(Originally published in The Baldwyn News – September 6, 2018)
I feed a stray cat now.
I’ve never really liked cats, but I happened upon a motley, gray stray scavenging the alley west of my apartment building a few weeks ago. He (or she) was rail-thin and wormy. The cat sunk down on concrete, as though hidden in tall grass, when it saw me with its darting wild eyes, unable to conceal the craziness that comes from fear. I could see its ribs protruding, before it suddenly bolted the other direction and disappeared under a nearby fence.
I never liked cats – always considered myself a dog person – in fact I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to cats.
But I thought, what would it hurt to put out a little Meow Mix and some fresh water? At least, I could give one of God’s creatures a moment’s peace and a full belly maybe once a day.
I found plenty of support from animal-loving friends. One helped me find a “moat” feeding bowl. That’s a bowl with a little trough that runs all the way around the food compartments – a moat. It’s designed as such to keep ants from getting to the food. About a year ago, the same friend and I tried to feed another alley cat found in similar circumstances, and the cat food we put out in a regular feeding bowl was almost always immediately engulfed in ants. It made humanely feeding an alley cat practically impossible. I even went to my engineering office one night and sketched up my own version of what I now know as the moat-bowl (completely unaware that the things already existed on shelves at Petsmart nationwide). Before I launched an R&D project to construct a $100 prototype, fortunately, we stumbled across one of the existing bowls, and we just bought that. In retrospect, I’d have to say that was a much easier course of action than where I was previously heading.
That cat from a year ago, with consistent feeding and talking and patience, eventually warmed up enough to my friend to be petted … then held … then taken in as a regular house cat. That cat now has a name – Simon – after Baldwyn historian Simon Spight, the namesake of our local history collection.
Simon – the cat – now lives a life of relative luxury. Proper veterinary care took care of heart worms. Funny thing, at first Simon didn’t purr. It was like living on the streets never allowed the animal enough peace and contentment to even breath or live without drowning in constant dog-eat-cat fear. Things changed quickly for Simon when he found himself in the care of someone who cared about him. Simon now has a blanket and a bed somewhere, and he lives with three other cats, in Garfield-like entitlement. They don’t do Mondays, and they probably eat lasagna whenever they want.
I never liked cats too much. I don’t figure I’ll ever touch the one I’m feeding now. But he did stop and look at me eye-to-eye yesterday, as I stood there holding a half-full bag of Meow Mix, shaking it, and saying “here kitty, kitty.” That’s the only cat phrase I know. He didn’t run away under the fence this time. He held his ground about ten yards away. I think he’s about to lose his fear of me, at least that insane, crazy-cat-level fear.
He sized me up. I sized him up. His ribs don’t stick out quite as much now.
As cats go, I guess he’s a tolerable cat. He’s still deciding whether or not I am.