He's in the house.
I spent a very long night checking on him every two hours, standing on the snow-covered deck in my sleepshirt, holding the cat-flap open with a broom handle and trying to convince him to go inside. On the plus side--it was a clear night and the stars were magnificent. Mars burned down like a huge ember all night long and a few hours before dawn, the crescent moon rose in the east.
On the negative side, under clear skies, the temperatures dropped to the mid-teens and the black cat looked forlorn, huddled in weary shock in the cat condo. I know he has been living outside for years but he must have dens to retire to when the weather gets too bitter. When I went back up to bed, I dreamt all night about the black cat in various scenerios--escaping the pen, turning out to be friendly, etc.
I had a moment of hope this morning when I went down about eight and couldn't see him in the enclosure but as I leaned closer to look, I heard his hiss--he was sitting on top of the litter box on the lower level, not readily apparent to the casual eye.
I had *so* hoped he was inside, being comforted in a warm crush with Grendel and Skinny. That did it--he had been locked up for twenty-four hours and it was time to get him to move inside. I got dressed and collected a curtain rod and a roll of duct tape. From the inside, I taped the cat flap open, then went outside with the idea of prodding him into going through the door.
He surprised me. (Well, he had been surprising me for the last month-and-a-half, but this was sort of special...) When I reached the curtain rod in through the chicken wire to touch him, he rubbed his face against it! That inspired me to run the rod down his back, and he arched into the metallic caress. That de-railed my thought processes enough that I stood by the cage for several minutes, stroking him and speaking to him in a quiet voice. I wasn't going to prod him with sticks after a demonstration like that. Perhaps he isn't as totally feral as we had thought.
So, I went upstairs and talked with Denny and we formed a plan that he would open the cat condo and hopefully prompt the black cat to go through the cat door, and I would use the broom handle to try to keep him from retreating into the far corner. After a small amount of initial resistence, the black cat obliged us by dashing into the spare room. By the time I got inside to bar the cat door from the inside, he had vanished behind the plywood plank and was--indeed--huddled with Skinny and Grendel.
So--he's safe, he's warm and he is among friends, whether he appreciates that yet or not...