DaySpring Candace Cameron Bure Collection

The Story of Cat

By Ellen M. DuBois

On July 8th, I went to the shop where my niece is a hairdresser for a trim and to wish her an early happy birthday. She’s the oldest of my two nieces, a wonderful person and talented hairdresser.

I was surprised to hear my cell phone ring while at the salon. What was more of a surprise was the caller, one of my seven-year old students named Emma, who is also my next door neighbor.

“Do you know anyone who has a tiger cat?” she inquired.

It didn’t take long to answer. “No. Why honey?”

“There’s been a cat at my house and we’ve been playing with it. My mother said I could call you and ask if you knew anyone who had a tiger cat.”

Not knowing many people in my neighborhood, never mind what kind of pets they have, put me at a clear disadvantage. However, I wanted to say something hopeful to the sweet girl on the other end of the phone. “I’ll have a look when I get home and see if she’s in my yard, and I’ll ask people, too. I promise I’ll see what I can do.”

Emma thanked me in her cute, little voice and promptly hung up.

That was strange, I thought. A call about a cat. Hmmm.

When a few foils came out, the trim was done and my hair dried, I thanked my niece for doing such a great job. While ringing up my bill, she told me how she had to sell “X” amount of product that day, or she’d have to come in early Sunday morning for a sales ‘pep’ type of meeting. It was not something she wanted to do, especially because her sister-in-law was throwing her a huge birthday the night before. They’re more like sisters than sisters-in-law. I knew I was digging into my pocket a bit more than I should, given the slow, summer teaching schedule, but I bought three hair products so she’d reach her sales quota. She was grateful. I felt good about it.

All was well.

The cat was on my mind for the whole ten-minute drive home. I pulled into my driveway and into my carport where I gathered my bags, etc., and got out of my car, ready to investigate. I’d find the cat. I just knew it.

Well, I didn’t have to try very hard as the cat found me. Upon stepping out from the carport, I was immediately greeted by a loud meeeeooowwww and constant, loving rubbing up against my legs by a cat. The cat, I presumed. The gray tiger was long, lean, very clean and extraordinarily friendly.

“Hello, Cat,” I said, bending down to pat her and nearly dropping my bags, coffee, pocketbook from my overloaded arms. “You must be the one everyone’s talking about.”

The cat rolled onto her back as if she’d known me all her life, purred some more- beckoning me to rub her belly, which I did, after putting my things down on the stone driveway.

That was the beginning of my journey with “Cat”. I named her Cat because I love the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s in which the character played by Audrey Hepburn named her cat, “Cat”. It felt right to me.

In an instant the stray cat became Cat.

It was another hot day and Cat followed me to the front door. I told her to stay put and I’d be right back. I needed to get my things in the house and fill the watering can. When I came back to the front door, Cat was there, as if she’d heard my request and waited. There was something special about her, for sure. I felt an immediate connection to Cat and I believe the feeling was mutual. As I watered my plants, Cat meowed, following me from flower box to flower box. Making sure she didn’t come into the house, (oh did she want to!), I carefully scooted back inside. Now, the dog needed to go out- and that’d be from the back door. With Baron on his leash, I carried him down the three stairs to the deck and placed him on the ground. There was Cat! How’d she know I’d be out back? Her affection was contagious. Again, she purred and rubbed against my legs, this time while I held Baron’s leash. She made me smile. My dog, on the other hand, was quite oblivious to Cat, but Cat was very aware of Baron. She watched from a distance as he wandered around the yard on his retractable leash. When Baron finally noticed Cat, he scurried over, tail wagging, as if to say, “Play with me!”

Cat wanted nothing to do with Baron, and after a brief meeting of the noses, she hissed and ran away.

“I’m sorry Cat,” I said. “I didn’t mean to scare you. Baron just wants to play.”

The not-so-great introduction to Baron didn’t keep Cat away for long. By nightfall, she was still at my house, meowing at the window from the deck. My heart felt broken into a million, tiny pieces! She stood on her back legs, able to stretch herself up enough to peek into the window! Those big, greenish-yellow eyes were too much. I wanted to cry. I wanted to let her in. I wanted to do something- but couldn’t! I took some comfort in the warm weather. At least she wasn’t cold. At least it wasn’t raining. However, as much as I allowed these thoughts to go through my head, it was a feigned attempt at comfort. She belonged in a loving home. I had to find her rightful owner- and would begin my quest in the morning.

