Tag Archives: cat

The Cat Who Came In From the Cold

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If you’ve been following our story, you may have noticed that our family is gaga for animals. We collect them as casually as people collect, say, matchbooks or Pez dispensers. Oh, look! A _______________! We don’t have one of those yet! You can fill in the blank with any number of the fish, rodents, lagomorphs, and dogs that have passed through our house. My daughter has most recently been drawing up an action plan to convince her father that having a couple of sheep in the paddock out back would not only be a good idea, but essential to her happiness.

She has a tough road ahead of her. My husband is one of two people in our household, who do not think that sharing your space with an abundance of animals is delightful. His mini-me, our second son, rolls his eyes heavenward and heaves a weary sigh whenever a new animal is added to our menagerie. He dutifully helps take care of the dogs, but with no great enthusiasm. Whenever one of us starts talking about adding yet another hamster, or a couple of ducks, or a fish to the mix,  our very own Jiminy Cricket  issues dire predictions about the troubles that are likely to ensue as a result of our animal profligacy. He tries to warn us of our folly, and then eventually throws his hands up in despair and retires to his own bedroom, one of the only places in our house where peace and order reign.

In the past we have considered providing shelter to horses, llamas, goats, ducks, guinea hens, quails, turtles, and even snakes. The one animal I was never tempted to keep was a cat. But…sometimes you choose, and sometimes you are chosen. Parson, a cat we only latterly discovered to be a “she” rather than a “he,” chose us, or rather chose to let us live in her/our house.

My daughter took over Parson’s care and feeding, and we tried to make her as comfortable as possible on our back porch. In the corner of our porch, we installed a pet carrier outfitted with a cozy bed and a self-warming pad. For the two years we’ve lived in our house, Parson has spent her days and nights there. She has expressed satisfaction with our services by rubbing up against our legs when we go out to greet her. Our dopey little dogs have repeatedly tried to make friendly overtures to her, signaling their goodwill with their cocked heads and wagging tails. She will have nothing to do with their foolishness. As soon as she catches sight of them, she hisses at them as if she is ready to start World War III.

The polar vortex had us worrying about Parson. It’s been so cold the kids have now twice had an hour school delay.  One day we opened the door to see if we could coax the cat inside to warm up for awhile. We finally managed to lure her in with some treats, but as soon as the dogs came running up to greet her, she hissed and ran under the oven to hide. She was still there a few hours later when I had to leave the house. I was dreading what I would find when I returned home.

“Did the cat ever come out?” I asked my children when I got back.

“Oh yeah! She came out,” Jiminy Cricket replied casually.

“How did you get her out?”

“I just put some food out in the kitchen and she came out to eat.”

“And she’s back outside now?”

“No.”

No? Where is she?”

“She’s in my room. She likes it there.”

Oh! Well, let’s let her outside so she can go to the bathroom.”

“Not a good idea,” Jiminy Cricket said, shaking his head, “It’s way too cold out there for her.”

“Well, but…how’s she going to go to the bathroom?”

“We set up the guinea pigs’ litter box in my room.”

There are so many reasons for being shocked by these revelations I don’t even know where to begin…

“So what are we going to do with her? She hates the dogs…”

“She’ll live in my room.”

Forever?

“Yep.”

Still shaking my head in wonder, I braced myself for the difficult conversation I was going to have with my husband about the matter. I explained to him our son’s surprising position on the cat.

“Well, that’s no good.”

My heart sank.

“She can’t stay in his room forever.”

“I know…”

“Eventually, I want her to come out and socialize with everyone, including the dogs.”

And that, my friends, is a Christmas miracle.

Our House

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When I was a little girl we took a long car ride from our house in Pennsylvania to Georgia, where my dad’s friend had a farm. Visiting that farm was like entering a foreign land populated by mythical beasts I had only ever read about in books. There were horses that stood impossibly tall and imposing. There were dozens and dozens of pigs that squealed and ran in a comical panic whenever we approached their pen. Indoors, I found a giant, fluffy orange cat lounging on a bed.

The only animals I had ever known to that point were dogs; the cat was as exotic to me as the horses and pigs. I knelt down and stared straight into his green eyes. I began to stroke him from his head to the tip of his tail. With our eyes locked, I felt that we were communing with each other on a spiritual level. I could tell he was appreciating my ministrations, because he was slowly wagging his tail, just like our dogs would do when showered with such loving attention. Suddenly, the cat leapt onto my face and raked downward with his claws.

Tears mingled with the blood trickling down my face as I ran to find my mother. In a very Korean way, she urgently whispered to me to stop crying and to say nothing of my encounter with the cat. Our hosts would be embarrassed by what their pet had done, she explained, and it would be rude to upset them. She dried my eyes and washed away the blood, but there was nothing she could do to hide the long red tracks made by the cat’s claws.

Instead of expressing the slightest regret or embarrassment, when our hostess noticed my face she cackled with mirth and drawled, “I see you met Tiger.”

I’ve been wary of cats ever since, though what this episode really should have taught me is to be wary of people – a far scarier species.

This is all to say that I never considered that I would ever share space with a cat.

This is Scooter. He’s a feral cat that the family who sold us our house had been taking care of when they lived here. Before they moved out of the state a couple years ago, they trapped and relocated Scooter to their friend’s farm many miles away. The cleaning lady, who was keeping up the house while it was on the market, noticed the cat hanging out on the back porch and alerted Scooter’s former owners that he had somehow managed to make the long pilgrimage back home.

For the week we’ve been in our new house, Scooter has been sitting on the back deck or in the back yard. Whenever our eyes meet through the glass doors, he yowls at me with a grumpy, pissed off expression on his scrawny little face.

“Don’t feed him, or he’ll never leave,” advised my friends.

Promise me you won’t feed that cat!” commanded my mother, aka She Who Must Be Obeyed, over the phone.

“We should call the SPCA to trap him and take him to the shelter,” suggested my son.

We’ve been negotiating all sorts of things via our realtors:  the replacement of pipes, the cutting of keys, electrical repairs…A couple days ago I got another message relayed to us by the sellers’ realtor. The former owners were begging us to keep Scooter as a barn cat.

Here’s the thing…My husband and I reported to each other that we both felt our mood lift the moment we first pulled into the driveway of what is now our new house. It’s an old yellow farmhouse originally built in 1920 to serve as the rectory for the Reverend Howell C. Lewis and his wife Bessie, who served the Presbyterian church just around the corner. There’s an ineffable sense of serenity here. To us, it felt like home. Scooter thought so too. He knew and loved the place long before I ever did.

I just bought my very first bag of cat food. I’m sure it won’t be my last. Scooter and I both chose to make this house our home, and I guess that means we’ve chosen each other. But Scooter is such an undignified name for a cat who suffered and wandered in the wilderness to find his way back to his own hallowed grounds, don’t you think? Meet Parson Scooter, resident cat.