Sunday, June 6, 2010
A New 'Cast Member'
Even though this blog is mostly about my dogs, Abby, Andy and Father, I want to introduce another ‘cast member’, a white stray cat we adopted two years ago in 2008. I remember the day this cat presented himself to us. My dad and I were in the backyard when this white cat approached us on the patio. He cried and stopped about 10 feet from us. I can still hear his scratchy voice which reminded me of a Siamese cat. That breed has a characteristic cry, but I have no idea what breed(s) this cat has in its lineage. My dad walked over to the cat and petted it. He seemed friendly and glad to see us. I say ‘he’ but at the time we had no idea if the cat was male or female. The cat had scratches all over its face. He looked like he had been at the losing end of a few fights. The cat was also noticeably underweight, probably around 8 pounds at the time. (He is a little over 16 pounds now!)
During the first contact involving a stray animal, the animal is filled with apprehension and fear. The animal is scared, lonely, hungry and most likely defeated by life. In a way, the animal is surrendering itself and hopes the new people in its life will be nice to it. The previous owners were most likely neglectful at best and abusive at worst to this animal. Now, here is this animal giving people another chance.
I petted the cat after my dad did. This was not the first time we had seen this cat. For several months before this day in midsummer, we had seen the cat by the woods across the street, in our front yard hunting, sitting in our garage and even in our backyard. In all of our previous attempts to greet him, he ran away from us. We even saw him in the back eating right off the grill any food stuck to it. The poor guy was hungry.
We put some of Abby’s food in a bowl and left it at a comfortable distance from us to see if the cat would eat it. He did. After that, my mom started putting a food bowl under the canopy and in the back porch for him to eat. At first, the cat would not eat while we were anywhere near. Once we were inside, he would cautiously walk to the bowl and eat. We then bought some cat food and feed him that instead of dog food. We kept gaining his trust by giving him attention, feeding him and petting him.
I was still living in my condo but came over time to time to visit my parents and do chores for them because y dad at about that time needed more and more care. My mom was in need of assistance, so since I was not working, I did what I could. In this case, this meant buying cat food for this stray.
The next step in our relationship with the cat was to introduce him to Abby and Andy as well as acquaint him to the inside of the house. I wasn’t worried about how Abby would react to the cat. She had met other cats before and got along well with them. It was Andy who I was worried about. A few years earlier when I was visiting my dad in Greensboro, Andy had a confrontation with a neighbor’s cat. Andy’s docile, sweet and tractable nature made the event surprising and shocking for me. I was standing in the yard while Andy was going to the bathroom when he spotted a cat standing by the house. Immediately, Andy chased the cat into a bush. I heard some rustling; the cat emerged first followed closely by Andy who was quickly gaining ground on the cat. Right at the moment Andy took a big chomp at the cat; the cat made a hard right turn and escaped being bitten. Not only did I hear a snapping sound when Andy’s jaws locked down, but there was dirt flying in the air where he had taken a bite at the cat. The cat ran to the street and to another house. Andy tried to continue the pursuit, but I yelled as loudly and forcefully as I could to make him stand down, which he did. Even my dad, who was sleeping inside at the time, could hear me yelling at Andy. I couldn’t believe the shear aggressiveness of Andy’s behavior.
Fortunately, Andy didn’t hate Dodo. He wasn’t too keen on him being there, but he tolerated him. Abby was nice to him. The cat gave the dogs a wide berth. Dodo took baby steps in his transition into our house. We had to leave the door open during his first few visits in the house. Gradually, he went further and further in the house. By October, not only did he feel at home here, but he was even spending the night in the house. However, once an animal has had a taste of freedom, it will always be beckoned outdoors, and so it was with Dodo. He spends quite a bit of time inside, but he loves to sit on the side porch or back porch and watch the backyard. There are birds and squirrels that grab his attention. Once in a while he will try to snag a bird, but Dodo has not interest at all with squirrels.
The last time we owned a cat was in 1989. Our previous cat was a 20 pound jet black handsome cat called Tweety, and he was all man. Dodo, on the other hand, was a scrawny white haired blue eyed cat, and at the time, we didn’t know if he was a boy or a girl. My best guess, as well as the vet’s, was that Dodo was about 5 years old, or in the words of our vet “He’s no spring chicken”.
We have our first cat now in nearly two decades, and he is a beautiful one! I often look on the web at animal shelters or at pet stores and never see a cat as pretty as Dodo. Even if we did find a cat with that pulchritude, we would have had to pay $200 or $300 for him. We paid nothing for him and didn’t have to go anywhere to find him. He literally walked into our lives and will stay her as long as he lives. How long that is, I don’t know. There are no guarantees.