Mr. Mao and Mr. Whiskers
by Tamara Vasselin
(San Jose, CA, USA)
When our neighbors moved (mortgage forclosure!) a stray Ragdoll took up residence under their backyard deck. It was Fall, with a bitter approaching. My family and I worried for the silky white beauty with the stunning blue eyes; could the cat be coaxed into the warmth of our hearts and our homes?
Deciding it was well worth the effort, I took to spending quite a lot of time coaxing the Ragdoll out from under his or her tiny corner of the deck. Patience finally paid off. The silken ball of fur allowed me to pick him up and carry him indoors.
For several weeks Mao, as we had christened him, allowed my 16 year old daughter and I to feed him, comb him, and cuddle him. He was skinny, flea infested, and TIRED. Our efforts seemed to be paying off, however, and we thought that perhaps we had a new member to our already large cat family (eight at last count).
Then, inexplicably, Mao disappeared back next door. No amount of coaxing, treats, or long patient vigils on the deck staring down a crack and murmuring to him had any effect. He would not abandon his post. One night I was to find out why.
Some two weeks earlier my daughter Kate’s pet rat Mr. Whiskers, escaped. We used to let him out in the backyard to explore, as, like a dog, when he had enough of the Great Outdoors, he’d scratch at the door to get back in. We didn’t worry about losing him. Well, it seems we lost him. Until, that is, on my nightly sojourn to the vacant lots patio, I peered down the crack with my flashlight to see Mao’s backside AND the backside of a companion creature. It was Mr. Whiskers! He and Mao were huddled together for warmth.
Winter was by now well under way, the rain slashed at the air violently, aided by the relentless, screaming wind.
After that I left cat food and rat food; neither animal would abandon the other. Winter gradually submitted to its demise; apparently, so did Mr. Whiskers.
One day, while playing cat toys with our feline brood which consisted of three new kittens, Mao came bounding out of the bush.
Apparently, Mao loved nothing more than to play. The kittens were delighted. The older cats in the household were rather too dignified for such kitten antics;
Mao was a very welcome new player. It took a couple more weeks for Mao to once again allow my daughter and I to spoil him with an abundance of food, treats, toys and affection. Now, he follows one or the both of us around endlessly, ever ready for cat nip or cat toys or any unsuspecting kitten minding its own business down the hall. Crystal blue eyes narrow, hiney readies itself for the launch…Mao is airborne!!
Although said kitten may be taken by surprise, it is no surprise to Kate and me that this silken Ragdoll has found in us its counterpart; we go limp when he takes us up, which is what he did the moment we laid eyes on him.
Fat and happy now, and against all forms of weather extremes, it is difficult to fathom how this sweet natured animal endured what turned out to be one of the most brutal winters in our area’s history. Did Mr. Mao and Mr. Whiskers form a loving bond for each other, with neither wanting to abandon the other to loneliness and cold?
Whiskers knew how to get home. Mao had lost his somehow, and wasn’t sure if he was up to a new one. Mr. Whiskers must have told him that we were alright, and it would be a great idea for him to give us a go, if he’d just hold off a little while longer. Which is just what Mao’s, God bless him, did.