Day two after Cat’s arrival: In the morning I have a routine, although it now involved saying good morning to Cat. I could hear her meowing before I even got outside with Baron. The indent on the plastic revealed she’d slept on top of a stack of patio chairs on the deck. I smiled at her resourcefulness. Cats truly are independent creatures- unlike dogs who count on humans for everything! (I love caring for my dog…)

After taking Baron out, watering the plants, (with Cat by my side the entire time), and drinking my morning coffee-fuel, it was time to get going and make phone calls about Cat. Thankfully, I had the day off from teaching.

Cat must be hungry, I thought. What could I feed her? I didn’t have a cat, and the only things around were hamburger and rice, which I fed Baron, and some canned dog food he used to be able to eat before his stomach started acting up. It’s better than nothing, I reasoned, opening a can of holistic dog food and placing it, with some water, on the deck near the chairs she’d slept on.

Well, Cat was hungry. It was evident as she devoured the food. At least I got something in her belly. I had to get her home. If I loved her this much already, I could only imagine how sad her owner must be without her.

My first call was to Animal Control, who thought they may have a match. The trouble was that Betty could barely make out the handwriting from the person who’d worked the shift prior to hers. Someone had reported two cats missing as of July fourth.

“It says 2 cats…I think it says two, were reported missing on July fourth and one of them is…I think it says…a tiger cat. The other a calico.” Betty was very apologetic for the chicken scratch she had to offer, but I knew she was doing the best she could. She gave me an address, or what she hoped was the address, and I thanked her for her time. I told her I’d call her back to let her know how Cat was doing and if I’d found a match. She said she’d be working on it, going through files, etc. It was difficult as everything’s on paper, not stored on a computer data base. The messy writing didn’t help, to boot.

I called Lloyd’s Animal Hospital, which is where my dog’s vet is. They were extremely helpful and eager to make a match.

I gave a full description of Cat to a woman named Wendy. She told me she’d go through their files to see if any cats were reported missing. She also told me I could bring Cat in and have her scanned, at no charge, for a chip. If Cat had a chip, I’d find her owner.

“Wonderful,” I said. “Thank you so much for your time.”

“No problem,” Wendy replied. “I’ll call you if I find anything. In the meantime, it’s nice to know Cat’s got such a good temporary home with you.”

“Thank you,” I said, feeling good about providing what I could for Cat. What else could I do? I certainly couldn’t turn my back on her.

The phone rang about five minutes after I hung up. It was Wendy, the woman I’d just spoken to. She thought she might have a match. Based on my description, she pulled a missing cat report that seemed to match to a “T”. She just needed to know if the cat was short or long haired.

“Short,” I said, still sipping my coffee. I felt hopeful and excited. Maybe I’d find Cat’s real home after all! I so wanted a happy reunion to take place. Plus, the longer Cat stayed, the more attached to her I was becoming. That wasn’t so great, but I couldn’t help myself.

“Yep, she’s short haired,” Wendy confirmed from her report. She gave me the address and phone number of a woman who’d reported a gray tiger missing. Although it was a couple of towns away, stranger things have been known to happen.

It was worth a shot.

I thanked Wendy, felt good about the work being done at Animal Control, and proceeded to call the cell number of a woman named Rhonda who reported her cat missing.

“Hi. My name is Ellen and….” I went on to tell her the story of Cat and how she came to be at my home.

Everything I described to her sounded like her cat, but she really couldn’t tell until she saw her. Turns out, Rhonda had been in the Peace Corps and had just returned from Africa. That’s where she got her cat, Missy. So, Cat, (or Missy, if it was a match), had come all the way from Africa! Wow. Amazing.

We chatted for some time and it turned out Rhonda was leaving for Utah on Monday, had no car, and was staying with friends in Brockton- a town away from Easton. We decided the best and first thing to do was to exchange photos of Cat via the Internet.

I hung up, went out and called for Cat. She came running up onto the deck and was so busy rubbing against my legs, meowing and purring, I was hard pressed to get a photo! Please, stay still, Cat! Finally,she decided it was time to sprawl out in the sun. Seizing the opportunity, I was able to get some detailed pictures of Cat with her very distinct markings and expressive eyes. Each paw looked like it had been dipped in white paint. The white ran up higher on her back legs, with one of them having a single, black dot on the back. Her stripes were beautiful, with tiny flecks of orange throughout the gray. You had to look closely to see it. When standing, she appeared thin, but not skinny or emaciated. When Cat laid down, she looked a bit beefier, as her body elongated and the white on her underbelly could be seen.

