought I was all set.

I was not.  

I didn’t see the mom cat in the morning, or after work, assumed she was hiding behind my desk, and went outside to do some yardwork. Afterwards I decided to find out exactly where in the 8×9 square room with only three pieces of furniture she might be.

Nowhere, as it turned out.

The cat had disappeared.

The kittens were there, warm and fuzzy and apparently comfortable, but mom had managed to evanesce from a room that had only one door (and unopened slider) that I controlled.

Houdini's two kittens cuddle together on a soft white blanket

I searched the house from end to end, even poked around in the Rubik’s cube maze of my husband’s crap under the guest bed. Nothing.


But when I heard a meow I saw her outside on the kitchen windowsill. I still hadn’t figured out how she got out of the room, and now she’s outside the house.


I took the carrier with the kittens outside hoping she’d come to them, walked a bit away and crouched in the grass like a caveman, knowing that if my neighbors had no concerns about my mental wellness before, they would now. I finally gave up and confessed my sins to the foster lady, so that at 11:30 PM the kittens and I went on a road trip to the poor woman’s house where she would bottle feed them. Then, having failed at my foster care mission a mere twenty-four hours into it, I settled into my new task: entrapping She Who Will Now Be Known As Houdini.


About midnight she returned to the kitchen window, so I took the screen off and opened the window. To sweeten the incentive, I laid a trail of dipping sauce cups with a spot of tuna in each between the window and the office.


About 2:30 AM a cup rattles, but as soon as she saw me coming she sailed right back out the window. Rattling also woke me at 4:30, but I had only to lift my head from my pillow and, yes, back out the window. This would never work. Houdini would always be between me and the window and she was a lot faster.

not Houdini cat
One from the previous set–the ones that didn’t escape on me!

Coffee and three hours of sleep got me through work the next day. The foster lady came and set a trap outside the window. I checked the house cameras all day hoping to see her skulk across the floor. Nothing.


When dusk came, I set up my stakeout. With no lights on save the television, the volume low to cover any noise I made (such as breathing), I snuggled a kitchen chair in the dark corner between window and refrigerator. The cups of tuna had been refilled and in the office my phone played an hourlong video of kittens meowing. To keep myself from going mad with boredom I read the newspaper on my tablet—with the brightness turned all the way down to keep from giving away my position. 007 Cat Stalker. License to Capture.


Hah.


She showed up at the window a few times, but wouldn’t come in. Perhaps the flickering TV scenes were putting her off, so I got up to douse it—and saw her on the lanai!


And she saw me.

no houdini escape

I backed away, slowly, into the hallway, as coolly furtive as any good hunter—then ran like a batoutofhell to my office, popped out the slider, and shut the lanai door. I turned and screamed like one possessed: “I’VE GOT YOU NOW!”


I may or may not have added a few adjectives after that. I submit ‘sleep deprivation’ as a defense.

After several laps around the pool and climbing the screened walls all the way to the top, she decided resistance was futile and let me bundle her into a carrier.

Yes, my neighbors think I’m nuts and the foster lady will probably never let me near another cat, but Houdini and her babies were reunited and have been happy, safe and growing ever since.

As a plus, I am now trained the art of criminal apprehension and capture, ready to lie in wait for the next dangerous target. Preparation and stealth will ensure my triumph.

Provided he likes tuna.

Lisa Black, New York Times bestselling author of thriller fiction and this blog: Lying in Wait for Houdini the Foster Cat

Lisa Black is the New York Times bestselling author of 16 suspense novels, including works that have been translated into six languages, optioned for film, and shortlisted for the inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award. She is also a Certified Latent Print Examiner and a Certified Crime Scene Analyst, beginning her forensics career at the Coroner’s office in Cleveland Ohio and then the police department in Cape Coral, Florida. She has spoken to readers and writers at numerous conferences, been a consultant on CourtTV and was a Guest of Honor at 2021 Killer Nashville.

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4 Comments

  1. Karna Small Bodman

    What a crazy but cute story. It’s so neat that you agree to foster cats and kittens from time to time. I have no idea where you also find the time to work full time and also write terrific novels! WE have two dogs who continue to outsmart me!

    Reply
  2. Jenny Milchman

    Awwww look at you go, you cat wrangler! I would not have been up to the challenge, fostering kitties who stay put is enough (glorious) work. I’m glad you stayed in for a cat reuniting.

    Reply
  3. Alex Kava

    Lisa, I admire your stalking and plotting strategies. It does seem like we should be smarter than them.

    Reply
  4. Lisa Black

    We’re smarter but they’re faster!!

    Reply
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