My sister, Danielle, and brother, Alan, kept busy planning the event for months. Danielle would frequently call me to let me know how arrangements were going. I took on the role of advisor. Once Frank and I arrived in northern California, we went into high gear to help set up for the party.
We held Mom’s birthday bash at my sister’s spacious Rancho Cordova home. Alan, a chef, prepared a sumptuous feast. He grilled meat on an outside stove and offered some vegetarian dishes. In short, his delicious continental cuisine was suitable for every palate and dietary restriction. My sister “borrowed” about 20 old photo albums from Mom’s house, without her knowledge, and arranged them and other family portraits on tables for guests to leaf through during the celebration. These photographic memories included my parents’ old wedding album, pictures of our French and Israeli relatives, along with group shots taken in the early 1960s of my fashionably-dressed mother and father and their New York “rat pack.” They had a tight-knit group of friends that included men and women of French, Italian and Middle Eastern descent. You see, we are a family of first-generation Americans. My late father, Robert, was born and raised in Paris, France, and immigrated to the United States after World War II. He, too, was in the restaurant business for many years and was himself an accomplished chef. My brother has followed in his footsteps.
Now, before we reunited with the whole of the family and readied Danielle’s home for Mom’s big party, Frank and I were the victims of a feline stealth attack our first night there. Danielle and her husband, Cameron, are soft-hearted people and love animals. They own two dogs and a cat. The dogs, one a Labrador mix and the other a Jack Russell mix, are both rescues from an animal shelter. The cat, Yang, was a stray that showed up on their doorstep about nine years ago. He has always been temperamental, but has seemingly reverted to a more feral state.
Yang weighs about 17 pounds and has the uncanny ability to open unlocked doors. He manages to press down on the straight-lever door handles in my sister’s Spanish hacienda-style house. Frank and I slept in the downstairs guest bedroom, where my 21-year-old nephew, Alex, had slept until he moved out on his own earlier this year.
Our bedroom door was unlocked and Yang got in without our knowledge. The miniature mountain lion was at the foot of the bed when Frank turned in his sleep. His movement set Yang off, and what followed was a sudden and vicious attack.
I woke to Frank yelling and flailing, the covers going everywhere as he tried to subdue the hissing, clawing, biting Yang. Frank fell onto the floor, trying to get a hold onto the scruff of Yang’s neck so he could fling the enraged animal out of the room. Yang got away, ran under the bed, leapt up onto my side of the bed and bit me savagely on the arm before going back at Frank. My poor husband finally managed to toss the snarling critter into the hallway before slamming – and locking – the door.
We were shaking, bleeding and breathing hard. The room looked like a scene from TV’s “CSI.” Frank had deep scratches up and down his arms, and bites on his hands and fingers. My left arm was scratched and punctured. We tentatively unlocked the door and peered into the hallway, wanting to make our way into the bathroom to clean up. Yang was waiting, his tail swishing, a low growl coming from deep in his throat. Frank found a broom in the closet and stabbed at the cat, so he’d allow us to get into the bathroom. We washed and dressed our wounds and unlocked and slowly opened the bathroom door. Yang had returned and was perched in the hallway. Frank had left the broom on the hallway floor and couldn’t reach it. We needed another weapon to defend ourselves. I handed Frank the plunger from behind the toilet.
We called loudly up the stairs to my sister and she came down, shooing the cat away. Dani was shocked at her cat’s behavior and apologized profusely after examining our injuries.
Later that day, my sister had her cat quarantined at her vet’s office and took us to an urgent care clinic. Frank received a humiliating rear-end shot of antibiotics and we both received tetanus shots and were placed on a regimen of antibiotics. Cat bites are infectious and can become serious without immediate treatment, especially on the joints of the fingers where Frank had gotten bitten.
As of this writing, Yang is still in quarantine. My sister and her husband made the difficult decision to have Yang euthanized. Danielle had contacted several no-kill cat shelters, but since Yang was aggressive and had scratched other relatives and bit us in an unprovoked attack — and was known to fight with other cats the times he had gotten out —her veterinarian advised he would not be considered adoptable. Danielle did not want to risk Yang hurting anyone else. Their subdivision is heavily populated with young children and pets.
As our visit flew by, Frank and I joked with friends and relatives about the incident. Our vacation “cat-attack” will likely grow into another family legend. And despite the unfortunate ending to Yang’s life story, we and my sister will continue to love and care for our family pets.
Denise Etheridge is assistant editor of the Walker County Messenger. She can be reached at 706-638-1859 or firstname.lastname@example.org.