Rescue Story: Watch Your Window Screens

sketch of two cats at window
“Boys at the Window”, 1998, 5″ x 5″colored pencil on coquille board © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I had a near miss with an old screen over the weekend and thought I’d share this experience from years ago; read about the artwork above at the end of this article.

. . . . . . .

I heard a siren, or was it the wind? I knew it was summer and my windows were open, but it was very early and I thought I’d better get up and close the windows if a storm was coming.

As I awoke I realized there were no cats with me at all though I lived with six and they always slept with me and impatiently milled around on the bed until I awoke, but not even immovable Moses was in her spot on the other pillow.

Wide awake, I leapt out of bed looking everywhere. That house was rather large and I had no idea where to look first because I had no idea where they might be. But I followed the now obvious sound of two cats wailing at each other and in the dining room found a window screen pushed out of place and Fawn timidly about to step outside. Through the window I could see Sally, who was deaf, out in the garden! I grabbed Fawn and slammed the window shut, then ran through the kitchen out the back door and grabbed Sally just as she saw me and was about to playfully run off.

back porch
Under the porch where Stanley was defending his kingdom from the tomcat.

Holding her as she struggled wildly I looked around and realized the yowling was coming from the front. I had to put Sally inside so I tossed her in the back door and ran around the side to find Stanley in a standoff with a huge tabby tomcat under the front porch. Stanley, sweet and loving, could be unpredictable in his temperament and he had actually bitten me about a year before that; set off like this I had no idea how he’d be, and I knew not to go near them or try to touch them.

I clapped my hands to distract them, yelled and stomped my feet threatening to run toward them knowing if the tom ran so would Stanley. They inched their way out from under the porch as I continued clapping and stomping and I guess the tom figured he could deal with the cats but not with the crazy human and took off, but I called Stanley as he gave chase and he stopped, content the intruder had left “his” domain. Stanley was still wild-eyed but I managed to talk him down and both scruff and cuddle him, and carry him back inside.

Back outside, I saw Allegro trotting along the railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill along our back yard. Down I went—summer nightie and bare feet—and though he ran, startled, I managed to follow him along the tracks and talk him into familiarity enough trust and let me cautiously approach him, touch him, and quickly pick him up.

Moses under the table with the incriminating window beyond; also, the cat carrier I always left open in our "relaxing room".
Moses under the table with the incriminating window beyond; also, the cat carrier I always left open in our “relaxing room”.

In the house with him and all the others, I found Moses on a chair under the dining room table, and that left only Kublai. I fed them breakfast, knowing I couldn’t leave for work until I found him. The people I would be calling in to would understand this and after putting on some real clothes I went back outside, the sun now risen, and called and called for my heart cat, the leader of my household, and after about two hours he came trotting through my neighbor’s yard, talking to me, asking me what the problem was. I scooped him up and carried him inside, my household again intact.

He ate, then immediately returned to the window where the screen had been removed and began working along the bottom edge, stopping to look at me: “Don’t you see how easy this is?” It was a window I often used in spring to move my seedlings outside for the day and back inside at night. I could see he’d carefully watched my actions to lift and remove the screen, and it was old enough to be easy for him—just like the old door handles he could easily turn which I had replaced with ones where you had to push a button to make the handle turn.

I closed all the windows, went to work, and then set about adding a little hand-tightened thumb latch to all 12 windows in the house. I kept collars and tags on them, but there was no such thing as a microchip in those days. I tried not to think about what would have happened if I’d been gone for one of my 14-hour days or if formerly feral Moses had gotten out or timid Fawn, or even the braggadocius boys.

. . . . . . .

“Boys at the Window”, 1998

At the top, it just so happens the two principals in this story are at the very window they escaped from that morning! Allegro reclines on my desk and Stanley on the windowsill, watching me work. Some things never change—today I have Sunshine and Bean sprawled on my desk now and Mimi on the windowsill, watching me work. This scene was from 1998, in the house I rented before I moved here, when I was still experimenting with drawing materials and styles and techniques. The reference photo was poorly exposed, a little blurry and they were silhouetted, but I liked the composition and did a little sketch from this photo as well as photos of each of them individually on “coquille board”, an illustration board covered with a tiny raised pattern that would capture a drawing material like colored pencil, creating a sort of halftone pattern. This was used far more often when line art was required for printing in black and white, but I still like textured boards for things like this. I’ve never published this image or the others so I thought I’d use it to illustrate this story since there is a connection, of sorts. I’ve also used coquille in my set of notecards from that era, “Kitties Being Kitties” and also mentioned its use in “The Artist’s Life: Early Feline Influences and Memories”.

