Minnie’s 5-day “Phantom of the Opera” saga

It has been five days of total madness.

It started on the morning of Thaipusam (Day 1).

Day 1:

Every morning, I feed the cats at 7.15am and today was not any different. Minnie has her food right outside our front door, 3 times a day. When not eating, she would just laze around in our porch or sleep on the wooden bench. She is in the porch all the time. Occasionally, Gingertom and Bushy White would come and mew for attention, but Minnie would totally ignore them.

So, I fed Minnie and all seemed normal.

About an hour later, we heard noises in our attic. It appeared that something had entered our attic. Weeks ago, it was Minnie. In the middle of the night, she broken into our attic, made a ruckus for hours and finally broke a vent and fell from the ceiling to the floor.

By lunch time, Minnie did not come for lunch. I suspected Minnie must have broken into our attic again. So we took the long ladder and my husband went up to the attic through the manhole. True enough, Minnie was there. I gave my husband a bowl of food and Minnie came to eat. My husband managed to scruff her but she broke free.

He tried to catch her, but the attic is dark with too many places to hide. My husband slipped and his foot broke a hole through the ceiling. Luckily he did not fall, otherwise that would have been a disastrous fall from the ceiling onto the staircase. So now, there was a big hole in our ceiling.

All day, we tried to tempt Minnie with food. She would come to the manhole, but refused to jump down. We know Minnie is extremely athletic and we have seen her jump up and down as high as 9 feet with no problems whatsoever.

We finally had to put food and water inside the attic for her to eat. She finished all the food.

By nightfall, I piled up firm and large cushions up to the manhole and placed a bowl of food on the top of the cushions hoping she would jump down to eat. But all she did was come to the manhole to mew. We climbed up the ladder and she would be just there at the manhole, but she moved away whenever we tried to reach out to catch her.

That night, we barely slept. Minnie was mewing in the attic.

Day 2:

Early in the morning, I saw the pile of cushions had fallen down. I thought this meant that Minnie had jumped down onto the cushions in the middle of the night, gone downstairs to the patio and escaped.

But no. She was still up in the attic. We heard her mewing later in the morning.

So, we made another structure for her to come down from the manhole. This time, we pushed a cupboard to the manhole and placed a cat tree on top of it. Then, we put a bowl of food right at the top. The distance from the top of the cat tree to the manhole is barely 2 feet. There should be no problems at all for Minnie to jump down from the manhole to the top of the cat tree.

All day, Tabs and Ginger tried to help by jumping up and down the cat tree to show Minnie how easy it is, but all Minnie did was come to the manhole and mew.

It is only a 2 feet jump, Minnie. But she refused to do it. So, we had to put food up in the attic again for her.

As usual, all our attempts to reach out to catch her failed.

Minnie even came to the manhole and sprayed urine down onto the floor. Sigh.

Another night of sleeplessness and mewing.

Day 3:

Our contractor came to repair the hole in the ceiling. He went up to the attic and saw Minnie there.

We asked him to please check how Minnie could have entered the attic from outside. Previously, the civet cat (musang) had entered our attic before and we already had another contractor block all the entrances with netting.

Our contractor checked and found that one of the nettings was not properly fixed. It was possible to press it down from the outside and enter through a small gap into the attic, but it wasn’t possible to press it down from inside the attic to get out. No wonder Minnie could not get out. So, our contractor opened this netting totally to enable Minnie to get out.

We had fed Minnie in the morning, and our contractor suggested that we don’t feed her again to “force” her to come out. After all, there is a way out now, from the attic back outside to the roof through this new opening.

In fact, the big manhole is open for you, Minnie. But she refused to jump down through the manhole. So we hope she will get out of the attic through this new opening, back to the roof and come back to the porch.

We waited patiently, withholding food. But no, she refused to come out, whether through the manhole or the new opening.

I had suggested calling Bomba since Day 1, but my husband wasn’t keen, especially after the ceiling broke. Also, in the presence of strangers, Minnie would probably just hide in the attic and it would be impossible to locate her.

By now, I knew it was possible that Minnie might choose to live in the attic permanently. That would be a total nightmare. We would have to climb up to the attic to feed her daily and she would urinate and defecate inside our attic? My husband already found urine and faeces on top of our water tank in the attic (yes, it’s Minnie’s). I shudder at this eventuality if Minnie indeed chooses to live permanently in our attic.

For some reason, I don’t know what, she had given up our comfortable porch, 3 meals per day…to live in this dark, messy and dirty attic?  Goodness.

It’s her version of the Phantom of the Opera, isn’t it? It is a little spooky too that when I rescued Minnie last April, it was during the Phantom of the Opera craze on youtube.

My friend suggested that I play kitten sounds to attract Minnie. Apparently, there is this phenomenon called “false pregnancy” that can happen with female dogs and cats. They “think” they want to give birth, so they find a safe place to “do it”.

So I did that. I found youtubes of kitten sounds and played them repeatedly. Minnie was definitely attracted to them and she responded by mewing and coming to the manhole, but she simply refused to jump down. After awhile, the kitten sounds no longer attracted her and she just ignored them.

I played the kitten sounds for more than two hours. It did not work. Tabs tried to help.

In fact, Ginger and Tabs tried to help for days. They would be mewing for Minnie to come down. They went up and down the cat tree as well. But all Minnie did was to come to the manhole and stare down at us, mewing. We felt so helpless and did not know what else to do.