I took quite a few pictures, rushed upstairs to my office and uploaded them to my computer. I couldn’t wait to send them to Rhonda, and to get her pictures.

Hmmm. The photos Rhoda had were a couple of years old, when her Missy, (or Cat), was just a kitten. The face shape was entirely different, but the coloring was close. She was much smaller. It was difficult to tell whether we had a match. I called her as soon as her email arrived with the attached photos. Although we remained hopeful, Rhonda she had to see the cat to know. I understood.

How to get her there? I was alone, and the idea of going to a stranger’s apartment in Brockton, (it’s a little rough in the area Rhonda was visiting), didn’t appeal to me. However, I was determined to get Cat, put her in the carrier I use for Baron, and take the drive over.

I soon discovered Cat was just as determined not to go.

As fate would have it, my best friend called and I explained what I was doing. She insisted on going with me. Thank God for best friends!

Cat and I were outside when Paula pulled up. I’d already tried to get Cat into the carrier -to no avail. She would have no part of it! My best friend, seeing me struggle, also tried to get Cat into the carrier…with the same result. Cat’s feet went out in front of her and she literally braced herself with all fours on the outside of the carrier, keeping her from going in.

Wow, was she strong!

I knew Cat was a bit upset, and she let me know by taking off. Oh, no! How was I going to get Cat to Brockton when she was in hiding?

My friend and I had a laugh, however, over how silly we both looked trying to get Cat into the carrier. It was funny. There we were, so determined to get Cat into the Carrier when Cat’s determination and strength far outweighed our own.

My best friend headed home. I called Rhonda to let her know Cat took off and hated the carrier. She understood but said her cat, Missy, never had a problem with carriers. It made sense. After all, she’d just come from Africa! Rhonda managed to find more recent photos and was sending them by email. We hung up and I waited in front of my computer screen, repeatedly refreshing my email.

Nothing came through. After about ten minutes or so, I went to the store to buy cat food. The least I could do was give Cat some food she liked while she was with me. Hopefully, she’d return from her bolt after the carrier scene.

As soon as I got back from the store I saw her. Thank God.

She loved the Friskies, and I felt so much better knowing she was eating cat food instead of canned dog food.

No calls came from animal control. No emails from Rhonda with updated photos.

Day 3 after Cat’s arrival: I spent Sunday & part of Monday with my best friend- kind of a mini vacation, if you will. We’d planned this well in advance of Cat’s arrival. I felt funny leaving with her there, but knew she’d be okay. I asked God and the angels to watch over her, for Charlie to feed her, (and the dog), and simply kept the faith.

With far too many clothes for an overnight stay, I headed to my friend’s house. After getting settled in her guest room, we took off for our girl’s adventure which consisted of a beautiful drive along winding back roads to Plymouth. We walked through a lovely village of shops. There was one in particular I wanted to visit called The Angel’s Loft. Oh, I loved it! We continued our day and walked towards the water where we saw Plymouth Rock, The Mayflower, a small fair, and had a nice lunch. It was hot, but so worth getting some fresh, ocean air and sunshine. We laughed, and that’s so good for the soul! We both needed to ‘crack up’ and we’re so much like Lucy and Ethyl when together. Fun and funny!

We made our way home, taking the same scenic route and stopping at various antique and brick-a-brack shops along the way. It was great.

Upon arriving home, we both chilled for a while, refreshed, and headed off to the local, and best pizza place for some pizza and wine. (I realize beer sounds more appropriate, but we prefer wine.)

In the meantime, my best friend had put a call into her friend. Turns out the address given to me by animal control was one my friend knew. Well, her friend also knew the address because her best friend lived there. What are the odds? What a small world, indeed.

After a call back from my best friend’s friend, (who is also named Wendy), we discovered it was a very sad time for this family. The woman who may have lost her cat had just lost her sister. The wake was that day. I just wanted to leave it alone and wait until the time was right for her, or Wendy, to call again. The family needed and deserved to be left to grieve. I was taking fine care of Cat and would continue to do so.

