The Continuing Spook Saga provides two lessons: (1) this is why you introduce cats to each other slowly and (2) this is why you shouldn’t let cats outside. Before getting to those lessons, I need to report that despite Spook’s initial reluctance to stay for extended periods of time, he is coming by more and more. And staying longer and longer. He’d even been shut in while I went shopping and rubbed my legs when I returned, and let me both pet him and scratch his head. That’s noteworthy because he’s pretty suspicious and doesn’t like being touched at all.
Strangely, he will leave right before we get rain and not come back till the rain has stopped. One day last week he’d been gone nearly all day, not having made an appearance at all, then came in and did a face plant on the pillow. I’m not joking, he just sprawled on the pillow like I do after a really rough day at work, face down and all but unconscious. He wasn’t curled up nose to tail like cats typically are when sleeping. It was pretty amusing. But Spook’s actions have been almost like he’s becoming domesticated. “Domesticated” being a relative term for an animal that probably has not been around humans much, if at all, in its short life and has likely been on the streets for at least a year.
All that said, Spook (aka Orange Cat #2) seems to have taken to treating the house as a hostel, a place where he’ll come, sleep a while, grab a bite and leave. He leaves once I put more food into the bowl. I don’t know why he does that but he does. Since I can’t leave empty bowls out, given (most) cats’ grazing natures, there’s not an awful lot I can do about his departing when he hears food hit the bowl. Now to the first lesson.
While he’s here in the house, he curls up out of the way on a pair of pillows on an old couch I should have gotten rid of years ago but never did. He is able to see everything going on in the house from that perch and he’s mostly away from Buddy (aka Orange Cat #1 and/or Incumbent Cat #2). I say ‘mostly’ because Buddy too often finds Spook and starts to go after him. Sometimes Orange Cat #1 will walk over and just stare at #2. This bothers #2 a great deal and he’ll cry his very soft mew until Buddy leaves or one of the humans comes and chases Buddy away. Other times Buddy will outright walk over to where Spook is sleeping (or just laying) and slowly reach over and smack! Knocks Spook a quick blow. Spook, in turn, lets out a little chirp-like cry. Sometimes he leaves, running outside and returning later; other times he sticks around. Buddy will chase after him when Spook runs outside, coming back seemingly with a self-satisfied smile on his face. At those times Spook doesn’t leave, he’ll simply back up farther on the pillows. When Spook sticks around, Buddy never presses the advantage and will either sit and stare more at Spook or just turn and walk away.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we introduce animals to each other slowly. We’re told to keep animals separated from each other till they get familiar with one another’s smells.
Here’s what happened last Monday (4 January) night: as I said before, for whatever reason, whenever I fill the food bowls Spook leaves. He hears the food hit the bowl, gets up from the pillow, eats and leaves. On 4 January, I filled the bowl. He got up, ate and left. He was gone several hours, too, staying away even during the rain. As per usual, so I wasn’t overly concerned. After all, he’s got a warm, dry, safe place to sleep and food available.
Around 11:45 PM or so (23:45 for the military minded) I heard the most frightening, piercing cat screams coming from right in front of my house. I’ve heard cat fights before, seen more than my share, but the cries Monday night were the worst I’ve heard. Buddy was terrified and didn’t seem to know which way to run. I bolted towards the screams, fearing the worst for Spook, and ran out the front door; Buddy slinked around the living room, seemingly trying to figure out where the cats were fighting and perhaps about to join in.
By the time I got out front (bare feet, light drizzle – not too smart on my part), the cats had fled from next to my car and down the street. The screams faded and I went back to the house to put on my shoes. At that moment, Buddy decided to run out back. I coaxed him back in and shut the door behind him. I decided to leave it open a bit in case one of the cats fighting was Spook; if he were in a fight, frightened and needed safe harbor, I wasn’t about to lock him out. I opened the door leading out to the garage for Buddy to have a place to hide if he needed it.
Properly shoed and with Incumbent Cat #1 safely in the house, I set out to find the cats that were fighting. Surprisingly, none of my neighbors had come out and investigate the noise; no one’s lights went on either. At any rate, I went back off in the direction where I’d seen the cats bolt. I heard low growls and hissing coming from underneath a van up the street. One of the cats was apparently startled by my approach and trotted out from the van. This tuxedo cat paused when he saw me. I snapped my fingers and pointed at him and he continued trotting away, a little bit faster than he’d moved from the van. I saw a dark blur make a mad dash across the street and towards one of my neighbor’s houses.
I don’t know for certain that the dark blur was Spook. We had serious rain Tuesday, well over an inch, so his absence was conspicuous. But he didn’t come by at all and he’d been coming by regularly daily for the last couple of weeks. Sometimes he’d eat and leave, other times he’d eat and go to his pillow, and still other times he’d head straight to the pillow (such as face plant day). But the point is that every day he showed up.
Till Tuesday. No Spook.
I didn’t know whether he was hurt, whether he was holed up because of the rain or worse. Nor did I know where he might be, or where he goes when he’s not here. I can’t keep him locked in as I do more regularly with Buddy; Spook gets pretty antsy with the door closed. If he’s as young as I suspect, maybe a year or 2 old, he’s probably spent most of his life apart from people.
I wish I didn’t care so much. But I do care about this itinerant visitor.
He finally showed up Wednesday afternoon, seemingly none the worse for wear. That was over 36 hours with no sightings. I truly feared the worst.
Please, folks, if you have cats do your best not to let them outside if you don’t have to. It’s pretty dangerous out there for them. You have other cats who will attack. We all know dogs will also go after cats. Smaller cats can become prey animals for larger ones, like the coyotes we have in this neighborhood. If you care about your animals, keep them inside – or create ways for them to be safely outside, like covered runs around the perimeters of your property.
But don’t let them outside without some sort of protection.