Thomas Wictor

Houdini would be very proud of my damn cats

Houdini would be very proud of my damn cats

I’m not an animal lover. In fact, I never acquired pets until last year. I was given a choice: Let two kittens die, take them to the pound to be euthanized, or adopt them. Since I’d spent all of 2013 dancing with death, I adopted the cats. They were about seven months old, so the window for taming them had long closed. Last night they pulled a Harry Houdini stunt in getting out of their house. I’ve never seen anything like it.

They came into my life when their mother abandoned them in the back yard of my former house.


She gave birth to fifteen cats in a year. As far as I know, only my two survived. Nobody in my neighborhood spays or neuters their cats, and the animals all live outside. My cats live inside. Until I captured them, they spent each night being bitten on the feet by dozens of other ferals. They’d show up limping; sometimes three legs would be wounded. But they wouldn’t let me catch them.

Finally Lyle—the back-and-white cat—was so injured that all he could do was sit while his brother tried to defend him from their father, a monstrosity with the biggest cat-head on earth. Lyle could only scream helplessly while this demon from hell—his own father—attacked him. I chased away the father and somehow lured Lyle into my house. Then I put a large plastic storage tub over him and took him to the vet.

Did Houdini have nine lives?

To my shock, Lyle was negative for feline leukemia, so I had him neutered and his abscessed foot repaired. When I brought him home, he peed and crapped in the plastic tub, so he was a mess. I let him out, and Tim cleaned him up. Then I had to catch Brother, the orange-and-white cat.

It took thirty attempts. I bought a cat trap, but Brother figured it out. He’d eat the bait without standing on the plate that sprang the door. Finally I put out food faced with Lorazapam. Brother became so relaxed that he just walked inside my house and fell asleep.


Unlike Lyle, Brother hates being touched, so I tried to socialize him a bit before I took him to the vet. Right after I caught him, he hit puberty and went insane, racing through the house and shrieking when his own mother—in heat again—sashayed back and forth under the window. It was impossible to catch Brother inside, but I couldn’t drug him or the vet wouldn’t see him. Finally I just grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and put him in the tub. Neither of my cats are violent; they’re just afraid.

Miracle of miracles, Brother too was negative for feline leukemia. I had him fixed, and after he healed, I took him next door to reintroduce him to Lyle, which went over like the plague. Lyle hissed when he saw Brother; I put one cat in one part of the house and the other cat in another, with a slightly wedged-open door between them. It took two weeks for them to get used to each other—I thought.

Houdini wasn’t a jerk

When I opened the door, Lyle immediately attacked Brother. I separated them again, and then I bought a squirt gun. The nice saleslady asked me if it was for my grandson.

“It sure is!” I said. “Here’s got four legs, claws, fur, and fangs!”

I made up the last part.

When I reintroduced the cats, Lyle attacked Brother again. I therefore squirted Lyle. Fifty times. I chased him through the house. He went and hid in the laundry room but emerged after five minutes, happy and calm. And he never attacked his brother again.


They’re enormous cats, almost too heavy to pick up. If they ever decided to fight me, I’d die.

I want to do a Houdini myself

The reason I don’t like pets is because their owners are usually animals. People buy dogs in order to irritate others. Everyone on my street has dogs, and the dogs bark all day and night. This makes the owners feel powerful. They enjoy inflicting misery on sentient beings like me.

Here are my neighbors across the street. They have a pack of dogs and parrots. This is what it sounds like all day, every day. Turn it up!

All six people in the house—a married couple and their four adult daughters—are morbidly obese. All are unemployed, and all four daughters have obese boyfriends who come over and have bellowing fights with their beloveds on the street at night.

Cruel and unreachable. That’s describes far too many people, and it’s why I’m a hermit.

Houdini didn’t have panic attacks

It’s not a good time. California and the United States are swirling the drain, terrorists tell me that they’ll kill me, lunatics constantly pick fights with me, and people who I used to respect have dropped their masks and revealed themselves to be corrupt and mediocre. Every time I go to sleep, I have some outrageous nightmare about dismemberment, drowning, child-murder, rape, or madness.

Last night there was a massive storm, complete with horror-movie gusts of wind. Lyle Cat and Brother Cat live in the house that we had to empty out because our neighbors put down sod in their back yard, raising the level of the earth by a foot. When they used their sprinklers, the water went into our walls without us knowing it. The entire side of the house is now rotted, requiring that the house be demolished.

We were going to do it in 2013, but the parents got sick and died, and we haven’t been able to gather the steam to tackle this project.

Last night I went to the Cat House at 12:00 to see if my cats were weathering the storm okay. They were gone. I searched the entire house, but they weren’t there.

They’d escaped three times before, by pulling the screens out of windows. They’re very strong animals. Tim had to put steel mesh over all the windows. And yet they were gone.

Time to give up on the Brothers Houdini

I saw that Tim was still awake, so I went down and told him that I’m done. Whenever the cats get out, they panic and don’t come to me. I’ve had to trap them three times all over again. At some point, you cut your losses. I’m not the man I once was; I’m much diminished. If the cats survived the night, I was going to re-home them. Tim agreed that it was a good idea.

I went back to the Cat House, not sure why. In the garden, I heard, “Eee-ooo.

Lyle Cat. I looked in the bushes, and both of the little bastards were crouched there, soaking wet. When I opened the back door, they ran inside. After feeding them, I tried to find how they got out but came up empty. Since all my meds had kicked in, I just went home.

Houdini for real

Today I discovered how they got out. It’s beyond comprehension. These cats are easily the smartest felines I’ve ever encountered. It all began here, in the fireplace room.


Note the two doors marked with red arrows. I took that photo as we were packing up everything in preparation for the house to be demolished.

The two doors in the fireplace room lead to the gun room.


My maternal grandfather George Lower was a gun collector. The red arrow shows the edge of the laundry-room door.

Here’s George Lower and my sister Carrie in 1965.


George was just your average dude. Nothing out of the ordinary.


From George’s gun room, you can go into the laundry room. Observe the wooden ladder to the attic.


The red arrow in the photo below shows what I call the jumping-off point.


Finally, George’s workshop, where he cast his own bullets in lead.


He collected antique muzzle loaders—single-shot black-powder rifles. Muskets.


Now let’s put all the parts together and show you how my Houdini quadrupeds did it.

Yesterday was a bad patch.

The Brothers Houdini can stay.

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