The kittens have been living in the bathroom since they came home. That's pretty much the only enclosed room in my loft, and so it seemed like a good place for them to get comfortable and familiar with the new world-- it would be a safe space, and could be home base for when they were ready to explore further.
Last night they followed me out of the bathroom. I took this as a sign that they were comfortable and ready to explore, and decided that they could check it out for a few minuters if they want. She's a pretty timid little girl, and instantly dove into a closet. He sniffed around the closet, then went strutting across the loft. When I finished my poker tournament, he was nowhere to be found.
I looked in likely hiding places-- no dice. I looked in unlikely hiding places-- no dice. I looked under, in, or behind everything I could possibly think of, and there was no kitty to be found. Bear in mind that my loft is reasonably large and has a lot of clutter, so there are approximately 23,519,607 kitty hiding places. I looked in them all. Apparently there was 23,519,608.
While I was searching I noticed that a couple of windows were open. One was high enough and far enough away from furniture that it was nearly impossible for him to get to. The other was about a foot above the top of the piano. Uh oh.
My gut tied itself in a knot. The rational part of my brain said it was exceedingly unlikely that he got out, since he's shown absolutely no inclination to jump onto or climb things. He doesn't perch on the toilet lid, and he hasn't jumped on the counter. He hasn't even jumped into the bath tub, as far as I can tell. It would take a big jump or some work for him to get to the top of the piano, so it seemed pretty far-fetched. Still, I was worried.
It seemed that a likely hiding place was in the storage unit, so I started taking stuff out and peering behind it. No kitty. Growing more and more frantic, I wandered the loft with a flashlight looking in any possible hiding place I could think of. No kitty. In desperation, I even moved the refrigerator and looked behind it. You guessed it-- no kitty. How hard could it possibly be to find an all-black kitten in a poorly-lit loft? Oh. Right.
It was about 1:30 in the morning when I gave up and went to bed. Before I did, I put food, water, and a litter box out for him, and trained the webcam on them.
In the morning, the first thing I did was look at the food and litter box. They were untouched. The webcam showed nothing. Shit. Now I was really worried. I grabbed my binoculars and scanned the narrow garden behind my loft, but there was no kitty to be seen. (Going out the window would be bad-- I live on the third floor.)
Every half hour while I was at work today I logged into my home computer and looked for new motion capture files from the webcam. Whenever I found one I viewed it anxiously, but there was no kitty to be found-- just a few shadows. Nail biting happened. I seriously considered skipping out on my dinner plans, but this was the last night my friends would be in town. Plus, I knew he's skittish and would be more likely to come out when I wasn't around.
I skipped out on after-dinner drinks to head home. As I drove, I found myself uncharacteristically anxious and agitated. What if he wasn't OK? What if he did get out? What if he found some weird spot that he couldn't get out of, and wouldn't or couldn't mew for help? Remember when I said I hadn't heard either of them meow? Shit.
When I got home I practically ran into the building and up to my unit, praying to a deity that I don't even believe in that I would see some signs that he'd been out. I opened the door, looked down at the litter box, and ... saw footprints. Hallelujah! I glanced at the food, and the canned food was gone. The kitty was still nowhere to be found, but at least he was OK.
I sat down at the computer, tweeted my relief, then started reviewing the webcam captures. It's not sensitive enough to pick up all of his wanderings, but I did see him sniffing around the loft and checking out the food. He looked to be perfectly fine.
The miracle food for finding hiding cats seems to be tuna. I found a can of low-sodium water-packed tuna, and put some in his food bowl. I went into the bathroom and gave her some, as well as some kitty snuggles. When I came out about 15 minutes later, the tuna in his bowl was gone. A good sign! I left a bit more in his bowl, then sat down at the computer for the nightly email and landgrab ritual, all the while keeping an eye on the webcam monitor to see if he came out.
He did, but every time he saw me move he ran away. After a couple rounds of this I got smart and sat quietly, using the pan-tilt-zoom controls on the camera to track his movement. When I saw him wander into the short hallway outside the bathroom I quietly walked over and scooped him up. Technology for the win.
We had some nice kitty snuggles, then I brought him back into the bathroom. His sister was ecstatic to see him, and followed him around the room licking him-- even as he climbed into the litter box.
A few minutes later, she swatted him across the nose with her paw, as though to chew him out for leaving her alone. I was right there with her in spirit.