My Extraordinary Relationship with a Stray Black Cat
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.
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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
What a beautiful story. There have been several special cats in my life. I would have to say that Lazarus was my favorite story. I found him laying in the road. He looked dead and I stopped to move his body. As I scooped him up he opened his eyes and stared at me. He was a barn cat. Basically a stray that was allowed to live in the people’s barn. I rushed him to the vet and signed the papers that I would pay for his care. I went back to where I found him and talked with the farm owners. They told me that cats were a dime a dozen and to tell the vet to put him down and send them the bill. Instead I had them call and tell the vet that the cat was now mine.
Lazarus, Laz, was in tough shape. He had a broken jaw and crused eye orbit. He had surgery and was stablized. Because of his broken jaw he was fitted with a feeding tube.He stayed at the vet for a week and then came home to his own cozy cage to recover.
We spent 14 wonderful years together until he was diagnosed with liver cancer. He rremained a happy boy to the end. He died in my arms as I sent him to the bridge. He is my favorite stay story. Thanks for sharing your Jo.
You are a true cat lover!!! Beautiful story. Have also had several cats over the years which ended up moving in. But there were two black males, who even thought they were neutered insisted on going out. Who knows how many scrapes he had outside, when they came in the house they got along.
Thank you for you comment. I try to paint pictures when I can. I too wish Dunstan could have been an indoor kitty. But it would not have been fair to him since he more than likely never was. He came out of the woods and made no effort to go indoors even after he spent the night in my house. He owned the area so he really needed to be there..
This said I never let our cats outside unless the are on our screened in porch with my supervision since there are lots of outdoor kitties in our neighborhood and they upset the boys.
The deep snow is keeping Monty right by the house, mostly on the porch. I like that I don’t have to be out with him every second. He just sits outside the door or on the porch rail. Keeps him out of that tree he got stuck in a week ago. The snow had a glaze of ice on top and he could go all over on top of it. Now it’s deep and puffy, just like he hates. I like that he’s close and safe and I can stay in but he hates it. He sits out there bitching, I mean meowing constantly. He wants the snow gone. It’s funny because humans are feeling the same way. I got my skiing in. It was fun, the snow was pretty, but it can go away now.
What a beautiful story! I love your description of Dunstan. Actually, you are such a descriptive writer that I could picture the whole story quite clearly in my mind as I read. I really enjoyed reading it. I was rooting for Dunstan to become an inside kitty and live with you forever.
Such a beautiful story. I just fall in love with every creature that is unfortunate. The ASPCA commercials really get to me and most of the time, I change the channel. You are a very special person and I love you.
I remember this remarkable story from years back, Jo…..since our names are the same. 🙂 Thanks for sharing again, this wonderful relationship. 🙂
Reno- You must have read my mind- because I was thinking – now this is off the charts weird… but did Dunstan somehow lead me to meeting you?
He gave me so many wonderful gifts- could be…….
Yeah I had a stray who came in through our cat door one day in ’02. Twelve years later, Mz Kitty (At the age of 18 we think) is still with us. She goes out during the day and comes in at night. I love this old cat very much and she knows it, all 25 lbs of her. She’s always been a big girl but she’s also very fit which is amazing! Her best friend is my old 14 yr old Pom cross doggie. They generally sleep together.
Hi Rosi. Great to hear about your Mz Kitty. She sounds like a fine cat and a good age and still going strong it seems.
This is a kitty that is cherished tremendously. Rosi loves to talk about all her pets- and she loves them so very much.
A sad and happy story, so glad that Dunstan was taken care of and continued to live the life he enjoyed.
Thank you for writing this eloquent story. It is really about friendship. Having a relationship that doesn’t include “ownership” with an independent stray cat is richly rewarding. There is an unspoken trust and respect shared by both the human and the cat. Each living their lives. Which sometimes includes moving away. Sharing sweet moments together stays in your memory like it was yesterday. It is always hard to leave a friend. Dunstan was lucky to know you, and likewise for you.
The moment I saw him appear on my driveway- he stole my heart. It’s been over 42 years since that bright spring morning that I first met Dunstan- and he is just as alive in my heart as he was way back when. You are so right- we don’t OWN our pets- they are remarkable gifts that we treasure in the same way that we treasure our human friends and families.
I love your story, Jo.
The feelings it gives us to be trusted and adopted by a homeless cat is better than an org—. It’s a priviledge that should never be taken for granted.
I just wanted to add that Dunstan and I shared a wonderful journey together. It still pulls on my heart strings.
Dunstan did spend one night in our house. After a quiet but nervous car ride to the vet for shots and to be neutered he lounged in the luxury of our huge downstairs bathroom with toys and a scratching post. And special dinner late that evening.
He was happy to get outdoors the next morning and sat on the porch steps until he was fed then vanished back into the rocky hill.
He also had a run-in shelter for bad weather and the cold in our shed in which our water heater was placed and the shed was real cozy and warm. He had a cardboard carton with a blanket to cuddle up in for those cold winter nights especially when it snowed. I dearly loved this wonderfully affectionate and trusting kitty who is basking in the sun now at the bridge and in fact I hear rumors that he has befriended Nemesis, our indoor black cat. I will have to write about that amazing cat one day soon. So glad you all enjoyed the story.
A bittersweet story of what we call ‘ships that pass in the night’ and I’m so glad your ex neighbour took Dunstan’s feeding and welfare on.
When we moved we were very sad to leave the neighbourhood cats behind, they all had homes but we knew them all by name and they used to visit us.
Of course we soon became friendly with all the cat people and their cats here, but with time we were down to just one other cat here recently apart from our boyz, until the two women opposite moved here with what we thought one cat, they actually have five!
This was very sad – you are a brilliant writer Jo.
An excellent but sad story Jo Singer.I found the story sad as you had to part away from the cat.Stray cats are definitely not feral cats as they love human company but like living in the open outdoors.I have written a article on “P.O.C” about “Radhe(some call him Rajesh)” the famous stray cat that belongs to all the fisher-folk of “Worli fish market” in Mumbai. Whenever i visit the market i make it a point to pet this large cat whenever i see it.Read this link :-https://pictures-of-cats.org/the-stray-cats-of-worli-fish-market-mumbai.html
Thanks Jo. Lovely story but for some reason I found it sad. I think this is because you had to part. Cats seem to deal with this better than people. Also this boy is now long gone over the rainbow bridge. It is all so transient.
I have met some strays and cared for them and they too are gone. One was a black cat I called Pippa. She was run over outside my home. She “belonged” to the rich lady next door who was careless to say the least with her cats.