I think stray cats are generally misunderstood felines, often confused with ferals. And while stray cats can often be mysterious, I think of them as kitties that need extra special care. Since most cats will instantly weave their way into the hearts of passionate cat lovers, upon encountering a stray kitty many of us try to nurture and protect them
Many years ago, while I was living in upstate New York, I had an unforgettable experience with a remarkable stray that slowly transformed into a loving and trusting relationship. And even though fifty years have elapsed since our first encounter I still think about him very often since our connection was quite intense.
The huge black battle-scarred tom cat first appeared on our property out of the blue one early spring morning. As if this was his territory, he walked leisurely down the driveway in my direction without any sign of fear. His appearance resembled that of a cross between a panther and a small black bear. His muscles rippled under his thick winter coat and his golden eyes glowed like embers.
Since I didn’t want to frighten him away I stopped dead in my tracks. I watched him in awe wondering from whence he came. Since I have always been an avid cat lover, the first thing that occurred to me about this cat’s sudden appearance was that he was searching for a meal. I very slowly and cautiously went into the kitchen and got him some cat food and a bowl of water. I was pleased to find him waiting patiently on the doorstep for me to offer him some refreshment. As I stooped down to put the dishes on the sidewalk, he gently rubbed against my legs while purring with a sound resembling that of a diesel engine.
Finishing off his meal and drink, he paused only long enough to groom himself. His tail held high up in the air, he leapt off the porch steps and in a flash disappeared up a stony hill. While he left me with so many unanswered questions about our mysterious brief encounter, I knew intuitively that his first visit was just the prelude to a long and lasting connection.
The big black cat once again arrived at my doorstep at precisely the same time the next morning. Thinking that he was just a hungry old stray I gave him food and water. But this time he did not leave. He settled down on a sunny spot on the sidewalk and after grooming himself, he curled up for a nap. But he disappeared once again in an hour.
For the next week, our daily feeding rituals continued every morning. One morning as I sat on the porch watching him finish his meal, and he groomed himself he jumped into my lap and fell asleep. It was at that moment that I knew I was falling in love with a purrfect stranger. I named him Dunstan since he appeared from a distant stony hill. I had him neutered and for the next three years he was our constant visitor although he showed no interest in coming indoors.
Over the next three years, Dunstan and I had our share of adventures. But the one that stands out indelibly in my mind was the night that I had fallen asleep, surrounded by my indoor kitties. All of a sudden I was awakened by the noise of the bedroom door opening. It was then followed by the unmistakable sound of a cat being dropped on the floor.
With all cats accounted for, I shot out of bed- only to see Dunstan quietly sitting on the floor looking up at me. Apparently Bob, my first husband, (who was working downstairs and having a wee bit too much to drink) saw Dunstan out the window and assumed that Nemesis, our black cat had somehow escaped. So without giving it a thought, he dutifully returned him to the bedroom. How he could have mistaken Dunstan for Nemesis is beyond me since with the exception of their color they looked nothing alike. I swiftly grabbed Dunstan ran down the stairs and and let him out.
I was heartbroken when Bob’s job forced us to move back into the city. Since Dunstan was an outdoor-only cat, my neighbor promised to take good care of him. But when the moving van arrived and we were ready to depart, I was worried since there was no sign of Dunstan at all.
Much to my relief however, as we drove past my neighbor’s house, there was Dunstan contentedly sitting on her porch; his head turned in the direction of the distant stony hills.
Have you ever fallen in love with a stray kitty? Tell us about it in a comment.
Photo is by Flickr user: Glanluca