Something unexpected happened on this morning one year ago today.
I was outside working in my garden when I spotted a woman walking down middle of my street pushing a shopping cart that had a cage perched in its basket. I could see that inside the cage were two cats, one black and one grey. In fact, they were two of the three very friendly cats that had been visiting my yard in the evenings over the past few weeks.
It seemed a bit strange, what she was doing, but I thought maybe they belonged to her. She got halfway down the street, when she stopped to talk to a neighbor – leaving the cart and the cats unattended in the middle of the street. My initial instinct was to let her go on her merry way. They weren’t my cats, and I didn’t know this woman. I figured I’d watch her walk around the corner and never see them again.
But instead of going forward, she turned around and came back towards my house. I could see she was looking for something, occasionally stopping to crouch or peer into yards. I suspected she was looking for the third kitty of the trio. I felt like because she had turned around I was given another chance to speak up and say something to her about this odd situation. I’m not usually bold or confrontational, and I could feel my heart rate elevate and my palms start sweating.
Once she got to the street in front of my house, I called out to her. She pushed the cart over to my sidewalk. I could see she was mentally disabled in some way.
I asked her if the cats were hers. She said no. I asked what she was doing with the cats, why she had them in a cage. She said she didn’t know.
Well, that’s odd, I thought.
I pressed on with my line of questioning. “Do you live around here? Are you taking them to your house?”
“Yes,” she replied, “but I’m not allowed to have cats and I don’t have the money to feed them.”
“Then why are you taking them?
“I don’t know,” she smiled and laughed, “I just really like them.”
Oh boy. I imagined her taking them back to her house, keeping them in the cage and not feeding them, and then them dying of starvation, eventually.
“I know you want to do the right thing, and I appreciate that,” I said to her, trying to figure out the best way to save these poor cats from this terrible fate. “I think they are doing okay on their own outside. Why don’t you let them out into my yard?” I asked, tentatively, and probably in a too-enthusiastic voice.
“Well….” I could see her thinking about it.
“I bet they’ll still come and visit you every day. They visit me, too. They are very friendly kitties. But I think the best thing to do is to let them out to be free.”
At this point, my well-meaning husband comes outside and sees that I’m trying to convince this woman to let the cats out of the cage, the same cats he and I were trying to figure out how we were going to get them into a cage to take them in for spaying/neutering so we wouldn’t have even more feral cats in our neighborhood.
“What are you doing?” he demanded, motioning to the cats. “She’s got them.”
I turned to face him and in the gruffest voice I could possibly muster without sounding too threatening to the woman’s ears I said, “Turn around and walk away.”
“But…” he tried to go on.
“TURN AROUND AND WALK AWAY,” I said again through gritted teeth.
This is unusual behavior for me, so he stopped talking, gave me a funny look, and turned around and walked back into the house.
As I turned back to the woman, she was getting the cage out of the cart and setting it on the sidewalk. She then opened the door. She was letting them go!
“I think you’re doing the right thing,” I said to her. “And don’t worry, I know the kitties understand you want to help them, and I’m sure they’ll come visit you again.”
The black cat and the grey cat snaked their way between my picket fence posts and dashed under the cover of my artichoke plants. The woman picked up her cage, inserted it back into the shopping cart and disappeared around the corner. I’ve not seen her since.
After getting all three spayed/neutered, chipped and vaccinated, I worked to find them homes. They were just too friendly and sweet to damn them to a life on the street in Los Angeles.
But the little black one, my secret favorite, had other plans. Always the friendliest and most outgoing, he would hide when anyone came over to meet him.
I’m pretty sure now it was his way of saying that he was staying. He’s still here. And he is never going anywhere, because that damn cat has us in the palm of his, well, paw.
So I consider today Murray’s coming home day. It’s the day that began the chain events that resulted in him becoming part of our family. There are days when I love this cat so much it hurts. He is goofy and affectionate and I’ve never seen him hiss once, not even at our other cat who is much less happy about his presence than we are.
I think he is an incarnation of Bobby McFerrin, telling us every day, “Don’t worry, be happy!”
Okay, little nugget, I’ll work on it. Until then, feel free to nap on my bed, sit in my lap, capture all the bugs in the house and purr, purr, purr your mighty purr.