As soon as I stepped into the apartment, turned on the light, and let the cat out of the pet carrier, I knew I screwed up.
It scrambled away to safety, away from this stranger who, just minutes before, had been holding it hostage inside a plastic bucket.
It wasn’t as if I had a choice on the matter. My wife, Diana, who hours earlier spent her entire Sunday perched on a foldable ladder trying to get the scared kitten down from a lemon tree, successfully lured it from the tree with some cat food, and I was waiting to catch the poor little thing with the help of a rag – I’m a dog person, have always been, and I honestly didn’t know how to handle a cat. The rag was a pathetic attempt at trying to protect myself from scratches.
I managed to grab the kitten soon as it jumped down, and it struggled mightily against my clutches, but I was able to place it inside the relative safety of a plastic bucket, keeping it trapped there with a small aluminum washbasin that served as a makeshift lid. Of course I made sure the “lid” wasn’t snug over the bucket’s opening, to make sure the cat could breathe.
And then something amazing and strange happened. The bucket started to vibrate.
Like I said, I’ve always been a dog person.
That was the first time I experienced a cat purring.
I read somewhere that cats purr when they are pleased, but I was not so sure in this case. How could the kitten be so pleased being held hostage inside a bucket by a stranger?
At that point we were at a stalemate. The cat was relatively relaxed, but Diana and I didn’t know how long it would be in that state before deciding it had had enough and tried to violently claw itself out of the bucket and into freedom.
My wife could at last rest for a while after spending many hours – since early morning of that day – trying to get the poor thing down from the tree. But that would be short-lived, because Diana’s mom – who isn’t exactly a pet lover – was already demanding from us what we planned to do with the kitten.
I had to think fast. I told Diana I’d stay and watch the kitten, make sure it stayed calm inside the bucket, while she ran to the nearest pet-supplies store – wherever that was – and get a proper cat carrier, along with some kibble and food/water bowls. I’d take the cat home to our apartment at least for the night and then decide on its future after we’d talked about it.
By the time the Uber had picked up my wife, I had already moved the bucket from the garden to the garage. I was leaning against a wall, with my left arm around the bucket and my right hand loosely holding the aluminum washbasin. I was glued to the spot, unmoving, afraid that the cat would suddenly decide it was done with the current peaceful, purring state and go nuclear.
But it stayed relaxed for a good half hour or more, until Diana came back from a nearby Walmart – that was the best she could do under the circumstances. It was already late on a Sunday night, and the dedicated pet-supplies stores were already closed, if they at all opened that day. Some small mom-and-pop shops here in Mexico City decide to close shop on Sundays for some family time.
I gingerly took the cat out of the bucket, without the help of the rag. Thankfully, it was already calm, perhaps sensing that we were there to help and not hurt it. I transferred the kitten to the oversized plastic carrier, which Diana said was the only available one in Walmart, and closed the plastic lid. I taped the lid shut using some packaging tape just to make sure. Diana helped me pack a new food-and-water-bowl combo, some kibble, a small sack of kitty litter, and a litterbox into a canvas shopping bag, and the cat and I were off to the apartment.
The short Uber trip was fairly uneventful. The cat had already stopped purring; evidently asleep, I thought, after a long day. But then that brain fart: letting it out of the pet carrier, thinking that it would start exploring its new surroundings calmly. Instead, it scampered to the safety of the kitchen, behind the fridge. It took me more than 30 minutes to get him out of there by luring him out with some food.
I gently put the cat back inside the pet carrier and placed its makeshift “bed” inside the spare bedroom where I keep my clothes and shoes. I closed the door and texted Diana, telling her we arrived safe and sound, and asked what she thought of a name for the kitten.
“Willow,” she texted back.
Willow it is.