It started when Davout came rushing in from outside and jumped right up next to me in excitement. This usually means that Rhea is doing something bad, like leaving the yard. And sure enough, she was gone. Unlike the other times, though, she was not easily spotted in the pool area. She was nowhere to be found.
After casting around the places I could get to, I decided to climb the back wall and broke out the ladder. I put it on the wall and climbed up it a step or two and saw her running back along the top of the wall, leaping down to the table top and inside. And right after that, the neighbor two houses down popped up asking if she was my cat.
I went over to her back gate to chat. It turns out Rhea had been inside her house. She had her door open for her little dog and she had rushed right in, then went and hid in various spots like behind the sofa. The lady had put her dog away to avoid trouble, and tried to shoo Rhea out of the house and out her back gate, but she wouldn’t go out the gate. But then when she heard me she apparenly ran to the back wall, climbed a trellis and jumped to the top of the back and came home.
I figure she was chasing something even farther afield, like a squirrel or bird, and got confused about which house was hers and was shocked when it was the wrong house. I’ve seen the “cats can’t count” effect a few times before with other cats. The first time was with Cassie in the early 80s, after her first vet checkup. I let her out of her carrier in the stairwell after a vet checkup as I did. She knew her house was upstairs, and on the left, but when the second floor door opened she ran right past the occupant, my landlord, into her house. She was quite surprised to be in some other room than hers!
Rhea was stressed for sure, since minutes later after coming back she was still panting at intervals and trying to cool down.
She spent most of the rest of the day sleeping pretty hard.
I think this means I need to move forward on a real cat fence for the yard, though.