‘He followed me home, Mom. Honest!” Sam, 11, fidgeted, shifting his weight from one foot to the other as words tumbled out.
Wide-eyed and earnest, he continued. “I saved his life. He was just sitting in the middle of the street and a car was coming. I threw my bike down and called, ‘Here, kitty, kitty!’ ”
I replaced the lid on the bubbling pot of stew and turned to face my son, as he concluded his saga. “Then he ran across the street and jumped into my arms!”
Sam’s story sounded familiar. I’ve heard variations of the “he followed me home” theme from all three of his older brothers. Over the years, a variety of dogs and cats have mysteriously arrived at our front door, usually accompanied by a boy. And in every case, I’ve kept the boy, but the animal guests have managed to find their way home, usually with some help from us.
Sam grabbed a bowl, filled it with water, and sloshed a wet trail through the kitchen and out to the front porch. “You’ve got to come see him!” he urged. “I think his tail got runned over.”
I sighed, and slid the stew back in the oven. Our most recent animal visitor had been a rambunctious doggie wearing a collar and tags who showed up in our yard at dinnertime. Alex, 18, called the number on the tags and played with the affectionate dog, until his owners arrived.
But cats are nomads. We’ve had several guest kitties, who temporarily adopt us, only to disappear into the night.
I heard this one before I saw him. He alternated between purring loudly as he rubbed against Sam and meowing emphatically as he scratched at our door.
“He looks like Milo’s twin, only skinnier,” said Sam.
Our Milo is a sleek, svelte tuxedo cat, but this little fellow looked like he’d been sleeping in his tux for weeks. His white paws were dingy with dirt and his tail had a distinct bend in the middle. Either his tail had been run over, or it had been slammed in a door.
He lapped up the water that Sam brought him so quickly we had to refill the bowl.
Milo ventured out to investigate the intruder, and was greeted by the stray with a hair-raising hiss. He shot back inside, scrambling to a window vantage point to view the drama from a safe distance.
“Can we keep him?” Sam pled.
Before I could respond, 16-year-old Zack replied. “Absolutely NOT! Milo is an only cat. He doesn’t need any sibling complications in his life.”
This was spoken with all the passion and fervency of a middle child.
“He might belong to someone,” I said. By now the cat was happily rubbing on my leg. Reluctantly, I reached down and scratched his head. This sent him into kitty ecstasy and his purrs resumed with gusto. “We’ll see if he’s still here in the morning.”
I herded my family indoors for dinner, but Sam could scarcely eat for his worries. “Do you think he’s hungry?” he asked. “I think he’s hungry.”
“If he’s still here tomorrow, you can feed him,” I said. “And I’ll call SpokAnimal. He might have a microchip and a family who is looking for him.”
That night, Sam couldn’t sleep. The stray was still on our front porch and later that evening he wandered onto our deck and peered through our sliding glass door. I said, “Do you think we should …?”
But my husband, Derek, cut me off. “You are not bringing that cat inside our house. You are not going to bond with that cat. Just close the curtains!”
So, I did. But not until Sam put Milo’s old cat bed on the deck.
When Sam opened the door the next morning, the stray emerged from under Derek’s ’67 Ford Mustang. Sam filled a bowl with cat food and set it on the porch. The food disappeared in minutes. “Poor Mustang is starving,” I said.
“Mustang?” Derek gasped. “Tell me you did not name this cat!”
After taking Sam to school, I returned and found Mustang dozing on our welcome mat, while Milo paced anxiously from his perch on the window ledge.
I called SpokAnimal and the operator told me an officer would come and get the cat, but first I had to put Mustang in a box. “Right!” I said, laughing. “You want me to put a cat in a box!”
The lady patiently explained, “Our trucks are made for transporting dogs. We can’t have cats sliding all over the place.”
She had a point. But I had no suitable cat containers.
I called Derek and he eagerly agreed to bring me a cardboard box. He put Mustang in the well-ventilated box, folded the flaps down and placed a bag of fertilizer on top. Then he returned to work, happy in the belief that we’d remain an only-cat family. I sat at my desk and tried to work.
Loud mewing disturbed my concentration. I opened the front door and there sat Mustang. The box was shut and the fertilizer bag was on top of it, but Mustang was rubbing against my leg.
For the next hour, I repeatedly put the cat in the box, only to have the cat escape the box. Finally, I brought him inside and shut him in the downstairs bathroom, where he promptly fell asleep on the rug.
When the animal control officer arrived, we put Mustang in the box and he loaded him in his truck and drove away.
Bereft, I stood on the porch. Milo meowed from the top of the stairs. “Happy now?” I asked.
“Meow,” he affirmed.
Later that evening, I called the shelter. Mustang did indeed have a microchip and his family had been notified. A happy ending for everyone. Except Sam and me.
We missed our temporary cat. “Milo needs company,” Sam asserted. “All my brothers are growing up and leaving home. It’s not good to be an only cat.”
I heard the longing in his voice. Sam isn’t the only one who finds our house too empty these days. I pulled him close and kissed the top of his head. “You may be right,” I said.
To be continued …