We came home from vacation to find our cat outside. She'd been left inside. She'd been locked inside. We thought.
Of course our initial reaction was that someone had broken into our house while we were gone. But that fear, fortunately, was quickly dispelled.
Here are the facts: (1) My cat was outside. (2) The litter box was used all week, and the cat food was eaten. (3) The doors were untampered with and locked just as we had left them.
So I quickly thought through my options and realized that as much as I wanted to say that Laura had unwittingly let the cat out as she locked up nearly a week ago - the easiest way to resolve my outdoor-cat dilemma - it just didn't fit the facts. With the facts I had, there were three options, of the natural variety: (1) Someone had been in the house, (2) the cat had found a way out of the house by herself, or (3) I had locked another cat in our house, thinking it was Tula.
I sat down on my thinking chair (the toilet) and thought. And thought. The likeliest explanation, as all the windows were still closed, was that someone had been in our house. Not a nice explanation, but the most probable. I didn't find a strange cat in the house and I was pretty certain the cat I'd dragged into the house last Thursday was Tula. 99% certain.
But accepting the idea that someone had been in our house felt odd - it didn't quite fit. Everything was as we had left it. Nothing was missing. So, I wondered, perhaps someone had made an impromptu visit - maybe while on vacation themselves - and had found the door not all the way pulled to, and as they peeked inside, the cat (in a brave but foolish act of desperation) ran out the door.
It was possible. Not very likely, but nothing else was making sense.
I went upstairs to greet and console my computer, which I had left with the cat. I went to turn on the A/C window unit that I had cut off before leaving. (We have central air, but it just doesn't do much for the upstairs/finished attic/half story.) And it was at that moment that the riddle unraveled. The right sliding guard on the window unit had been slid open, leaving a four or five inch gap of open window.
Our stupid, stupid cat (in a brave but foolish act of desperation) had jumped out of the second-story window into the soft grass and a Nikko Blue hydrangea below the window.