He just showed up one day–the creature prowling around the front yard of our house, then the neighbors house, then back to us. We’d see him up the street, down by the park, in our backyard. It’s not unusual to see feral cats in the neighborhood, especially since we’re out walking the dog several times a day. They don’t bother us; they run away if we get too close. But not this guy. He’d actually walked closer to us. He came when we called him. This guy was different.
I am not “cat people.” I’m squarely Team Dog. My parents say my first word was “puppy,” and, as a child, I daydreamed that I might find a lost dog on the way home from school who I could take in and take care of–and who was hypo-allergenic for my mother. When I finally, at age twenty-two, got a Jack Russell Terrier puppy, I bawled so hard from happiness. My life felt complete. I take more pictures of the Beast than anyone else in my life. I don’t do cats.
Still, this uber-friendly cat kept hanging around. He’d walk up to me and rub up against my legs (I assume he was trying to kill me). He even let me pick him up and hold him; he couldn’t possibly be feral. “He’s a sweet cat,” I told Hubs. “If he’s not careful,” Hubs replied, “he’s going to end up as Finn’s lunch.”
It had a certain ring to it. Nothing like the cutesy-wootsy “Mr. Wiggles” or “Ghengis Cat” designations given by so many crazy cat people. “I will call him ‘Lunch,’” I announced. Hubs pretended not to hear me. It’s easier when you don’t name them.
But now Lunch was hanging around more and more. He’d showed up at the dining room window at breakfast, he’d greet us when we got home, he’d sleep on our porch at night. He’d come when we called him. Even the Finn-Beast would look for him when I’d say, “Where’s Lunch?”
I turned to Facebook friends for advice on what I should do with this Lunch situation–take him in or leave him be. The BFF in Cali was adamant, “You have a cat.” “He chose you,” said many folks. “You have so much love to give,” urged another. I have to admit, it felt nice to be chosen. Still, as I told him, “You must get along with the dog,” to which the Ginger Ninja walked over to us, while keeping a respectful two-foot distance between him and the curious, but not-all-that-interested Beast.
The truth is, there was an even bigger obstacle in our way.
When Hubs was a kid, his mother brought home an adorable stray cat whom she named “Whiplash” (did I mention she worked for an attorney at the time?). Not understanding the nature of feral cats, the family spent the next few days dodging a crazed Whiplash. My husband and his brothers were forced to jump from couch to chair to coffee table lest they set foot on the carpet–Whiplash’s domain–and be attacked. My father-in-law soon had enough and took Whiplash for a long drive where, one assumes, he explained the intricacies of human co-habitation and why their situation may not be a good fit after all. Surely, Whiplash agreed, apologized for any damage he may have done, and went about his merry way. Hubs has barely glanced at a feline since.
Thankfully, the next door neighbors–bona fide cat people–took it upon themselves to feed Lunch in the morning and leave out a pet bed for him at night. But their own cat had dominion over the place and simply wouldn’t abide an interloper, no matter how gentle and sweet. “What will he do when it gets cold out?” I worried aloud to Hubs. “He’ll be fine,” Hubs said, never once glancing up at me, “I’m sure the rest of the neighborhood is taking care of him. He’s got a good thing going.”
One night, I peeked out the front door to see Lunch curled up on the porch chair. I walked out and shimmied in next to him. He stretched his body against my lap as I scratched his belly, his ears, his chin. With each stroke, he reached out his front paws, revealing needle-like claws, which reminded me why I didn’t like cats all that much. He gently climbed onto my lap, he put his paw on my chest. He was choosing me. So, this is what it’s like to be chosen, I thought. We sat out there for fifteen or twenty minutes, getting to know each other, talking, bonding. I felt calmer. Tranquil. When the time came to go back inside, I got up and turned around to see Beast peering through the window, looking utterly betrayed.
But it didn’t matter. The next night, Lunch was MIA. I called for him, but he never showed. Same goes for the next day. Finally, two days later, I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I left for work. When I turned to look, he’d split faster than you can say “Not if I see you first!” Even when I did see him, he’d seem distant and aloof. We stuck to awkward glances and small talk. He no longer spent his nights on the porch. I was bereft. I thought what we had was special. I thought I was chosen. He was quickly becoming the most neurotic relationship I’d ever had. “That’s just cats, man,” said a friend, a cat person, when I gave him the latest update. As I sit here cuddling with my dog, I have no idea what that means.
Lunch’s absence went from days to a week. I finally asked my neighbors–the one’s who had been feeding him–if they’d seen him. Turns out, he was now living a block away at a different neighbors’ house. He just walked right through their front door. Word is, he even gets along with their cats. It must be nice to be chosen.
Hubs is now breathing a sigh of relief now that the couch is no longer in danger of becoming a scratching post. The big Beast has no idea how close he was to being a big brother. And our brief fling with cats is over and done–wait, what’s that on the porch?
“Dinner” has a nice ring to it.