I have no knitting to show you. But boy, do I have an excuse. Ready? It’s a long story, so settle back and relax. You might want an extra cup of tea or something.

Remember our houseguest?

This is a kitten that we’re fostering for the Animal Shelter. Due to my allergies, we are not supposed to foster cats during the winter months when the house needs to be closed up. But this kitten came to us under some special circumstances. Oh, yes, this little 4 month old cat has a history.

One of the grad students in my department found the kitten (who shall remain nameless until the proper time). He had been eating out of a dumpster for a couple of weeks, and was clearly a stray. So, this good graduate student took in the kitten, even though he knew that he couldn’t have pets in his apartment. He knew that one of the staff members in our department fosters cats, and so asked her what to do about the little guy. She said that she’d take him, but wasn’t expecting that to mean that the kitten would show up the next day in her office.

So, kitten shows up in staff member’s office (names withheld to protect the innocent), and she gets down on the floor to look at him. It’s important to know that her office is adjacent to another office, each with a door to the hallway, and with a door connecting them. She thought that both doors to the hallway were closed. Turns out that the adjacent office door was open. So, kitten comes out of the carrier, nonchalantly walks into the next office, and out the door.

Now, this might not be as heart-stopping to you as it is to those of us steeped in the departmental policies, but suffice it to say that cats loose in labs are very, very bad. Worse, departmental memos have been sent in the past regarding the presence of cats in the building because of custodian complaints about “visitors.” So, not only are cats not allowed, but they are also explicitly forbidden in the department.

So, what does this kitten do after sauntering out of a door everyone thought was closed? He wanders down the hallway, through a door that was propped open (another thing that is never supposed to happen, and under normal circumstances would have resulted in a serious dressing down of the responsible TA), and into a lab. This wouldn’t even be such a big deal, except that the lab also happened to be full of students, as class was in session.

Kitten walks into lab, jumps up on the bench, walks the entire length of the radiator in the back of the room, and jumps down through a hole in the counter. A hole that leads behind the lab bench cabinets and is inaccessible from outside. Kitten is now ensconced within the building, immune to all attempts to remove him. Attempts can’t even be made for 5 or 6 hours, until all students have been cleared from the room. Kitten remains hidden until someone discovers that the backs of the cabinets can be unscrewed and he can be fished out, at something like 2 am.

Kitten is removed to another office with no doors from which to escape, and is left overnight while tired staff member goes home. Next morning, kitten is nowhere to be found. Panic ensues. Kitten is eventually found on top of the light fixture, a good 9 feet off the floor. Kitten earns the name Houdini.

It was absolutely clear that Houdini could not remain in the department, but that presented a problem. See, everyone involved up to this point had many, many foster cats already and absolutely no room to spare. This is where I come in. We have a spare room. But we’re not supposed to have kittens because they make me not breathe. We decided to suck it up and take him for the month or two it will take to find him a home. Since then, Houdini has been staying quite happily in our bedroom/bathroom side of the apartment. He is clean and quiet, and very affectionate. We have had absolutely no trouble with him, and have been debating whether or not we really should call him Houdini.

On Sunday, my next door neighbor came over to tell us that there was water leaking in the basement. We moved all of our stuff out of the drip zone, and called the landlord to let him know that the pipes were leaking. He spent all day Sunday trying to fix the leaks, but needed to come back again today to do some more poking and figure out where the leaks were coming from. It was discovered that one of those leaks was from a pipe connecting our toilet to the house water pipes. So, we got a new toilet today.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with a kitten? Oh yes, you might ask, and I bet you know that I’m about to tell you, too.

See, it turns out that the landlord had to remove our medicine cabinet from the wall in the bathroom in order to access the pipes that would allow him to change out the toilet. Now do you see where this is going?

Think about it. Kitten named Houdini. Open wall. Bad idea.

Apparently, on the way out after putting everything back together, the landlord noticed that the kitten was no longer sitting on the bed. It had even occurred to him that the kitten might look into the wall. Apparently it did not occur to him to check that the kitten was not in the wall before leaving.

Branden gets home before me on Wednesdays. Wednesday is group meeting night, so I’m at school until 8:30 or so. He came in and went into the bedroom side of the house looking for something. Eventually, it occurred to him that he had no company from a nosy kitten that would usually be all over us after a day locked up alone. (We really tried to let the kitten out into the main part of the house with our cats, but after a couple of tries gave up in the interest of his safety. He is very friendly, and he loves our cat that hates kittens. Letting him out might mean getting him killed.) So, Branden starts to wonder where exactly the kitten might be.

He calls, and hears a tiny little “mew” in reply. This goes on for a while. Branden calls, kitten meows…kind of a feline Marco Polo game. Kitten does not appear, which suggests that kitten is stuck somewhere. Closets are torn apart. Cabinets are opened and riffled. Under bed area is checked. No kitten. Mewing and jingling of his little collar bell, but no kitten.

Branden stops and thinks. New toilet. Plumbing. Open wall. Houdini. No….

Yup. The kitten had climbed into the wall unnoticed while the landlord was working. The landlord had proceeded to finish up the job, and then seal the kitten into the wall. We’re not sure how long he was in there, but it was at least a few hours. He’d gotten himself up on a little ledge above the shower ceiling, about a foot out of reach, and was scared to jump down. I don’t blame him. There aren’t many places to land, and there’s a hole under the wall that goes straight down into the basement. If I were a kitten, I’d have stayed on my nice, secure shelf, too.

We got out of group meeting late tonight, as one of my labmates was practicing her thesis defense, and that always takes a while. I called Branden when we got out, and he didn’t answer. This was odd, as he’s usually very good about that. A few minutes later, I got a call back. Branden apologized for not answering, but he had just been on the phone with the landlord and didn’t want to put him on hold. Oh, and by the way, the kitten is in the wall.

Pause. Pause. Let words sink in. The kitten is where??? Have a moment of panic. Have visions of having to tear out all the walls in the bathroom to get to kitten hopelessly lost in the walls. Come back to senses and get an assessment of the situation. Branden says that he’ll try to make a shelf and entice the kitten out of the wall. I hang up and start to put things together to come home. Twenty minutes later, Branden calls to say that cat is out of the wall, and he’s on his way. On the way home he relates the story. It’s now 10:15, and I have just managed to finish eating dinner. There will be no knitting tonight, I’m afraid. But, there is also no kitten in the wall, and I must say this is a darned good excuse.

The inside of our bathroom wall:

There’s a ledge in there, apparently, just big enough for a kitten.

Kitten emerging from wall after his rescue:

Who me? Trouble? I’m no trouble at all!

(Kids and pets have to be cute, or else they’d never make it…)