Saturday, July 03, 2010

Another Cat's Tale

He left around seven years ago. That was the year I started mowing for a neighbor and maybe he followed me down there or maybe he wandered on his own, I don't know. What I remember is that periodically that year she told me to come get my cat. She may have begun calling me the previous year and telling me that, I don't know, or the winter before at least. Maybe that's even why I began mowing for her, I don't quite remember how that got started exactly.

I told her to quit feeding my cat and he would come home. I went to mow one day and she came out fussing that the cat that she called Midnight (he has a different name at our house) was still about. In fact he was standing on her porch in front of a big bowl of spaghetti she'd sat out for him. "He's not gonna come home if you feed him like that," I said.

Not that I minded so much. We have plenty of cats. And he'd just shown up, the way a lot of them do. Husband came home one day with him, having found him somewhere. He looked just like a cat we'd petted at a park in town recently and we named him the same thing we'd called that cat. (If I were Alecto, I would tell you about all the memories and feelings and (non-traumatic but still a bit bitter) flashbacks of that day in the park . . . but you know, the cat is more important.) I mean, he was a very good, even very exceptional cat, but who could blame him for going to the lasagna meals instead of more meager scraps.

All these years, I've known he was still down there. I knew that at some point they started keeping him inside most of the time, but he was still let out at least sometimes and I would see him, hunting. For some years he would visit us in the garden -- he could hear when we were there from her house -- but eventually he stopped visiting. And then, even if I saw him out, he would actively avoid me and just go home. I appreciated his caution. He had a good thing going and he didn't want to mess it up.

We've never been all that close with the neighbors. We know them all, but we don't break bread together. I think it is a good idea to keep most everything at arms length anyway, and all the more so with her.

Those neighbors recently moved away. I'll spare you the details there. We knew about the situation because well, that's how it is. People know stuff, especially bad stuff. They took their dog. They didn't take the cat. They didn't call to say they weren't taking the cat I suppose because then they would have had to explain why they were moving. They didn't even call to tell me to come get my damn cat the way she used to when she was feeding it, and now it would have no one to feed it. Her embarrassment was bigger than her concern for the cat, but you know, I guess I understand that too. Especially because I'd look after the cat anyway and maybe she knew that about me.

After they'd gone, I saw him around so I knew he was there. The first time I called to him, he ran back to his old home. He wasn't fat anymore but he wasn't skinny. The guy across the road with the dogs said he came over there and ate regularly. I knew eventually he'd get lonely.

And sure enough, the whole gang of us were in the garden one evening and MEOW! I mean, really loud and long MEOW! Loud, long, repeated MEOW. We meowed back and at first we were just wondering which of our cats it was who'd decided to come to the garden. The big grey tabby often hunts in front and meets us in the garden to get petted? Some of them just like to come to flop. But this continued and before long the youngest child went off to see who this was. He came back reporting that it looked like one of our other cats but wasn't fuzzy. All the rest of us said his name and all went off to claim him.

He was a bit stand-offish at first. Hesitant. Unsure. His rug had been pulled out from under him but he could feel the love. It was the other cats he was much less sure about. But he seems to have decided that he can put up with us. All of us.

Except for a few things. Like yesterday we killed some long overdue roosters. The other cats are used to this routine -- they lick the blood and run off with the heads and know the offal will be put off in the woods for them. On the way back to the house with the now empty offal bowl, husband ran into this new old cat and offered him the bowl to lick. He sniffed this rather stinky offering and looked at husband and almost clearly said, "You've got to be kidding. Where's the lasagna?"

A little later, he did learn to slurp from a stream of milk squirted directly from the cow to his head. That might make up for the lack of lasagna and plethora of cats he must put up with in his new old home.

the first cat's tale


Alecto said...

oh Yay!!!!

A bowl of spaghetti. Who knew.

CG said...

They even had him fixed. I need to check and make sure he still has his claws.

But what strikes me most is how often I would see him around, especially compared to how often I see people around. That is, people are rare, out here, in this life. Doesn't that seem odd, that you'd see a wandering tom cat often enough to keep up with it, and largely not the people he stayed with?

Wendy said...

There was this woman living on a corner lot on one of the subdivision lanes across the main road from my subdivision lane. When my beagle ran off several years ago, when he was new to us, and didn't know the "rules" (which include not running off), she took him to her house and locked him up in her garage. She didn't ask around to see who he might belong to, but after a couple of days, realized she couldn't keep him and called the town animal control. We got him back from them.

Recently, she was moving (I neither know nor care why), but before she left she came storming over to my road, because someone had told her that the orange cat she'd been feeding lived over here with someone on my road (it didn't). And to be clear, that cat had to cross a fairly busy road with some pretty fast traffic to get from where I live to her house. She was angry, because in her mind the owner was neglecting that cat, and she'd just seen it get hit. She blamed the owner for the cat's death. My thought was, if she hadn't been feeding it, it wouldn't have come across the road, but that one time, and then it wouldn't have been hit by that car.

It was interesting to me to note all of the opinions she had about the "owners" of that cat (or about me with regard to my "allowing" my dog to run off - like I opened the door and said, "get out" to him), and she never seemed to feel any culpability for her part in the whole affair. If she had taken five minutes to ask around the neighborhood, she might have found us and returned our dog. If she'd not been feeding a cat that obviously had an owner, it might not have gotten hit. Instead, she chose to believe that we were bad pet owners and she, alone, could occupy the higher ground. Funny how people are.