So, another night of sleeplessness and mewing.

Day 4:

Early in the morning, when I was feeding the cats in Bunny’s Place, I heard mewing. I looked up and Minnie was on the roof, at the gutter! Minnie had come out!!  She was looking at me and mewing from the roof. I was so excited, I quickly went upstairs to wake my husband.

Minnie is out, Minnie is out!!

But when I came back downstairs to look up on the roof, Minnie had gone back into the attic again. So, she found the opening the contractor had made for her, and she knows she can come out, but she wants to go back into the attic.

Why, Minnie, why?

You can already come out to the roof and come down back to the porch. Why on earth do you want to go back to the attic, Minnie?

Phantom of the Opera?

This time there was a little less mewing throughout the day, so we think Minnie must be going in and out of the attic to the roof. The manhole was still wide open with the cat tree as her passage down. It is all up to you now, Minnie.

But it looks like our “phantom” wanted to stay in the attic.

It rained and we know there would be puddles of water on the roof for her to drink.

As painful as it was, my husband said we still had to force her to come down so we should not put any food inside the attic for her. We still placed a bowl of food on the cat tree, but she would just come to the manhole and mew. Simply refused to jump down.

Another night of sleeplessness, but this time, there was hardly any mewing through the night. I suspect she now had easy access in and out of the attic, so perhaps she was out all night? But where? On the roof? Did she manage to find any food on the roof?

Day 5 (today):

It’s crazy. It has been five days now with the manhole wide open, but Minnie still refused to jump down 2 feet. Throughout the day, we heard the occasional mewing in the attic. She still came to the manhole.

By evening, she was out on the roof again! Minnie is out! She was mewing at us too. We did everything possible to attract her to come down to the porch. But nothing worked. She finally went back into the attic again.

The contractor said he would try to come by after work. In one of my husband’s attempts to locate Minnie yesterday, part of the ceiling had cracked again and that needed to be repair. Our plan was to ask the contractor to help climb out to the opening on the roof, place a bowl of food there, tempt Minnie to come out to eat, then quickly block that entrance so that Minnie could not go back into the attic. Then, she would be forced to come down back to the porch.

But the contractor could not make it today. So, we were on our own. We tried offering food at the manhole again, but it was the same result. It was getting insane – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

It also dawned on me by now that it could be possible that Minnie somehow did not know how to get down from the roof. She knew how to get up, but not down? Maybe something snapped in her, traumatised her and she dare not come down from the roof. Then, our plan to force her out of the attic, to the roof and block and entrance would not work. She would be stuck on the roof.

That won’t work. I had to try something else.

Finally, I made one desperate attempt. I climbed up the ladder with a bowl of food (sardines) and Minnie came. She should be very hungry by now, assuming she had remained on the roof or attic throughout.

I gave her small bits of food with my left hand. She ate the food from my hand, but knowing her, she would never allow anyone to catch her. Ordinarily, I cannot even pat her whenever I fed her in the porch. She would shy away and she was very, very fast.

I did this handfeeding for a few times, then I just took a chance and with my right hand, I grabbed her arm. I expected her to pull away, but she did not. It was a very firm grasp and I remained calm.

I quickly called my husband to help me. He rushed upstairs, climbed up the ladder and together, we managed to yank Minnie off from the manhole and down to the floor. It is quite a miracle that none of us fell from the ladder.

Minnie rushed downstairs to the patio and tried to escape, but my husband managed to stop her in the nick of time. If she had escaped, there would be no way of getting her back. She would just go back to the attic again and I cannot possible be this lucky twice.

We finally managed to trap Minnie inside the house.

She was definitely very hungry and ate to her heart’s content.
Eat, Minnie, eat as much as you want.

To my surprise, Minnie allowed me to carry her too. I checked and she is not dehydrated. Thank goodness for this. In fact, she didn’t appear too badly off for someone who had been stuck in the attic and roof for five days.

Thus ends the 5-day saga of Minnie’s version of the Phantom of the Opera.

The plan for Minnie is to reunite her with her sons. When the five boys were adopted, the adopter had agreed to take in Minnie as well, but at that time, Minnie was free roaming in the neighbourhood and seemed happy being a community cat. Now, with her wanting to make our attic her permanent lair, I don’t think we want to risk her making our attic her home and toilet or getting stuck on the roof, not coming down and starving for days. It’s too big a risk. There’s no telling what adventure or drama will unfold next.

We simply have no energy to deal with another ordeal like this again.

In writing this, I may have left out many other details, but I’m just too tired to recall everything right now. We are just so relieved that Minnie is safe and sound in the cage now.

Let’s hope she won’t escape from the cage tonight.

The Phantom of the Opera theme song plays…

1 comment to Minnie’s 5-day “Phantom of the Opera” saga

  • Lay Cheng

    Hi Dr Chan,
    Just my thoughts … Minnie being an escape artist,putting her in a new environment has to be carefully weighed. I know your ordeal as I am currently facing a cat that I feed,at a shop’s rooftop,since Oct ’20. Maybe if you could secure the attic preventing her from entering. Of course,having a home is most ideal but to try Minnie ,one has to be very very cautious in securing her indoors (initially). Not easy to handle cats like that and guess there is no right or wrong. Just calculated risks