Balconies, 20 River Road, Manhattan Park, high risk for cats...
Balconies, 20 River Road, Manhattan Park, high risk for cats...
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

The fear hits you right in the gut. Showing up early to feed Monte, Albert and Millie, a family of tabby cats, I got worried right away. Only Monte, the senior resident, came to the door. The next shock was worse. I found Millie outdoors on the balcony, five floors up, on the railing of the balcony, and she was staring at me.

Before there was time to ask myself how the hell she got there, I walked to the balcony door, Millie still watching me, and opened it as calmly and quietly as possible.

Cats feel first, think later. Startling her might send her off the edge to near certain death.

We both got lucky. She was as eager to get in as I was to see her run across the living room floor, which she did, instantly.

But where was Albert?

Millie and Albert are six month old kittens, energetic and curious. They routinely get into the kinds of cat trouble that fills up a large section of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook with amusing videos.

You never know...

What I had to do next was take the unavoidable look down to the ground, to the intersection of concrete patios and bare earth that was the next stop if a cat, as too many have, fell.

Albert wasn't there either.

But I still had to find him, wherever he was, sick, injured or just plain lost.

A Morning's Search for a Missing Kitten

After searching in some obvious places around the building, I called. John, the cats' guardian. To my surprise, he wasn't overly upset.

"That's Albert," he said. "Don't worry. He's hiding. He has a couple of favorite spots."

I didn't think he'd fully processed the situation. After all, how did Millie get out...? Wasn't it a pretty good bet that Albert led or followed her through whatever opening they found?

John promised to call when he got home, in about an hour, and confirm that he'd found Albert napping in a secret spot.

"I can't find him," he told me instead.

We turned to the animal rescue resource any Roosevelt Islander ought to reach for first, Rossana Ceruzzi, who's been tending to local animals, including at cat sanctuaries, for over a decade.

Then, I quickly cropped a photo of Albert and posted him missing on Facebook and Twitter, recalling the overwhelming kindness we've always found in this community when trouble happens.

My wife and I scrambled, coordinating a search from Coler Hospital south, looking in the parks and along the rip rap below the seawall, while John searched the landscaping around Manhattan Park.

Just as we converged near 40 River Road, my cell phone went off.

It was John.

"We found him," he said with a sigh. "He's still there."

My heart sunk.

Then, it rose.

"He's on the balcony next door."

How little Albert got across four feet of open air, from one balcony to the next, is not something you want to think about unless you enjoy your heart skipping a beat.

But there was a not so small problem...

Albert was safe, for now, on a balcony, but it wasn't John's balcony. And his neighbor wasn't home. There was a risk he'd panic and try to navigate his way back.

Here's where Manhattan Park property manager Brian Weisberg stepped in.

Hearing our story - deftly because both John and I were talking at once - he got in touch with Cruz, his top maintenance guy.

But before Cruz could do his magic, Weisberg, a big time cat lover, had to show us a video of his own black and white spotted feline partner. It happens all the time, and yes, each cat is intensely individual and irresistible. Each has a story.

Fifteen minutes later with Cruz's help, John had Albert firmly in his grasp and on his way home - where he immediately hid under a bed. Enough drama for one day in a six month old's life.

Before walking back home, to the work I'd been neglecting all morning, I stopped to thank Weisberg. 

He was thrilled over the safe rescue of Albert. Whatever differences we may have, cat lovers form an impenetrable network of support.

We share it all, and little Albert gave us a new highpoint of unity in appreciation.