Last month, my red tom, Sammy, took off for parts unknown. He was sniffing around the garage–a favorite activity–when my husband opened the garage door to enter the house. Out flew Sammy! I wasn’t too concerned. Though he’s an indoor cat, Sammy has escaped from time to time, always returning four or five hours later. I’d watch him climb over our fence and race across our lawn–to me and his evening meal.

But this time was different. After dining at friends’, I called to Sammy as usual, but he didn’t appear. I thought I’d heard meowing in the woods behind us, but it was too dark to investigate. I figured he’d be back the following morning.

The following morning came and went. No Sammy. I called out to him as I explored the area behind our home. Nothing. The day passed. Then another. I spoke to various people. Many told me stories of cats that had taken off, only to return home as much as a month later.

My thoughts never wandered far from Sammy. Where was he? Was he trapped in someone’s shed? Someone’s garage? Was he hurt? Lying injured after a tussle with a cat or a dog? Or was he simply enjoying being outdoors, to wander where he liked?

My husband decided Sammy was basically a wild creature who wanted his freedom. What other indoor cat tried to escape every time the front door opened? I didn’t agree. He was too attached to me–stretched out at my feet as I wrote, jumping onto my lap when I watched TV.

Still, I couldn’t understand why he stayed away. Didn’t he miss me as I missed him? Unless, he was trapped somewhere, and the circle of wondering began again. I called various agencies to ask if anyone had reported a missing cat. Nothing. I decided to put up signs around the neighborhood, though I didn’t think they’d do much good.

I was preparing breakfast on the twelfth morning of his disappearance, when I heard a meow coming from the deck. And there he was, my long lost traveler! I grabbed him up in my arms, noting how bony he felt. He must have lost four or five pounds. But other than a slight limp, which disappeared the next day, he seemed fine.

I fed Sammy a small meal and watched him curl up beside the living room sliding doors and go to sleep. Where were you? I wanted to ask. Why didn’t you come home sooner? I’ll never know how he spent his time outside. If he’d been trapped and had only just managed to escape with his ninth life. The important thing was he’d come home.

Lately, Sammy hasn’t tried to get outside, but I won’t be surprised if he does. The lure of the great outdoors is powerful to some indoor cats, especially in the spring and summer. We’re more vigilant now, and do our upmost to keep him from escaping ever again. I want my Sammy safe and sound at home.