Sunday, January 16, 2005


A neighborhood cat has adopted us.

At first we ignored him, then chased him off our porch, but in the end we gave in and started feeding him. He just kept coming back and no one claimed him. My wife thought he had such a good personality, which isn't saying much compared to the cat we already have.

We call him Taco but we really don't know what his name is. We've placed a collar around his neck to show some ownership I guess. We've even plugged in a heating pad and placed it on the lounge outside so that he can keep warm in some of these 40-degree nights. Fact is, I've kind of grown attached to him, whatever attachment a human can have to a cat. I've heard it said that humans don't own cats, cats own humans. It's crazy I know but it's really true. Humans can own dogs but not cats.

Cats and dogs are such opposites. A dog's wagging tail says that it's happy, but a wagging tail on a cat says it's mad. Ears pulled back on a dog shows it's submissive, but on a cat it means it's angry. A growl from a dog says it's mad, but the cat's growl or purr says it's content.

Anyway, back to Taco. We've started this ritual of feeding this animal inside. At first I told my wife to keep it outside because we don't know where it's been. I was quickly overruled when we heard the food bowl scooting across the back porch one night. We saw the outline of what we thought was a new cat voraciously eating the remaining cat food. When we flicked on the porch light we discovered the large "cat" had a hairless tail, ah, that is, it was an opossum! This thing was fearless. When I opened the door to chase him away he peered up at me and then looked at my feet. I slammed the door, afraid he was going to scamper in to take a look around the inside of our house. We tried fixing the back fence but he kept coming back. It wasn't until we started bringing the food indoors that he stopped coming by.

So Taco comes in to eat now but lounges on the back porch, on the lounge of course. This morning I poured his food, he only like it dry, opened the back door, and he waltzed right in.

Now, after eating, he meows. He wants to go out. And his meow is not a soft, gentle sort of cry, but it's loud and ugly. When I peeked around the corner to see what was up, Snickers, our other cat, is pestering him. This was causing his plea for the exit. I heard from another neighbor that someone else tried to adopt Taco. When then invited him in for a meal their other four cats attacked him. So I guess he'd rather dine and dash than hang around for a beating from the resident cat.

Truth is, Snickers doesn't attack him. Snickers just sits there looking while Taco eats, a kind of subtle intimidation tactic. Snickers stands about two and a half feet away and stares at him. Then he'll sit and wrap his tail around his paws, his eyes are big, and just stare him down. All the while Taco goes on eating, with an occasional glance up at the Snickers cat.

This morning I saw Snickers try a different tack. He was stretched out on his side, just two and a half feet away, end of tail slapping the wood floor. After Taco ate he settled down some, on his haunches. He hunched down and wrapped his tail around his body and just kept staring at the back door casing, the crack where some breeze comes through. Then Snickers got up and sniffed around the plants to the back of Taco, just about two feet away. Taco watched him. Snickers knows he has no business by the plants but he just uses it as an excuse to roam behind Taco. I know just what he's doing and say: "Snickers" in a warning tone. He backs off.

But he's already spooked Taco and now Taco starts his moaning meow. It's such a piercing sound, like fingernails on a blackboard, that I have to let him out.

He returns to his lounge out back to wait for the next hunger pang.

I think of one of the first poems I heard by Ogden Nash and realize this kind of thing has probably been going on some time:

The Cat - Ogden Nash

You get a wife, you get a house,
Eventually you get a mouse.
You get some words regarding mice,
You get a kitty in a trice.
By two a.m. or thereabouts,
The mouse is in, the cat is out.
It dawns upon you, in your cot,
The mouse is silent, the cat is not.
Instead of kitty, says your spouse,
You should have got another mouse.

Never try to baptize a cat. - Laura, Age 13