The Hungry Cat
There is a pink playhouse in the yard at the house where I live now, a whimsical little building that I can’t make use of at this juncture in my life as it is clearly meant for children. Mid-life is a perplexing place to be. I am still a mother, but I have no children living here.
A few weeks ago I was outside cleaning the flower beds and saw a tabby cat with white boots and chest watching me from under the big spruce that shades the playhouse from the afternoon sun. The cat scurried under an opening in the wood pile along the back of the little house as I walked by, and I didn’t think much of it at the time. Living in town means the neighbour’s pets often walk through the yard, adding a bit of excitement to our little dog’s life when he spots them while perching on the back of the love seat along the front window. He badly wants to go out and introduce himself to the dogs or chase the cats. Last fall he took off after a rabbit, across the street, into a small bush and it took awhile before he found his way home.
Yesterday I noticed the rabbit is back. So is the cat. Except I think that the cat never left, as I started seeing her every day, first sitting in the grass and then on top of the plywood that covers the sandbox. Yes I have a sandbox, too. Cats love to poop in sandboxes so I expect that is why it is covered. Maybe the cat has been here all along.
Growing up, our house was a magnet for stray animals. My mother never turned anything away, in fact, the first thing she would do was feed whatever came into the yard. Then she’d give it a name. Some of the best pets were those who chose us instead of us choosing them.
Once there was a stray cat we named Kitten Little. We named her that likely because she was very small and looked young, but shortly after arriving had a batch of kittens of her own. I remember very little about Kitten Little except that she became my sisters’ cat and she wasn’t with us long. I think she was hit by a car shortly after having her kittens, and we ended up raising them. Imagine that, three girls and a batch of kittens. That has never happened before! We kept one, the baby that looked like Kitten Little and much like the cat that now lives under my wood pile.
I am in no great hurry to make friends with this cat. I have no desire to pat her or allow her furry body into the house. But she was a hungry cat so I went straight to the store and bought a bag of food. I could tell by the desperate look and pained meow and there is something else about her too, in the way her belly hangs loose and soft.
She is living on instinct right now and her daily routine is a pattern I recognize. She comes out in the morning and eats the morsels I leave for her, then goes back under the wood pile. She emerges an hour or so later and stays out for a few hours, never venturing far from the opening. If I go close, she scoots back under, even though she recognizes me as the lady who brings food.
Tempting as it is, I’ve resisted getting too close. I know what will happen if I do. She will move her nest and only come back to see me when she wants something to eat. If I am patient, soon little heads will begin poking out and a few days after that, the heads will be followed by fuzzy little bodies that will begin playing in the grass. I’m already wondering what colours they will be.
Occupants for the playhouse after all.