He came every day. His shaggy white coat had taken on the look of yellow snow. Ruffled and unkempt, he sauntered across the street, having learned from his wild adventures to feel the pace of traffic and then wait for an opening.
Two large black circles revealed weary eyes that hunted each day for small rodents behind the barn. He also begged for food and companionship from any stranger who could spare the time, be it man or another feline.
The woman stood on her patio across the street and watched him. She already had two cats and was sure that her husband would not appreciate a new stray. But something in this animal’s attitude held her attention. Then his gaze caught her eye and she felt a surge of pity for him. Obviously, someone had dropped off the cat behind the barn and left him there to fend for himself.
And all things considered, he seemed to be surviving. But with winter on the way, could he survive in the barn and tolerate the freezing temperatures that would return in a few months?
For a few days the procedure was the same. He would saunter across the street. He would watch the woman and she would watch him. Then one morning, as she worked planting in her flower garden, she felt something brush past her leg. It was a soft touch and in a fleeting moment, she knew it was her daily visitor. She turned around and there he was, standing quietly at a comfortable distance, seemingly measuring her and her attitude in his wild, independent way.
She smiled and whispered to him, “Hello Wild Cat.” He just stood there, fixing his gaze upon her. Silently they communicated by the gestures that passed between them.
Each day he would approach a little closer to the woman, until one morning he sensed that something different was going on, and turned to survey the area. It didn’t take long for him to find the bowl of food that had been placed nearby. After some hesitation, he proceeded to indulge in his first square meal in some time.
In no time at all, he became a regular visitor. And now the woman’s husband had become interested in the wild cat. The couple laughed and enjoyed his “wild cat attitude” – and he most definitely had an attitude.
A month passed by, and the cat grew bold enough to stand on the patio and wait for the woman to bring out the food when his bowl was not in its place. She had finally gained his confidence. He now felt free to lay on his back and expose his belly. He also wanted to be playful, and would often bite at her fingers. But he bit too hard, and she knew by his action that he really was a wild cat. She wondered if he could ever become a house cat.
A few weeks later he came for his daily meal, but it was very quiet on the patio. He could not understand why, but his curiosity led him to stand up on his hind feet and peer into the window to see if the woman was still there. Fortunately, she was home and noticed the red eyes ringed in black peering at her from the patio. Within a few minutes he was happily gulping down his favorite food. Hunting rodents was getting to be a thing of the past.
His visits were getting longer and more frequent now. And sometimes, he would lie at the woman’s and her husband’s feet after his meal and enjoy the calm of a summer evening. But at dusk, he would find his way back to the barn and his wild lifestyle.
One beautiful morning, the woman was outdoors working in her flower garden. She loved the flowers’ beauty and tended them with great care. When she got up to look for a tool, she noticed a dead animal far in the distance lying in the middle of the street. The wild cat flashed through her mind, and without hesitation she dropped her tools and hurried down the street. ‘It can’t be the wild cat!’ she kept saying to herself as she ran. But she felt a twinge of guilt, since she had put aside any thought of keeping the cat in her home. Now she hoped not to find his mangled body in the middle of the street.
She rushed to check the body, and was sad to see what a car had done to the poor animal. However, she was relieved at least to find that the dead stray cat was not her wild cat.
Every day from then on, she watched the wild cat very carefully to make sure he remained healthy and adaptive to his environment. One day she noticed that he looked ill. She called the veterinarian to seek advice as to what she could do to help this cat. The vet provided some special food and medicine, and the cat began to thrive once more. But it was still not determined if he would ever become a house cat.
Soon though, she made up her mind. He was still too wild. She could not take him into her home. He was a fighter and would upset the other cats. And she could not take the risk of hurting her other animals.
Things began to change in the lives of the woman and her husband. There were many days when she was not home. Still the wild cat would come for his visit, but finding no food set out for him, would wander off sadly back to the barn, feeling very hungry and forlorn.
Then came a sudden new turn of events. A job transfer would take the couple to another state. Now who would take care of the cat? The woman and her husband decided to keep him, if they could get him to go peacefully to the vet and receive a clean bill of health.
The next day was very important in the wild cat’s life. He passed all the tests. He was smart enough to see and feel the care, love and attention that his new found friends were offering him. He may have been wild, but he was not dumb. The vet said he was just fine and should do very well as a house cat. He became such a perfect house cat that he got a new name. He is now called “Whitey” because of his smooth, glossy white fur, and everyone knows he isn’t a wild cat anymore.
Featured image courtesy Kim Bartlett / Animal People, Inc.