Back in February I wrote about a nasty little beast who started showing up around the house. He scared Buddy and Spook, chased them both (treed Spook once and cornered Buddy by the patio door) and sprayed the backyard. Dark eyed with black fur and stripes, he’s a small beast with spindly legs and a short, thin tail. Because his face resembled a monkey I took to calling him Monkey. I know, clever. He’s also got a nasty gash on his neck. I don’t know what it’s from or how long he’s had it. I suspect he got it from a fight and it stays red, inflamed and unhealed because he keeps scratching it.
Anyway, I can’t turn cats away, especially when they seem to be starving. In this case, it might be literal. Until recently, he’s eaten everything we put out for him, telling me he’s not getting a lot of food on his own or elsewhere. And since Buddy died, he’s been around a lot more (and not coincidentally, Spook hasn’t been) and at night even sleeps on an old ratty chair on the patio.
I recently stopped calling him Monkey because I noticed that he was actually a pretty polite little cat. Both Buddy and Spook both demand(ed) food, and were/are slobs when eating, dropping food all over the place. This one sits patiently on the grass waiting for one of us to notice him so we can feed him. He also eats almost daintily, nary a drop falling out of his mouth or the bowl. It’s like each morsel is precious to him and he almost savors each bite (cat as foodie). Because he’s quiet and something of a gentleman I’ve taken to calling him Chet (after Chet Atkins, whose nickname was The Country Gentleman).
On top of all that, something changed, though. It’s not that he’s worming his way into my life that much as he doesn’t really stick around after getting his food. Nor is the fact that he actually started to cry at me when I talk to him (more a squawk, probably because he’s never had to use his vocal cords before). We had some slight rain a couple weeks ago. Overnight, he slept on the chair as per usual. But that day, rather than stick around under shelter, he laid on the ground in the open, getting rained on.
That was more than a little sad. Seeing a cat, which you’d think wouldn’t want to be out in the rain, sleeping in the rain is slightly jarring. He may have known what he was doing, though, as the neck wound seemed a little less livid, and may have gotten cleaned by the rain.
But that isn’t what changed my attitude towards him. He’s trusting me a little more, and doesn’t run off when I go out to feed him (he’d trot off and circle back to the food once I was gone. Now he stands his ground, waits till I walk away, and then comes to the food bowls). Anyone who’s ever had a cat start to trust you after being suspicious understands the satisfaction there is in that. What changed was finding out that his skittishness is due to how he’s been treated by other “humans.” This cat has been mistreated; how badly is anyone’s guess.
Turns out some kids who live around the block were yelling at him, and throwing things at Chet -rocks and their toys. They’ve also thrown rocks at me and the house, so I kind of relate. Age doesn’t excuse the behavior (the oldest is maybe 8 or 9), and not all kids throw things at animals or people.
The poor cat is not only fending for itself, scrounging food whenever and wherever he can, he’s also dodging rocks and balls and likely water, feet, brooms and who knows what all. He sleeps in the dirt, even when it rains. He’s quiet (except when fighting) and, to risk repeating myself, is unfailingly polite. Knowing now how he’s been treated, I am starting to look at him differently. I’d worked fairly hard at getting him to trust me. That could’ve been completely destroyed by the kids throwing crap at him. No one and nothing deserves to be abused.
There’s no great moral, no fun story here. Just this: the cat’s struggling to survive. And being mistreated makes him more sympathetic than he was before. And so we have yet another mouth to feed regularly.