People used to say that during the Great Depression, the needy would mark the doors of personable households. I believe stray cats do the same to mine.
During the 25 years we’ve lived in our home, about a dozen cats have appeared on my porch, peering through the glass door, silently begging for a donation of food. What can I do? In any case, don’t ignore their pleading faces.
Just as my husband says, “Don’t feed that cat, Caren,” I open the door with the cat food bag in hand. Most cats only stay a few days, maybe a few months, before disappearing into the woods. Except for one. She stayed for 11 years.
One evening as I was feeding the horses, I saw something moving. I turned just in time to see a black tail disappearing under our tool shed. Later, after our two cats had eaten, I saw a skinny, shaggy young tabby sneaking up on and finishing the leftovers. The next time I saw her, she had a companion, a black cat. I made sure there was enough food for both of them.
Courtesy Caren Ramon
Pretty soon they turned up for dinner with our other cats. I called them Minnie the Moocher and Freddy the Freeloader. I would serve food in separate containers just for them, but they would float back until I went back inside. Then, with no one around, they would devour their meals. This took a couple of weeks. One day Freddy didn’t show up. We never saw him again.
Minnie paused on our property, dividing the time between the tool shed and the porch. It was no longer skinny and filled quite well. I congratulated myself on her newfound health. However, it continued to gain weight – especially around its center. Yes, she was pregnant.
We have set up a small animal shelter in the garage where Minnie can sleep and give birth. She knew immediately it was for her, and I often saw her watching me from his safety. The garage became her territory, and we left the door open wide enough for her to come and go as she pleased. One day I was out there when I noticed movement again. There, behind the freezer, was Minnie taking care of five kittens. She gave me a careful, pleading look and asked me to please stay away and let her take care of her mother’s duties. Like all cats, she was a very good mother.
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After all of the kittens found a home, we found that Minnie had done enough to populate the feline world. We still couldn’t get near her, but we caught her in a trap. On the way to the vet, I put my finger in the cage to comfort her, only to make him bite.
Courtesy Caren Ramon
We released them to the backyard. She ran into the woods, and I assumed this would be the last time we’d ever see her, but no – come around dinner time when she was on the back porch.
It was obvious that Minnie missed her kittens and craved affection. Thinking this would be a good time to tame her, I spent hours on the porch, sitting next to me as quietly as possible with a bowl of cat food. She would sit a few meters away from me and question my every move. I in turn ignored her, read my book and silently implored her to come closer. She never did. All the time in the world she had time to sit on me and wait for me. I did not. So I would start dinner and she would dine alone on the porch. I finally accepted that she would never let me stroke her, but she still became my constant companion. Whenever I went outside, she meowed hello and followed me around the property.
One day I was reading outside with Minnie, curled up in a nearby chair, when she suddenly straightened up and stared at a large, fluffy ginger cat that stood on the edge of the forest. It approached cautiously. Minnie jumped down and waited. The cat came closer, his big eyes staring at me and ignoring her. But Minnie had other ideas. She went straight to him and nudged him with her head. Startled, he stared at her and gave her a half-hearted blow. She tried again. He shrugged, came straight to me, jumped into my lap, and curled up purring. It stayed there until I went back into the house.
The next day he was back. Minnie approached him again and this time just put her nose to his. He sniffed her then brushed past on the way to my lap. This lasted for several days, with Minnie never giving up on winning his friendship. Reluctantly, the big cat finally gave in and submitted to its caring and loving frictions.
Courtesy Caren Ramon
I started to wonder whose cat it was. At first I thought he was a neighbor’s cat who just came to visit. As the days went on, he looked thinner and lost his shiny coat. He followed me to the house and meowed for food. I knew there was a house on the street that had recently been sold. Could he have been left behind? It was obvious that he had been someone’s baby as it seemed his only goal in life to be a lap cat. How did I find his people?
I searched the papers for a list of lost cats. Neither matched his description. I bought a tear-away collar and wrote a note, “If this is your cat, please give me a call. I would love to adopt him, but I don’t want to steal someone’s cat. “I signed my name and phone number, taped them around my collar, and put them on him.
The fluffy cat still appeared every day, and the note got dirty and torn. Then one day he had scratches all over his face, no collar, and his ear was hanging on a couple of tendons. When we took him to the vet, they searched him for a microchip. When we couldn’t find one, we officially adopted him and named him Mr. Fluffy.
We quickly learned that Mr. Fluffy is very territorial. If a cat came into our garden, he immediately chased it away. But never Minnie the Moocher. Whether he realized she was here first or because she was female, Mr. Fluffy never attacked her. On the contrary – Mr. Fluffy and Minnie the Moocher became two. We left Mr. Fluffy indoors at night to avoid further mishaps and vet bills, but every morning Minnie would wait for him on the porch. It took three years.
Then one morning Minnie just wasn’t there. Mr. Fluffy and I searched the property, but not Minnie. Poor Mr. Fluffy went out every morning, went around looking for her, and then gave up. Although we now have two other female cats, he did not bond with them or even try.
It always hurts to lose an animal you love. But I wouldn’t give anything in the world for the time we had with our Minnie the Moocher. Wild as she was, she taught me that friendship and love can be shared by simply being present and accepting. No touch or words required. Just be there.
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