Remember how I said that I haven’t planted anything in my flower beds? I just take care of whatever comes up. Weed around that plants that produce flowers. I’m darn proud of that flower bed – I like it a lot.
I left work early to go shopping today – I’m ahead on one project and don’t know what to do with another. Plus, I’m still blah. And I do like new stuff. So that was good – story to come later.
I returned home and had just settled in with the laptop when someone knocked at the door. I scampered up to find the UPS guy heading back to his truck. He waved when I called my thanks, then I grabbed my package and headed inside. Frowning. I had heard something outside – over the truck’s engine and other cars going by.
“Did you hear that?” I asked Chienne, and she cocked her head at me. “I think I heard something.” I continued.
So I opened the door again, pushing the dog back inside, and stood on my porch in the sunshine.
“Hello?” I called.
And heard a meow in return.
“Hello?” I said again, squinting as I searched for the cat. It continued to answer my inquiries, and finally peeked out from behind one of my newly pruned bushes. The middle one, actually.
“Well.” I said, smiling down and over at it. “Aren’t you pretty? Are you lost?” It didn’t answer me any more than my dog did.
“Hmmm.” I said, still speaking softly and standing still on the porch. I know – and was recently reminded at Unnamed Friend’s apartment – that cats must come to you. Chasing them down, hands outstretched and ready to pet tends to freak them out. “Are you thirsty? I could go get some water.” I offered. Then headed inside to do so.
I considered my options as I moved through the living room to the kitchen. Would a cat drink Coconut Crème Coffee-mate? It’s quite tasty, but I wasn’t sure it was appropriate to give to an animal. Maybe if I watered it down?
“I have milk!” I told Chienne, who was circling my feet in excitement. I rarely go out the front door without her. When I go to work or on errands, I use the garage. I nearly tripped over her as I hurried to fill a bowl with milk. After seeing a homeless man earlier today and doing nothing, I was not about to let another possible good deed pass me by. The cat was getting some milk.
I didn’t see it when I went outside, and wrinkled my nose in dismay, setting the bowl on the corner of the porch. “Hello? Kitten? Did you leave?”
It meowed in response and I smiled as I saw its head appear from the shade behind the middle bush.
“I brought milk.” I told it. “I don’t always have milk, but there are these boxed noodles that require it. They’re good, actually. There are parmesan, some kind of herb variety, white cheddar. I like them. But you need milk to make them, which is lucky for you. I think cats like milk.”
It moved toward me and I stepped back from the bowl - trying to appear harmless, watching as it consumed the milk with dainty greed. It looked up at me when it finished. Meowed. And rubbed against the hand I held in front of it.
“Hi.” I murmured. I sat down on the porch and petted, cooed over its friendly nature, then frowned over the sore behind its ear. “You should go home.” I advised. “It’s not that I don’t like you – I think you’re very nice. But I don’t want a cat. I have a dog. Plus, you have a collar. Your family must miss you.” But I frowned over how thin the animal was. My animals are, granted, a bit chubby historically. Chienne is about 15 pounds heavier than when I got her. I equate food with love. It’s a problem.
But I really don’t want a cat, so I went inside. Watched TV. Typed out my shopping story. Then frowned at the front door. I sighed at myself, went to the kitchen to fill a bottle with water, then nudged Chienne back and stepped back out on the porch. The cat refused water, but accepted much more petting. I sat for about 30 minutes, watching cars go by, making friends with this furry creature from my flower bed.
But I talked myself into coming in. Found myself going back out to offer tuna. The cat finished half a can and almost choked from hurrying. Maybe it had been lost for quite some time. But, no. I don’t want a cat. I’ve never wanted a cat. I have a dog. She’s plenty.
But I went back out again to offer more milk. I was afraid it was thirsty after the tuna. Again to see if it was there. (I keep using it because I don’t know the gender. Looking at private places to ascertain something I don’t really need to know seems… intrusive. Impolite. I can’t do it.) It continued to retreat behind the bush when I’d come inside, scampering out to greet me now that it knew I was a friendly presence.
So I called my vet. Asked them what to do. The receptionist gave me the number for animal control, and I asked what they’d do. I didn’t want them to come take it, I said. It was a nice cat. And I’m sure its family would be looking for it soon.
“I don’t know what to tell you.” She said. “Just call animal control and see what they say.”