I slept like a log Sunday night at my friend’s house, and was grateful for it. I prayed for Cat’s safety, my dog’s safety, and Charlie’s, too. I also included the family who’d just lost their loved one and quite possibly, their cat. If Cat belonged to them, perhaps it would bring a bit of joy into such a dismal time.

Monday was a much more ‘local’ day. After a wonderful breakfast my friend prepared, (I keep telling her she should have her own cooking show), we ventured out into the heat and ran around to different places searching for birthday gifts, etc. It was another great day, but she had to get home and so did I.

I had to make sure Cat was okay. I wanted to see my dog and I’d promised Charlie we’d eat together that night.

On my way home I reflected on the time spent with my best friend. I had a wonderful stay at her house. She’s like a sister to me, and just being with her was such a gift…a blessing. She teaches me how to relax through example. Her way of embracing life reminds me that life is to be embraced. I suppose that’s why we’re best friends. We see the beauty in each other serve as mirrors to each other. Mix that with a lot of laughter and ‘being on the same page’, and you’ve got one heck of a friendship- a gift.

I digress.

I got home and the disappointment of hearing silence hit me like a ton of bricks. No meowing. No Cat running over to me and brushing against my legs.

“Cat! Here Cat!”

Nothing. Grabbing my bags from the trunk, I headed to the house. Still, no Cat. I passed the flower boxes. Still, no Cat. I remembered how she’d found me and followed me up to the front door the first time I met her.

Where was she?

Charlie was not home to greet me. That made me a bit sad, too, but I knew he’d be home soon and my dog, Baron, was very happy to see me!

Out we went so he could go…and still, no Cat. I called for her as Baron wandered around. I checked her food bowl and saw it was half empty. That was a good sign because I thought Cat would eat what she wanted and leave what was left for later…like cats do. Another critter would have eaten all of the food.

Anyway, I was bummed. I wanted to see Cat. I wasn’t sure why I’d become so attached, but I had. Also, the possibility of matching her up with either the woman from Brockton or the woman a few streets away was on my mind.

My cell phone rang and it was my friend Wendy, the one who knew the woman who just buried her sister and possibly lost her cat. She asked me a few questions about the cat and asked if a young man named Mike could come by and see her. I told her it was not problem and after hanging up, I ran like there was a fire under me to get out of my ‘comfy, lazing around, not to be seen by strangers pajamas’ and back into my outfit before he arrived!

Oh, no! Cat was still nowhere to be found!

From outside, I called Wendy on my cell phone and told her I didn’t know where Cat went. She said Mike would still come by and call for her. He was on his way.

Mike, his girlfriend and I called for Cat, although he called for “Livey”. After about twenty-minutes of calling and getting nothing, Mike said he’d go to his mother’s to be sure the cats were, or weren’t, there.

“Okay,” I said, feeling terribly low, and worried about Cat. “Please call either way, just so I’ll know.” I wanted to find Cat, reunite her with her rightful owners and know all was well.

Mike called about fifteen minutes after he and his girlfriend left. Both cats were safe and sound at home. They were not missing their cats.

“Cat, Cat! Come Cat!” There was a certain desperation to my voice; a knot in my stomach and a few tears beginning to form in the corners of my eyes. Cat was gone and I hadn’t a clue. God, please keep her safe wherever she is. I know I need to trust that she’s okay.

As I searched and called for Cat once again, hoping to hear her distinct, lovable meow and feel the softness of her fur rubbing against my legs, I knew in my heart she’d left for another stop upon her journey. However, she touched my life and changed my perception of myself in so many ways. What I saw in Cat the most- her independence, her beauty, her ability to stand on her own in a strange environment and her unconditional love and trust in me, actually mirrored what I needed to see about myself.

It’s now been eleven-days since Cat’s arrival, and seven since her departure.

They say angels come to us in forms we won’t fear. They come to assist us; to show us what we need to see; to comfort; to protect; to teach. Could my precious, loving Cat have been an angel sent to me during a fairly confusing and dark time in my life- a time of great flux, change, questioning, some self doubt and perceived loss of self?

I don't know.

Cat did not lack in those areas. She was full of confidence, love, trust in those around her, gentleness, self acceptance, and the ability to accept life as it was, with all its change, with the complete knowing that all was well...kind of like an angel.

And that is the story of Cat.

Ellen M. DuBois, 2010

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