“A Sucker Is Born Every Minute…!” Said Jack the Cat
EVERYBODY knows that where furry companions are concerned I like cats but I love dogs more. And there’s a very good reason for that. Some cats are like warm, fuzzy pillows you can cuddle up next to while lazing in your favorite chair or slumbering in bed. Most of the felines I’ve known have normally been quite affectionate…when they’re in the mood. But when they’re not…? Well, let’s just say I’ve run into one or two whose personality can flip in an instant like Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.
I tell you, it’s a frightening thing to walk unsuspectingly around a corner at home into your kitchen and suddenly be confronted by a cat glaring at you from attack position – tail hovering low, eyes unblinking, nostrils flaring, tongue protruding ominously from its toothy grin. When something like that happens, you freeze dead in your tracks like a statue, you stop breathing, and you become acutely aware of the loud thudding of your heart inside your chest. Unnerved and sweating, peculiar thoughts swim immediately through your head (not quite at light speed – more like light through molasses speed). As the cat slowly continues to lower itself into optimal launch position, its lips curling menacingly, you quickly run through a short series of escape options. You ask yourself, should you attempt to back away slowly – desperately trying to recall the number of steps back to your bedroom and that precious door you really wish was now standing between you and the not-so-cute-and-cuddly-anymore thing that appears to be mulling over which side of your face to gnaw off first? Should you simply take your chances and bolt for the front door, flipping over chairs and bookshelves behind you, hoping to increase your odds of survival? Or will you heed the armchair advice of your ego as it shouts faintly at you from down the block, “You got this, dude! Stare that bad boy down! Show him who’s boss! Let me know later how it turns out! I’ll be waiting over here…where it’s nice and safe.”
Well, imagination is a wonderful thing. But I think there are some things we are best not to dwell on. Especially now that the nightmares have almost completely gone away. Suffice it to say, there are upsides to being mauled by a dog versus a cat. In a dog attack, as gruesome as it would probably be, there’s a good chance you’ll at least be dead in a few minutes, if not seconds. Being set upon by an angry cat is like being stung by bullet ants – you probably won’t die, but the lingering agony that follows might make you want to. Now granted, over my life so far, I’ve only enjoyed the companionship of two dogs, as opposed to well over a dozen of their feline counterparts. So, why oh why did I relent yet once again and, after years of being completely pet (and particularly cat) free for years, allow myself to get maneuvered into adopting yet another stray cat into my home? The answer is I’m a sucker for a sad case, especially where helpless animals are concerned.
Shortly before thanksgiving of last year, I walked to the store around the corner from my house. By Chicago standards, it was not a particularly unbearably cold November night. The streets were mostly clear of ice and snow. And there wasn’t much wind kicking around. But the temperature that evening certainly warranted wearing my “big coat” and gloves (as opposed to just my favorite leather jacket).
As I angled the second turn onto the street that ran parallel behind my house, a streak of white and brown glided across the edge of my sight. I halted, glanced around, and noticed a cat was following me down the sidewalk. It was a pretty healthy looking cat, appearing to be in its adolescence or early twenties in human years, and was surprisingly friendly for what I had immediately speculated might be one of the strays I occasionally saw meandering through the neighborhood. After another second of observation however, I started to think this wasn’t one of the usual derelicts scavenging for food. It looked too clean and well-mannered. It didn’t seem like it had been out on its own for very long. A quick assessment suggested a greater likelihood that the cat had lived most or all of its life as an indoor dweller. It looked like its previous benefactor had recently opted to evict it from its home or perhaps simply no longer found him or herself in a position to maintain pet rearing responsibilities. In any case, whatever happened before our unexpected encounter, the cat appeared to be as homeless and hungry as they guy I frequently used to see standing with a cardboard sign and offering to wash my car windshield as I exited the highway off ramp. I felt my heartstrings being pulled. And I suddenly realized where this situation was about to lead to…yet again.
To be continued…..