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The Mysterious Case Of The Night Howlers

, , , , , , , | Working | September 4, 2020

The office I work at has normal daytime hours, then at a certain time switches over to emergencies only for the night, then we close for an hour before the day shift comes in. Night shift doesn’t see day shift except in the evenings. Overnight, we run with a skeleton crew: one tech, one front desk, and one doctor. I work night shift.

One night, I’m helping a patient in from the parking lot when we hear an ungodly scream. It sounds like the loudest, angriest cat scream I have ever heard. I turn around, and sitting in the middle of the parking lot is a tiny kitten, eight weeks old at the most. While I watch, it screams again.

I keep pushing the hurt dog on his stretcher to get him in the door, and then I let the front desk know there is a kitten outside, so let’s leave the door open and see if it comes inside. We can’t go out and get it because if you try and chase them they might run into the road or get scared and run off to who knows where.

A few hours later, we hear screaming from the side of the building. The kitten is sitting in the window staring into the treatment room. We open the window and it bolts.

Around midnight, I’m taking the trash out the back door and there is the kitten, sitting just out of reach and screaming. I set a feral cat trap in the back lot and put a note on the treatment board to check the trap for success every hour.

There’s no sign of it after midnight, and the next evening, when I come in for the day shift, I ask and they tell me they think the kitten ran off, because none of them saw any sign of it. As soon as the day shift leaves, we hear the screaming again.

This goes on for almost a week. Everyone on night shift low key hates this little jerk of a cat and the day shift thinks we are all crazy because they haven’t seen any trace of it. Finally, our medical director gives us permission to actively try and catch it since the screaming is bothering clients; if it runs away and never comes back, so be it.

The next night, our tech brings a bucket outside with her when she takes out the trash and throws it over the kitten. We finally got the jerk! We throw him, still screaming, into a kennel and label the cage “Howler Kitten.” We’ll do an exam and vaccines and everything we need to do to get Howler adopted later. Due to emergencies, we don’t get a chance to do anything to him that night.

The next evening, I come in and the first thing I do is go check on the prisoner. Somebody has drawn a line through “Howler” and written in “Sweetie”. I talk to the day shift and they explain that he hasn’t screamed all day, he’s the sweetest little thing, and they don’t understand why we were so annoyed with his meows; they are so soft and cute. He never screams again the whole time he is with us up until we find him his forever home. Night shift still low-key hates this cat for making us look like liars.

Six months later, it’s a slow night and I’m raking the parking lot and I hear the same scream. My first thought is, “Dang it, he ran away from his new home and came back to torture us again.” I turn, and deja vu, there’s a kitten the same color that looks eight weeks old. My next thought is, “We are not doing this again!”

I drop the rake and charge towards the kitten. I chase it down the street until it darts under a parked car and screams again. I reach into the wheel well and grab it by the scruff, and then I take my hissing, screaming captive back to the office. We put her in the kennel, and this time we take a video of her screaming at the food we gave her… while she is eating it. I did not know it was possible to scream and swallow at the same time, but she does it.  

Night shift names the new kitten Alouatta, the genus that howler monkeys belong to; we looked it up. The next evening, her name has been changed to Pickles, but they change it back after I show them the video. 

We are convinced they are half-siblings at least, and that somewhere out there is a feral cat telling her kittens that the easy way to get food is to “go to the humans and scream” while neglecting to mention that after screaming you have to get close to the humans. Neither of them ever made that scream sound again. We are still waiting to see if another sibling shows up; it’s been a year now so maybe there won’t be any more.

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