Can a cat communicate telepathically?
The Cat Came Back…
I thought she was a goner…
“Have you seen Iago?”
I wasn’t overly concerned when Iago the barn cat didn’t show up one evening for her ration of kitty kibble down in the feed room. It was spring and Iago in her prime was an excellent hunter. It wasn’t unusual for me to find partly consumed young rabbits, rats, mice, and birds outside the feed room door when I’d arrive early in the morning to begin the rounds.
That was her job, after all, to try to keep the rodent population down. She and her partner, Charlie (so named because of his Charlie Chaplin black mustache) were barn buddies and though Charlie showed up religiously every morning and evening for his snack, Iago had been known to miss a meal occasionally.
Nobody up at the house had seen her all day, and when I thought about it, I realized she hadn’t shown up at breakfast either. Interesting, but to be honest, her absence all day wasn’t a major cause for concern. She never wandered far and if her tummy was full and the sun was warm she wasn’t in a huge rush to get home.
Iago was the second official farm animal I acquired after I brought back a horse from a wild trip to Nevada to promote a book about the Pony Express Riders. (Note to self: that story will not fit as a subplot in this post about the day my cat went missing. Add to the ‘blog posts to write’ list.)
Though Iago’s destiny was to become the queen of Dark Creek Farm, her beginnings were in a rather more posh area of town. Her humans hadn’t timed the spaying of Iago’s mother quite right, so Iago and her brown tabby littermates were born (farrowed? whelped? birthed? hatched?) in a cushy bedroom about half an hour’s drive from where we lived.
The configuration of our farm was such that we had two driveways — the one leading to the house at the top of the hill and the one leading to the barn at the bottom of the same hill. I didn’t want the young cat (she was 8 weeks old when we picked her up) to get confused and think that she lived up at the house (that wouldn’t have helped in the vermin department), so to make sure she bonded with us and knew where she was supposed to hang out, my daughter and I hauled sleeping bags down to the feed room and slept with her there for several nights.
Our plan worked. Iago knew exactly where she was meant to patrol. She became very attached to the humans in her pride and, as the years passed, she formed strong attachments to various other animals on the farm as well.
Her affection for people soon became legendary. It was impossible to do the farm chores without her presence. She’d wind around our rubber boots as we mucked out the horse paddocks or hauled hay and feed up to the goats, or collected eggs from the chickens, ducks, and turkeys.
She was constantly underfoot knowing that eventually we’d get so exasperated we’d pick her up and carry her around on our shoulders. I don’t know how many hours I lugged that cat around as she purred and snuggled, sometimes caressing my cheek ever so gently with her soft paws.
From the start, Iago had a big heart. She loved hanging out with the dogs, goats, and the horses. She had a particularly close bond with a lovely Welsh cross pony I took on as a retraining project — they spent hours hanging out together, the horse massaging her back ever so gently with his rubbery lips as she lay in the dusty middle of the horse paddock.
She seemed to know when someone was upset or unwell and went out of her way to be extra attentive and affectionate.
I love animals, but there are certain critters who come into our lives that are special, who bond with us in a way that’s almost supernatural. That’s how it was with Iago.
So, the day she went missing I took note but didn’t panic. The next morning, though, when she didn’t appear at breakfast, I felt the first serious twinge of uneasiness. On a farm, there’s no shortage of distractions of course, so I got busy, but all day long worry nagged at me. Something had happened to her, I just knew it.
After the morning chores, I wandered up and down our small country lane, calling. No Iago trotted toward me, tail held high, eager to be picked up for a smooch.
By dusk and the evening feed she still hadn’t shown up. After I’d fed all the animals I headed up to the house and posted notices online with her photo. I called the neighbors. Nobody had seen her.
By the next morning, I was beside myself with worry. I walked up and down the road again, this time looking in the ditches on either side, convinced she had been hit by a passing vehicle and had staggered unnoticed into the tall grasses to die.
The list of possible sticky ends she could have come to was long. Stray dogs. An owl or an eagle. A cougar. A car. Drunk kids who had driven out to the country from town in search of a cat to torture. The procession of hideous images tormented me. I couldn’t push them aside.
I called vet clinics. Animal shelters. Made posters for telephone poles. Nothing.
That night I went to bed, heart heavy, wishing I knew what had happened, hoping against hope that she wasn’t injured somewhere, dying slowly. Alone.
I didn’t sleep well. My dreams were replays of the awful stories that had been churning around in my mind for the past three days.
What had happened to my sweet cat?
The next morning as I groggily dragged myself from the last of the nasty dreams I asked, “Iago — where are you?”
I don’t know how to describe what happened next. It was as if her voice (if a cat could have a voice) said quite clearly, “I’m in the garage.”
This was bizarre for a number of reasons. For one thing, I was utterly convinced my cat was speaking to me inside my head. And secondly, we don’t have a garage. I was so convinced, in fact, I asked the cat-voice, “What garage?”
“The neighbor’s garage.”
This made no sense either. The neighbor had a large garage down near our farm but didn’t actually keep his regular car in there. He used it as a shop where he worked on his precious classic car. He wasn’t in there too often — occasionally he’d putter on the weekend, but mostly the place was locked up tight.
I sat up in bed and counted backward. It was now Wednesday. Had the neighbor been in the garage on the weekend? Could Iago have wandered in and fallen asleep in a cozy corner while he was busy working on his car?
I leaped out of bed, pulled on my boots and sprinted down the hill as fast as is possible in rubber work boots. I ran up to the closed garage door and called her name, feeling in equal parts foolish and desperate. “Iago? Iago — are you in there?”
Holding my breath, I listened. From the other side of the door was an ever-so-faint answer. I can’t even call it a meow — it was more of a whisper, if cats could whisper.
I called the neighbor. Car Guy’s wife answered. “I think my cat might be trapped in your garage.”
“That’s impossible. My husband hasn’t been down there since the weekend. He would have noticed.”
She summoned Car Guy, who came on the line. “Your cat is in my garage?”
“I think so. I think I can hear her in — ”
“Jesus! She’s going to scratch my car!”
He sprinted down the hill from his house to the detached garage, was beside me in seconds, and opened the door.
Iago staggered out, tottered toward me and I scooped her into my arms. Her relief as she relaxed against me was palpable.
“How the hell did you know she was in there?” the neighbor asked.
For a moment I was stumped. He was not the kind of guy to accept my strange story of long-distance telepathic communication with a feline.
“I heard her calling,” I said.
Iago didn’t protest when I took her up to the house for a long drink, a well-deserved meal, and a few nights of being spoiled by sleeping at the bottom of my bed with the dog.
My years on the farm taught me many things — about perseverance, hard work, failure, and loss, about community, teamwork, and terrific food, but that cat taught me not to place limits on interspecies communication.
After that incident, she gave the garage a wide berth, though she sometimes looked at me when we were down in the vicinity as if to say, “What took you so long to rescue me that time I was trapped in the damned garage?”