Bruty (His real name is Brutus because he was the biggest kitten in his litter) was having a great time playing with a plastic kitty wiffle ball that had a bell in it. It was three o'clock and all appeared to be normal in my world....and his.
Four o'clock came around and I started my daily feeding of all the cats and dogs. Billy, Bruty's litter mate, Cammy and Dylon heard the sound of the can opening and ran to their night time cage, but no Bruty. He had to be somewhere close. Not an hour ago he was under my feet gleefully attacking, throwing and batting around an imaginary mouse. But no Bruty.
It was time for bed. Bruty's kitty friends were sound asleep. I called out to him. I searched the entire house from cellar to attic. I went outside and called him, made can opening noises, turned all the outside lights on. No Bruty and I had to go to bed. I woke up several times to listen for a meow. Anything to tell me he was safe and in the house. Nothing.
The next day came and went. We searched the house again. We walked in the yard and searched the surrounding fields. I was beginning to think he followed one of the adult cats into the woods and one of the predators that lives on the edges of the farm got him. I was becoming convinced that he was lost for good. I went to bed that night and had nightmares about a poor little defenseless kitten out there frightened, or worse, dead.
Morning came and no Bruty. Life went on, chores got done, litter boxes got cleaned, the mail man came and went and all the time I watched for Bruty. A flash out of the corner of my eye gave me hope for an instant. A meow caused me to run and see who it was...and of course it was Little Sis or Meowy Cat. The other kittens played, had fun and still no Bruty.
I went to bed to look forward to another night of tossing and turning and at 2 am I woke up to frantic meowing. Not a lonesome meow. This was MEEEYOWWWW, MEYOWWWW, MEOW, MEOW, MEOW. I jumped out of bed. The yelling continued. It was under my bed. No, it was outside. No, it was in the cellar...but wait it was in the driveway. How could this be. The meowing was everywhere! So I grabbed a flashlight, put on an old flannel shirt over my nightgown and went running out the front door and into the driveway that was lit up with the outside lights. The meowing was getting frantic. It was close and loud but I couldn't find Bruty. The meowing was so close the cat should be standing at my feet but no cat.
I ran back in the house, opened the cellar door and turned on the cellar light. No Bruty. Four cats took this opportunity to run through the door and down into the cellar. I left the door open so they could get out and went into the kitchen...and then the meowing stopped. I went out on the back porch. No Bruty and no meowing.
I walked back into the kitchen...AND THERE HE WAS!!! He had to have been in the cellar. He probably found his way into the cellar but then couldn't find his way out. He was silent for two days...never responded to me calling him. And then, when he decided to be vocal he started running all over the cellar and that made it sound like he was everywhere. He even ran up the stairs to the outside cellar door and that is why he was so close to me while I was in the driveway...but was invisible because he was behind the door
He took one look at me and climbed up my leg, smashed his little head into my face and tried to meow and purr all at the same time. He wouldn't let me put him down. He purred and rubbed his head against my face for several minutes.
Time to put him in with his brothers, give him some food and let him know he was safe. He wasn't having any of it. He stood at the bars of the cage reaching through them to touch me while he meowed. He didn't want his kitty friends. He wanted me.
Bruty has been back now for two full days and he is a new kitty. Before his adventure he was the one that didn't seem to care about humans. Oh, he purred and did enjoy being scratched behind his ear but he seldom sought out attention. Perhaps he did care about us but he took us for granted. Now he finds me and demands that I cuddle and love him. His experience changed him and is a lesson to all of us that animals are far more complicated than we imagine. They do suffer emotionally from things that happen to them. Separation from the people they love can have profound effects on them.
Trauma changes people forever and it also changes animals. Bruty's trauma caused emotional damage that will heal simply because he came back to the same home that he almost lost. His normal life will resume. But what happens to all those animals that we rescue that never go back to that familiar place and are sent on to a new home? We know that their new home is wonderful. We have checked the references, done the interviews and, in some cases, even a home visit. But they don't know they are going to a good place. All they know is we are abandoning them. Does that trauma leave an emotional scar that stays with them for the rest of their lives? Does losing a home cause behaviors that make that animal unadoptable in the future? We must never forget that everything that happens to an animal changes it. Sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. We have to try very hard to limit the trauma that goes with losing a home so our rescued kitties have the best chance possible of success in a new home.