Yesterday afternoon I took the jar out and filled the bowls, then set the empty jar on the counter on the back porch while I went off to fill the big water bowl-bird bath that sits under the lilac bush. I ended up doing quite a bit of watering, as the ground under all the various flowering plants and bushes was already somewhat dry. When I was done watering, I returned to the house, stopping to fetch the empty peanut butter jar. It wasn't there. I thought perhaps I'd already returned it to the house, but it wasn't in any of the places I might have put it had I done so.
I've become more and more forgetful over the years, so I didn't think much about the missing jar, figuring it would turn up eventually, just as my comb and keys and glass of water and sandwich and such always do. A few hours later I was washing dishes and glanced out the window to see one of the feral cats crossing the lawn wearing a helmet. It was the missing jar. Apparently, despite having a bowl freshly filled with the food that the jar had given up, she had decided to inspect it and had gotten her head stuck in it.
I went out to see if I could pull the jar off of her head, but she kept running away. It seems that depriving a cat of a good portion of its hearing, sight, and sense of smell also deprives them of much of their confidence. After I followed the cat around for a while she managed to make herself invisible, as cats are wont to do. Night had fallen, and my own sight is not much better than I'd be apt to have if I were looking through the fogged bottom of a plastic jar myself, especially by night.
Long story short (too late!), the cat in the improvised hat vanished for several hours. I continued to check the yard frequently, but it wasn't until very early in the morning that she finally reappeared. She must have been getting pretty hungry and thirsty by then, as I was able to coax her into the back room, where I managed to grab hold of the jar while she furiously backed away in a panic. When she let out a muffled yowl, I let go. The thing was lodged on so tightly that I feared I might injure her by trying to get it off.
So I waited until later in the morning and called the cat rescue people. The lady who runs the outfit came over and caught the cat in a net (This took several minutes, with the helmeted cat darting about the room, hiding behind furniture, climbing (and partly shredding) the curtains.) She couldn't remove the jar either, so in the end the cat had to be taken to a vet and sedated so the jar could be cut off of her head. When she got back she was quite groggy, and napped in the back room for awhile before I let her back outside. She actually woke up and staggered around the room and then pawed ant the door mewing for quite awhile before I let her out, as I wanted to be sure she had her full faculties back before she had to deal with the world outside.
The cat doesn't appear to hold her traumatic adventure against me. In fact, she's been friendlier than usual this afternoon. Maybe it's a sense of relief she feels, or maybe it's gratitude, but she's obviously happy to be home and appears none the worse for the experience. This was the cat who never got a name, by the way, but she has one now: she will henceforth be known as Jarhead. I suppose I could call her Peanut, but after making such a dumb move I don't think she deserves the subtlety.
And from now on, I'll never leave the jar unattended unless it has the lid screwed on tight. I've left many cats alone with an uncovered jar over the years but, though Jarhead is the only cat who has been dumb enough to stick her head into one of them, I'm not taking any more chances.