The Cat and The Canary: The Great Escape, an essay by Ilene Dover at

The Cat and The Canary: The Great Escape

The Cat and The Canary

The Great Escape

written by: Ilene Dover


The cat came to me as an unwanted orphan. In a moment of weakness, I felt sorry for the little thing so I took it in as my new pet. I lived by myself and I supposed the cat could be welcomed company. Since it was black with a spot of white on its chest, I decided I would call it ‘Tuxedo’ or ‘Tux’ for short. Tux and I seemed to adjust quite well. This smart and affectionate animal slipped into my routine like an adult child coming back home to roost. (a well-oiled glove at a proctologist’s.)

Tux slept obediently at the foot of my bed on his blanket. In the morning, when he sensed I’d be waking up, he’d tiptoe (cats only tiptoe) up the bed and curl up on my chest. We’d start the day with this 10 minute ritual, nose to nose, purring and patting. One thing I really liked about Tux was that he never wailed early in the morning. I think he sensed his life would be in danger if he did. So life was good. And then I got the canary.

I had a very kind friend who thought I should have the song of a canary fill up the silence in my home. He was convinced I would love it. I was a bit hesitant at first because cats are hunters and they hunt birds and I had a cat. I mused that the chirping of a canary might be the closest sound to what God must sound like if he had a voice. Once that image took hold in my imagination, I came to support the idea with enthusiasm. My sister, Susan, had a huge bird cage that she no longer needed for her budgies because, much to her delight, they died.

I had an extra bedroom in my bungalow which I dedicated to the bird. I refrained from calling him ‘God’ so as not to offend anyone, although I really thought it apt. I settled for ‘Happy.’ I rigged up an automatic door closer on Happy’s bedroom door thereby outsmarting my cat. There was no way now that Tux could have access to the singing prey. I fixed up the old bird cage and was quite pleased with the results. If Happy couldn’t be flying free in the tropics, he would be quite content in his new home. The mirror convinced him he had a buddy, you see birds’ brains are VERY small. He loved his buddy and he sang to him with the voice of an angel, or perhaps even the voice of God. I felt endless pleasure listening to his melodious song fill the quiet, empty spaces in my house.

Then the inevitable happened.

I was only half awake at the time and still can’t remember the reason I got up out of bed in the middle of the night to go into Happy’s room. It was dark and whatever I needed to do took less than a minute. I climbed back into bed and slept till morning. When I awoke, I thought it a bit odd that Tux wasn’t on the bed so I got up to look for him. I dreaded opening Happy’s door, although I knew it would have been next to impossible for Tux to have gotten in. Ewww, there he was, on Happy’s cage, traumatizing the little bird. He had apparently, slipped into the bedroom in that split second that the door was opened. He should have been sleeping at that time of the night, but I suspect his radar was on 24/7 and he wasn’t going to, and didn’t, miss the chance to get at Happy. Tux, looking smug, was perched on top of the cage and Happy was sitting on the bottom of the cage, trembling. I took Tux, henceforth referred to as ‘the cat,’ and unceremoniously, threw him out of the house. I called the vet, wrapped up Happy in a small blanket and was on my way. But Happy didn’t make it to the front door. I was heartbroken. Shortly thereafter this psychic cat of mine, knew our relationship was over. I glared at him. He glared back. He no longer slept on my bed. He started howling at 5:00 in the morning. This cat was done.

I called Susan with the sad news of Happy’s demise and asked her if she’d like another cat for the barn. She reluctantly agreed. I dressed ‘the cat’ in his Sunday best, a purple velvet color with rhinestones. We decided the transaction would take place like this. The family was meeting the next day at my Mother’s retirement home for a luncheon. I’d bring ‘the cat’ in a cat box to the residence and Susan would transfer it to her truck and the dirty deed be done.

But, once there, as I was leaving my car in the parking lot , I had a brain fart. I’d call it an idea, but it turned out to be such a bad idea that I have to refer to it as a ‘brain fart.’ If I have many more of these, my skull will cave in. For a tiny instant, my compassion for ‘the cat’ came back and I felt badly leaving ‘it’ in the cage for two hours and got the brilliant idea to tie it on a long cord attached to the car. So this I did. When I came back from lunch, the cat was nowhere to be seen. The rope was taut. I followed it to the engine of the car. I still could not see it. I opened the hood and looked in the crevices of the engine compartment. There they were, two large green eyes staring at me. But ‘the cat’ would not come up. ‘The cat’ would not come down. I cajoled it from above and crawled under the car to coax it down. It would have none of this. I checked the motor for moving parts and none seemed to be around it. I figured if I turned the ignition on for a second, this might inspire ‘the cat’ to leave its hiding place. I proceeded to do so, for a short second – a convincing move, you must agree. Well, need I tell you, I didn’t even see it flee into the nearby woods. It was gone.

I spent a couple of hours calling it and searching for it amongst the woods and neighboring homes but to no avail. An ad in the local paper produced two results. The first one was not the right cat, but the second one was more promising. As I was making my way to the front door, a neighboring lady approached me to tell me how much this woman who had found ‘the cat,’ was so happy with it as she had just lost her own cat. I said, “Aww, really?” thinking all the while, ‘Oh good, this’d be great.’

I knocked on the door and a nice lady answered. She invited me in and went to get ‘the cat’ for identification. The purple collar was the definitive calling card, so I was sure it was the right cat. She called and called, but ‘the cat’ was not showing its face. She insisted, “But he was right here a minute ago.” This happened on two more occasions and I came to deduce that ‘the cat’ knew the sound of my car, or at least my voice, and didn’t have any desire to risk seeing me. It was content in its new found digs and I was glad it could spend his other 8 lives far away from me.

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