Last week, wife Brenda and I saw a poster on a utility pole: “Lost cat, orange tabby with white feet, answers to ‘Boots.’ ” Two blocks up the road, we saw another poster: “Lost cat, orange tabby with white feet, answers to ‘Punkin.’ ”
We decided that Boots and Punkin are one and the same cat, just a puss with a little gypsy in her soul. We’ve knownand we’ve ownedcats that just walked into a house, stole the hearts of the people who lived there, and then just up and split, leaving no more than a puddle of cat barf to remember ’em by.
Back when I worked at Old-House Journal, we had an office cat named Chester. He showed up one day on the fire escape, and some soft-hearted soul let him in. Soon after, the house-proud editorial staff fixed Chester up with a nice insulated cat house on the fire escape. Every morning, the first person in the office would open the window and let Chester in. He’d have a bite to eat, then get busy napping under my toasty-warm desk lamp. At the end of the day, the last person out of the office would put Chester out and close the window behind him.
Months later, Chester showed up one morning with a note tied around his neck: DOES ANYBODY OWN THIS CAT? He looks well-fed. He comes in our back window every evening, and we put him out every morning. If he’s yours, please reply via a new note on cat’s neck.
Then and there, we had written proof that we were harboring a two-timing cat. Sure, he rolled in our laps and purred. He ate our leftover sushi. He even let us pay his vet bills when he got ear mites from who-knows-where. But did he sleep in the fancy cat house we made him? Did he miss us when we were gone? Nope. He just went down the block and curled up in front of somebody else’s fire.
From the day he came to work with the note, I never felt right about Chester. So as he slept on my desk, I used his sorry ass for a paperweight. I left Old-House Journal about a year later. Last I heard, Chester was still working his commuter-cat racket.
Some years back, Brenda and I were walking through our neighborhood when a little gray cat scooted out of an alley and started walking along with us. We tried to shoo him away, but he’d just drop back a few steps, then sneak up behind us again.
When we got back to our house, the cat came around the corner and followed us to our porch. Brenda decided the cat looked a little scraggly, so she fed him. Next thing I knew, Brenda had set the little guy up with a litter box, a scratching post, and a supper dish. I named him Dizzy. He was a perfectly good cat, playful and affectionate. After a few weeks, we were pretty well attached to him.
Once we thought we could trust him, we left Dizzy alone in the house for a weekend while we took a trip back home to South Carolina. Before we left, Brenda prepped Dizzy like a kid going off to camp. He had a generous bowlful of food, plenty of fresh water, three fake mice, and a nicely fluffed pillow. But when we came back, Dizzy was gone. As best I could tell, he had escaped through a mouse-sized hole in a basement window frame.
We got all happy and excited a few days later when we spotted Dizzy on a neighbor’s porch. But when we went to claim him, we learned that he had taken up with our sweet 11-year-old girl neighbor, who had renamed him Claude. We couldn’t even consider a custody battle, so we left Claude with his new master, and we just went home catless.
About a month later, Claude’s new family had a baby. Just days after the baby came home from the hospital, Claude split. We later learned that he’d moved one block north and was going by the name Zany.
So you people who lost Boots, or Punkin, or whatever she’s calling herself these days, don’t you worry. She’s just a gypsy cat, looking for a family who cooks a lot of fish, or for a kid with a parakeet. She’ll be fine.
Visit Walter’s Web site at http://www.nashscene.com/~housesense. Or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.