Cat Chute

Oliver and his two sisters, Thomasina and Tess, were discovered in a pipe under the SFSU swimming pool in 1995. The three kittens were rescued from their pipe and went to live with Kathleen and her many cats. When they were six months old they moved to live with Sheila and her many cats.

Oliver was starting to want lots of human attention and Sheila thought that he would get more of that if he came to live with me. When I first saw him he was fearlessly hanging around outside with a couple of racoons. After meeting Oliver I decided he should came to live with me and my cat, Gracie.

Oliver arrived in a cat carrier and as soon as he was coaxed out of the carrier he ran and hid under some cushions on the couch. Shortly thereafter he transferred to his seemingly preferred location of under the bed. Months went by with him under the bed. First I moved the bedside cat food and water to the kitchen. Then I tried removing the bed valance to give him less privacy and hopefully coax him to other more public locations in the house. None of my tactics to get him to come out from under the bed worked. It was only at night, when I played dead and the lights were out, that he would roam about and eat, drink, etc.

He remained under the bed for three months until Saturday February 14th, 1998. On Sunday I noticed he was gone and suspected he had managed to slip out of the front or back door. On Monday, I suspected he was in the basement after hearing a surprising noise from the basement. After suspecting he was in the basement I put some water, cat food and cat litter out. On Tuesday, I discovered the food had been eaten, the water drunk, and the box used - he was alive and still around!

On Saturday night he had taken a ride down the cat chute. The cat chute is a home made laundry chute crafted from 14 feet of10 inch diameter heating duct, the rim of a 10" plastic flower pot, and a 30 gallon plastic trash can at the bottom. Fortunately, I had not done laundry for a week so the landing was cushioned. He managed to go down the chute because I had never made a cover for it - it was just a hole in the kitchen wall that served as an intercom to the garage, a ventilation system, laundry chute, and now a cat chute!

I tried to trap him using a small humane trap. (Note, I never set the trap unless I was home and listening for it so he wouldn't have to spend much time in it.) First I tried baiting it with freshly steamed tiger prawns. He must have liked them, for they were always gone, but he always managed to evade the trap. I switched to little pink shrimp figuring he would have to spend more time with the smaller bait. I was wrong, somehow he still managed to get the bait and not spring the trap - clever cat.

While he was in the basement I built a cover for the cat chute. I used a sturdy wooden picture frame, some wood trim, a long brass hinge and two magnetic cupboard closures to craft a nifty door.

After almost three weeks living in the basement I finally managed to trap him using a larger humane trap. I brought him upstairs and was able to stroke him while he was in the open trap. After thirty minutes stroking him in the trap I tried to coax him out. I must have tried too hard, for when he finally emerged from the trap, I was in his way so he bit and scratched me to get free and ran back under the bed.

I then began first aid on my hands, arms, legs and abdomen. My hands alone required six band-aids and some gauze. I did have manage to have some fun with my injuries: Charging my hands near a light source and then turning off the lights to watch my band-aids glow in the dark!


 

At 2am I noticed the cat chute door was hanging open and that the wood trim that held the frame to the wall was broken. I checked under the bed but there was no cat. Less than six hours after catching him he had gone back down the chute and was back in the basement.


 

The next day, the bite on my hand was starting to look infected (Click on the picture to see under the bandage) so I went to the Doctor's office and was prescribed some antibiotics. It is now healing nicely. I'm especially grateful to Sheila who took me to the human vet and a lovely lunch afterwards. We came to the concensus that Oliver was not happy living with me probably because I didn't let him go out. I didn't let him go out because I didn't think he would come back since he had not adjusted to his new home very well. We decided that it would be best for him to return to live with Sheila and her cats.

Oliver was trapped again on Monday morning, using smoked salmon and tuna as bait. As soon as I saw he was in the trap I rang Sheila who came to pick him up. The last I saw of him was an unhappy cat in the back of a car.

Sheila said when he arrived home he was reluctant to leave the trap. When he did leave the trap he immediately ran under the bed - that did not surprise me. A little later he went outside in the garden and then came back inside and demanded petting. I'm sure he is happy back with Sheila and his homeboys the racoons. It is quite amazing how little time it took him to readjust.

It may sound funny, but I sort of miss having a cat in my basement. Now we'll see if Thomasina or Tess will happily come and live with Gracie and me?

Note: There are no pictures of Oliver (yet) - he wasn't exactly a poser when he lived with me.