. . . . . . .

About windows, screens and cats

My story might be entirely different today if I had lost my entire household of cats at one time! I have other stories of great escapes to share, and, I think, narrowly averted one with an older screen in my house just recently. Read a little about how to keep your screens in good shape and keep your kitties safe in “Windows Screens and Cats” which begins with the story above. And imagine how many cats would not go missing!

four black cats looking out window
Let us at him!

Read more stories in my weekly Rescue Stories series.

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13 thoughts on “Rescue Story: Watch Your Window Screens

  • Pingback: The Creative Cat - Featured Artwork: Coquille Cats

  • July 9, 2014 at 11:05 am
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    That must have been so scary! My Siamese managed to scratch my window screen open once and escaped. She was gone for 8 hours and it was terrible! Thankfully she came back. But now, I don’t *ever* leave the windows open unattended.

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    • July 11, 2014 at 2:33 am
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      Fur Everywhere, it is really horrible! Suddenly they’re just gone, it’s so frightening! I’m glad she came back.

      Reply
  • July 9, 2014 at 9:17 am
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    so scary. we had this happen a few years ago when Tommy went out a window – though mom suspects he was sleeping on the windowsill and the screen fell out. and we live on the 2nd floor!! she found some inserts that fit in the window and block the sill so we can get a breeze and see out but no more sleeping on the windowsill.

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    • July 9, 2014 at 9:46 am
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      Random Felines, that happened to me too when Kelly slept on the bathroom windowsill and the screen was very cheaply made–the bottom pulled right out of the frame. Luckily the deck roof was right underneath and she was having a great time out there, though Giuseppe, who’d apparently hopped out after her, was not! I got them both back in and replace the screen with an expanding one that holds in place with binder clips.

      Reply
  • July 9, 2014 at 12:30 am
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    Good points. It’s so important to check regularly. We have 26 windows in our house and like a natural cross ventilation but paws cross haven’t had any issues in years.

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    • July 11, 2014 at 2:32 am
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      Layla, I that house in the story had 20 windows if you counted the transoms on the three doors that led outside–and I loved those transoms, but the kitties like to jump up there and sleep on the windows when I had them open in the summer, and the screens were only held in place with hooks and eyes. And here they got out through a window screen!

      Reply
  • July 8, 2014 at 5:22 pm
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    Many years ago I had the screens where dogs or cats might be hanging out in my home rescreened with a heavy wire mesh. Those screens are screwed to the window frame in three places. When I open any of those windows I put a second pull-out screen OVER the first screen – this screen just sits in front of the first screen. They’re inexpensive – about $10.00 – you can get them in various sizes at many hardware stores. This saved me from my own potential disaster!

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    • July 8, 2014 at 10:45 pm
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      Chris, I do this in some areas too, and I added a piece of hardware cloth to the basement screen door because I know raccoons come up to that door. The older screens upstairs are steel with solid frames from the original casement windows, and I added packing tape around the outside so the cats can’t move them, but if I need to pull them away in any emergency it’s quicker than unscrewing them.

      Reply
  • July 8, 2014 at 4:19 pm
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    It happened here too B..my tuxedo boy who never goes out except to the Vet..went outside..I guess he didn’t know what to do because I found him sitting in the garden out back crying..and my tortie girl acted about the same..she sat among the flowers on the other side and cried..Luckily they were easy to pick up and put back in..We always check screens now to make sure they remain safe..

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    • July 8, 2014 at 10:42 pm
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      Bluemoonalone, I hate it in the heat but I always close my downstairs windows when I leave the house and overnight, but the screens are older dense metal upstairs and immovable, but I check all the windows several times a day, whenever I walk through the house. Glad your kids didn’t go far!

      Reply
  • July 8, 2014 at 3:29 pm
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    me…boomer…getted out a screen once N de food serviss purrson looked out de window N said…huh…look at that ….a cat that looks just like ewe buddy boom…..buddy boom ????? cranbereez…that IZ ewe boomer…..

    Reply
    • July 8, 2014 at 10:40 pm
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      That happened to our food service lady one time too! Glad you got back in!

      Reply

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