“So in the end, Your Honor, it turned out we errantly stole someone’s actual pet and drove it four states from home.”
Does that sound like a plausible defense?
Is this what happens when you don't bring along your children on vacation? When no one is there to tell you how mortifying your plans or actions are?
The beginning bits were certainly innocent. The end bits have us wondering how, exactly, to get this house-cat back, um, home.
The middle bits? Oh, yes, please, allow me to explain.
In what was to be a week of kid-free relaxation, my husband and I set off for Skidaway Island State Park to meet my brother and his wife. As we had jumped on the “Sell your RV” bandwagon back in pandemic times, we reserved a pet-friendly cabin so that we could bring along our two dogs. Preparing our luggage was odd, without the “transporting the whole house” ability. We started small but eventually filled every nook and cranny with things we might need as if the area outside of Savannah did not offer stores to grab missing items.
As our camping companions arrived onsite hours before we did, they were able to scope out our accommodations. We were still cruising down 95S when the pictures started coming - first of the campground, then of my brother’s home-for-the-week, a video of our cabin and the included cat.
Wait now, what?
“Yes,” the next text read, “your cabin comes with its own cat.”
No big deal, Camp Cats are not a new invention. Many campgrounds play unintentional host to a variety of stray cats, in fact. I suspect there is an underground feline messaging network on which updates are sent… “Make your home at Campground ABC, the food is meow-valous.” Many campers (the people, not the home-on-wheels) offer these small herds (of cats, not people) a morsel here or a snack there.
No, of course, that’s never recommended or approved by the campground staff, but that never stopped anyone.
And so, as advertised, upon pulling up to our cabin, we were greeted by my brother, his wife, and a very friendly, very happy-to-see the new tenant Camp Cat.
As we unloaded our car, the cat pranced around our legs and purred each time one of us stopped to pet it. In a matter of minutes, we had given it the moniker “Savannah,” though we had no idea what its gender (or backstory) was.
Free tip: do not name anything you might not want to keep later.
For those new here, my husband is 157% a cat person.
I am not a cat person. I am a dog person. Cats are OK, I just don’t find them very useful. They offer little in the range of hilarity, snuggle-ability, companionship, or emotional support. We provide them food, a human to clean their toilet bowl (every dang day), and multiple soft spots to sleep on, all the things, yet they will swipe an open claw at those very same providers for no reason other than…just kidding, they have no reason.
In our home, I have somehow been suckered into being the prime provider for our three cats. Please note that - we already had three cats back home at the time of this adventure. Each morning, I line up three bowls to fill with whatever the current preferred “wet meat” is (oh, so we’re not doing faux salmon chunks this week? Perfect, I’ll make a note of that, thank you for depositing it on the carpet so violently). I purchase the scratching posts, the catnip toys, and the flea/tick medicines. I do all of the things - me, the non-cat person - and, in return, our three cats ignore my one and only request, which is to leave me alone. Instead, they track me throughout the house, often locking me down to whichever piece of furniture I land on by settling between my legs, on my pillow, or atop my shoulders.
With each day hour minute, I could see this Camp Cat working its way into my husband’s heart.
This was not good. With each day hour minute, my husband became more convinced that this was more than just a stray Camp Cat, this was a cat with excellent manners. It was clearly a domestic pet, probably abandoned in a place where its previous owners could count on it getting fed. And so by day two, we were feeding the cat, on the screened-in porch, from its newly purchased bowl and its very own bag of cat food.
By day two and a quarter, my husband removed the middleman and brought both the bowl and the cat INSIDE.
This was not good.
With inside cats, one must provide plumbing. Without so much as a pause, the next purchase was a roasting pan and a box of litter. In fairness, when my husband introduced Savannah to the box, she pounced. It was as if she (yes, by then we had decided she was a she) had been missing a proper toilet for ages and had saved ten giant doodies to drop into the next one that appeared.
I saw what was happening.
At my suggestion, Rich queried a few Park Rangers about the Skidaway Stray Cats. We learned that, yes, there were a few. We discovered that, yes, people fed them though they were discouraged from doing so. We found that a Park Ranger does not need much prompting at all to offer permission for a guest to adopt one of the strays as their own. Specifically, “Feel free to take any cat you want with you - or even a couple.”
This was not good.
By day four, we had a cat carrier and a bottle of Feliway. The carrier to “test out,” the Feliway to calm Savannah as needed. Again, Savannah seemed thrilled to see the carrier, hopping in without hesitation for a nap.
And so, our eleven-hour drive back to Virginia would include an overpacked car, two dogs and a cat we knew nothing about. What could go wrong? Nothing, as it turns out. Savannah was a dream pussenger. My only request was that Rich take responsibility for getting this cat in to see our veterinarian fairly quickly. Clearly, we were not dealing with a stray, but still.
We have yet to surprise our veterinarian. Strolling in with a cat picked up at a campground in Georgia was right in our playbook. And surely they would be thrilled that we opted to give this little orphan a better home, right? Accolades, prizes…how would they celebrate a family so willing to take a stray someone else’s cat across four state lines with nary a thought?
Wait now, what?
The first thing our vet tech did was run a scanner across Savannah’s back to see if she had a locater chip. She did. No real surprise, though, as we were so sure she’d been dumped. The second thing our vet tech did was ring up the pet chip company to determine if Savannah’s owner was missing her. Once we had the previous owner’s name in hand, we agreed to make the phone call ourselves - all parties assuming that this would be a non-answer or denial or something along the lines of, “Cat? What cat?”
While driving home, I hopped onto social media just to see if Savannah’s owner seemed like a nice person, and… oh shite…there she was splayed out in pictures (the cat, not the owner)…and her name was actually Tiki (the cat, not the owner). Turns out Tiki was a Florida resident, though her owner had recently been in Georgia. Just outside of Savannah. Where her cat had slipped out the door.
The end bits of the story are still in progress.
Tiki Savannah still lives here, with us. Her owner is very sporadic in communicating - not the high-level of “I’m coming to get my long-lost cat!!” that many might exhibit. It’s been nearly four weeks now since we cat-napped her and the longer Tiki Savannah stays, the more we love her. She is sweet as can be, loves to be carried around, and may even stop screeching at our cats someday.
We, of course, want to do the right thing. Last heard, her owner would like us to keep Tiki Savannah “for a while” until she can come for her. We offered to ship her almost immediately (okay, we felt terrible), but the lines went dark when we asked for vet records.
We want to do the right thing. It’s just that the longer Tiki Savannah stays, the more convinced we become that she belongs right here.
With her captors.
“So in the end, Your Honor, we dyed her fur and changed her name and kept her far away from the windows."