The most stressful part of our move last month was the cat.
We have two: Lucy and Darwin. They are both rescues. We also have two dogs, also rescues.
But Darwin caused the most drama by far.
When our daughter Virginia first laid eyes on him, he was just a kitten, sound asleep on top of his brother. He was up for adoption in front of the PetSmart on Peachtree Road in Buckhead. Tiny and handsome, he was grayish-brown with distinct, symmetrical black markings all over his face and fur.
His mother had been trapped near a convenience store on Northside Parkway in Buckhead. He and his siblings were born in captivity. An organization called Snap 2 It spayed her and put her kittens up for adoption.
Darwin’s troubled past should have been a red flag.
We brought him home as a Christmas gift for Virginia. At first, he was just like any other kitten. He had an inquisitive and concerned face but was skittish. Over time he turned into 10 pounds of pure, lean muscle with huge, bright eyes and blazing speed.
He never adjusted to domestic life. He stayed out of sight all day and raced around the house like a maniac all night. Eventually, he made it outside, and that was the end of that.
He became a pet unto himself. He stopped by every morning for some kibbles. Otherwise, we rarely saw him.
There was evidence of his presence. He left many dead animals — voles, chipmunks, birds — around our back patio. When we spotted him, he ran away at full speed, as if being chased. But no one was chasing him.
Now and again he’d curl up in a chair, and he’d let you scratch his head for a few seconds before baring his teeth and hissing.
When we sold our house in July, there were two schools of thought: Either the new owners inherited Darwin with the house and we disavowed any knowledge of him, or we hired a trapper to transport him to our new home less than a mile away.
The answer was a “happy trap.” It is a metal contraption simple enough for a homeowner to set, catch the animal, then transport it in the trap to the new house and release it.
On the morning of the move, we set the trap where Darwin eats his breakfast. He’s usually somewhat agreeable after a night of prowling the neighborhood. He eyed the trap, and inside was a bowl of tuna fish. He could sense something was off.
He walked around it several times and put his arm through the cage to reach the bowl. Then he walked in, slowly.
It couldn’t be this easy, I thought.
He stepped over the trigger and sniffed the bowl of tuna. When he saw he was enclosed, he immediately backed out and ran away, missing the trigger a second time by a hair.
Darwin returned later. Again he walked around the trap suspiciously and tried to get the tuna without entering.
Then the most improbable thing happened. From outside the trap, Darwin hit the trigger.
The gate swung closed with a crash. Darwin jumped two feet in the air, landed and did the Scooby-Doo run — his legs spun faster than his body moved.
That was it. Darwin outsmarted the “happy trap” and wouldn’t go near it again.
My wife Lori went back over to the house several times over the next few days to see if she could get him. There were sightings, but Darwin stayed away.
After three days, the hungry feral cat came around for his breakfast. As he ate, Lori threw a towel over him and wrapped him up tight, then wrapped a dog bed around the towel. He would scratch her face off if he could.
She ran to the car, threw the bundle in and slammed the door. She and our son Thornton got him to the new house, again did the double wrap and spilled him out on the floor in the kitchen.
Darwin scrambled to a hiding place under an ottoman. He stayed out of sight for two whole days.
It’s been four weeks, and he’s back outside with an occasional appearance for his breakfast.
He comes and goes at leisure, oblivious to the chaos he caused on arguably one the most stressful day of anyone’s life.