The Prodical Cat

By John Ambrose

Bubba resting on the sofa

Preparations had been under way for some time. It was to be the maiden voyage of our newly purchased camper, a 17 foot Viking, which had all the amenities a small rig could provide. It was to be a special trip celebrating our 45th anniversary, and our destination was the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

It was also special in that we were taking along our cat, Bubba, who we adopted after being abandoned in our neighborhood. It was to be his first trip in the car other than periodic trips to the Vets. We made provision for him to sleep in the car where his food, water and a litter box were handy. He would not like sleeping in the camper with us; it would be too close to people for his liking.

Bubba is not a real personable cat; he was abused by his former owners; and rarely makes eye contact. He is also a bit arrogant and has anger issues, probably a result of the abuse. But we grew fond of him as he has now lived with us for about five years.

The day of our trip finally arrived and after last minute packing I went in and scooped him up from the bed, placed him in a carrier and took him to the car. He had no idea of what lay ahead for him.

It was a three hour trip to our first stop, Assateaque State Park in Maryland. Our campsite was close to the water and the surf was crashing onto the beach on the other side of the dunes. The wind was up since a storm had just passed through, it was late April.

When we arrived Bubba was hiding under the passenger seat away from all the traffic noise that could be heard on the way down. I opened the back door and sat just outside on a folding chair and invited him to come out and join me. At home he spent most of the time outdoors roaming his territory and in summer spent many nights sleeping on the porch, so I thought he might immediately take to exploring.

But he didn't stir. I thought it was probably too bright for him to feel comfortable venturing out and the surf was still up so thought to leave him till it started to get dark. There was some fear in his eyes but I did not sense panic. He had his food and water in front of him and the liter was a short hop away.

I expected he would begin to explore around as darkness arrived so left the hatch-back open enough for him to get out if he wanted to. Since he knew where his food and water were I didn't expect he would wander far from it, or at least if he did, would know how to get back. So my wife and I retired for the night.

I woke around midnight wondering how he was making out and went out to check on him. Shinning a flashlight I did not see him anywhere in the car. I opened the door and still could not find him. I was a bit alarmed but went back to sleep thinking he was hiding somewhere and I would find him when the sun came up.

At first light I was out again making a thorough search but still could not find him, he was not in the car. Calling for him and searching the surrounding area, he was nowhere to be found. I couldn't believe it but apparently he had bolted during the night and ran off.

As the day grew brighter I knew he would be reluctant to come out but my wife and I searched anyway calling his name as we walked the extent of our camping loop. As the day progressed I took my bike and went out to the surrounding loops but still no sign of him. At dusk we searched again and again at first light but still no Bubba.

We decided to stay another day but again had no success. I knew he could hear our voices but apparently felt it was better to stay where he was rather than come out and continue with us on our journey.

Our campsite was now taken for the next few days as the weekend crowd arrived. So we decided to head down to Chincoteaque, only a few hours away, and return in a few days to try again to find him.

We spent three nights at Chincoteaque and he weighed heavy on my heart. We knew he was a good hunter as we saw constant evidence of his catch at home, but now it was different, now he had to hunt to survive.

The thoughts of how I plucked him off his comfortable bed to take him from his home and territory to subject him to this weighed heavily upon me.

As my wife and I prayed the Lord brought Scripture to mind: "All things work for the good of those who love him..." (1); "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."(2) And finally, "This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles". (3)

On returning to Assateaque we had just one more day to try to find him, staying longer was impossible, they were booked.

So that evening the search was continued with still no luck. The wind came up during night and we had rain. It was cool with temps barely making it out of the 40's. At first light rain showers were passing through and I wondered if I would be able to get out. But soon the sun began to shine and I went out for one last effort before we had to leave for home.

This time I made a thorough search of the lee of the Island, away from the sound of the surf, thinking this would be where he would feel safest. After an hour and a half and cycling several miles with still no luck, I returned to the camper expecting I would probably not see him again. My hope was beginning to fade.

After a late breakfast and a short rest, I thought there was still one small area that I had not checked. Coming out to the restroom at the end of my last outing I didn't start calling for him immediately. So there was a small section that if he were there he would not have heard my voice.

As I went back to cover the area I knew this would be my last effort. I went along the road looking away from the surf to the thick underbrush calling his name, but still nothing. Then I thought in one last attempt, I would search the loop where the restroom was. I turned in and just after passing the bush at the beginning of the loop I heard a "Meoooow". I turned and there was Bubba, out on the blacktop looking at me.

It was quite a joyful reunion. I stooped down and scratched his head; picked him up and hugged him saying, "Bubba, where have you been, are you ready to go home?" He has never been a loud purer but I could hear him clearly now.

He had been out now for six nights and I guess considered it was better to join us in our journey rather than stay any longer in the wild.

When we got him to the carrier we didn't let him out until we got home, finally releasing him in our back yard. I think he couldn't believe his eyes - he was home again, in his yard, in his territory once more! He scurried about from place to place checking everything out. It was quite a joyful homecoming for everyone!

We decided never again take him out of his element, he was to be a home body from this time forward.

The Lord answered our prayer and for that we will be ever thankful.

Thinking about our experience I am reminded of the Lord's love for us. Though we may succumb to temptation, track off on our own and get lost, his fervent desire is for us to respond to his call, to turn back, and be re-united again to his love. But it is a decision we must make. He will not force us.

In my own small way I believe I have tasted the anguish the Father must feel in losing one of his children to the temptations of the World; and the fervent desire of his heart to have us return to him and his persistent effort to bring us back. Thank you Father for the great love and perseverance you show us!

Our campsite at Assateaque the day we lost Bubba

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