I looked at Chienne and shook my head. When I was younger – just turned 16 – Brother brought home a kitten. A tiny gray one – sweet, small, fuzzy. Mom refused to let him keep it. She’d told him no, he thought he could get around her by just bringing it home, she wouldn’t even look at it, and we had to take it to the shelter. Along with the litter box, food and toys he’d bought for it. He sobbed the whole way there. I joined him the whole way home. It was awful – I’m still bitterly ashamed that I did it. There’s no way in hell I’m taking this cat to the shelter.
So, like a child, I called and lied. I waited patiently to talk to a PAWS representative, trying to come up with a plausible way to ask advice without confirming I had a lost cat.
“Hello. I’m Katie.” I said. “I had a quick question for you. I’m, um, at work.” Then I winced when the dog barked and ran out the back door to bark at the kids coming home from school. “Anyway, I noticed a cat in my flower bed this morning before I left, and I wondered what I should do if it was still there when I got home.
“Not that it will be. I mean, it might be there. But not necessarily. I just wondered what the options were.”
“Of course! I’m not afraid of the cat. It’s a nice cat. It drank milk and let me pet it.” I told her when she asked if I could approach it.
“Well,” She responded, “I can’t turn you down since you live in the county. You can bring it in if you’d like.”
“No.” I said before I could stop myself.
“OK. That’s actually good. We get about 60 cats each day, so the chances of finding it a new home are slim. So it’d be good if you could find the people who lost him.”
“But can I keep it until then? Do I just leave it outside? What if it rains? Or gets too cold?”
“I don’t know the rules about keeping strays.” She said. “I think you should put up fliers. Maybe an ad in the newspaper. And I can take your name here too. Hopefully someone will claim him.”
So I nodded, gave her my information and a description of the cat, then went out to check it again. The spot behind its ear was much worse – the bugs must have been getting in it as the cat hid behind the bushes. I could hear it purring as I petted it, letting it rub against my fingers, then the porch rail, then the plants.
“Shit.” I said softly, told it I’d be back and came inside to soothe Chienne – who was nearly frantic by now as she ran from the office where she could see us to the front door where she could cry pitifully. The cat, by the way, arched its back and hissed impressively upon seeing my pretty dog. It was decidedly not excited about befriending her.
I then called my vet back to make an appointment for my new – hopefully, Please God, temporary – friend. We go tomorrow morning – we’ll get the sore taken care of, and if we should vaccinate, I’ll do that too. Then – because I’m not a cat person – I went to the store to buy a "litter box" - I decided a random plastic container should work, litter and food. I decided I’d keep the cat in the garage until I could ascertain its health status. It was better than outside, right?
So I got it all set up – towels on the carpet square in front of the washer and dryer. Litter box and litter. Food, water, milk. Then I lured the cat in with tuna, closed the garage door while it huddled under the car, and soothed it with milk and attention. I decided to spray behind its ear with medicated antiseptic – it, um, didn’t like that. So back under the car it went and back inside I came. To make fliers.
Chienne and I went around the neighborhood to put them up. I nailed them into the posts with the other announcements, checking hopefully for someone looking for the little cat. No such luck. I came home and went to check on the cat, and promptly decided it was too warm in the garage. Hardly the appropriate place to put a guest. After all, I do have a guest room.
So I moved everything in – towels and a blanket on the bed, litter box, water, milk, food. Then put Chienne in my room with treats, and picked up the kitty to place it in its new – hopefully, Please God, temporary – home. It explored for a moment, then gave me a look upon seeing the litter box.
“Oh.” I said, abashed. “OK. I’ll get something bigger. Hold on.”
After I found a more suitable container, I transferred the Fresh Step litter and watched the cat land gracefully in it from her perch on the nightstand. I was filled with gratitude when it squatted – I don’t know how to litter train a cat, so I’m pleased it came with prior knowledge. It lapped at the milk, finally nearly full, I think. Then jumped on the bed and curled on the blanket I’d arranged for it. I petted it for a moment, then came back to the living room to work.
I’ve checked on it twice now – it seems to be resting comfortably on the blanket on my pretty gray sheets. Is there anything else I should be doing? Cat people out there? Advice? Chienne is alternately demanding attention from me and guarding the guest room door (which remains firmly latched – the cat is trapped, but safe). Me? I think it’s rather amusing. Single people are supposed to have cats to truly be a cliché, yes? So there you go. I accept my single nature, and, like magic, a cat appears.
I don’t want to keep it. I have no idea how to introduce the cat and my dog. I very much hope I can find the family that put on the purple flea collar that’s far too large. Perhaps my Unnamed Friend would like another cat? Or I can find someone at work who could love it? But if not?
I believe I’ll name it Sprout.