For the past two weeks, when I opened the back door in the morning, Spotty was there to greet me. Spotty the cat belongs to my neighbor, who has been out of town, leaving me in charge of her five felines.
My neighbor is an early riser, and Spotty is used to having breakfast before the sun is up. He’s had to adjust his stomach clock the past two weeks, and he’s not happy about it. That’s why he’s leaned up against the door frame, close to passing out, by the time I get up.
I don’t bother to walk over to his house and get his food. Spotty eats what my cats eat because it’s there and it’s after 6 a.m. Actually Spot eats my cats’ food most of the time, a snack after he’s had dinner at his house. This arrangement is reciprocal: My Clancy gets two squares at Sharon’s and his meals at home.
Spotty and Clancy are both neutered males who detest one another. There have been some fights in the past, but they appear to have reached some kind of detente in which Clancy is not the alpha male. This morning Clancy refused to go out when he saw Spotty waiting at the door.
I’ve said before that cats are opportunists. Dogs are opportunists, too, but they do not approach us with the air of entitlement cats do. We are also distracted by their wagging tails.
When Sharon comes home, Spotty will return to his side of the fence, withdrawing his affection and focusing strictly on Sharon. I know I am being used.
Spotty and his brother Feller showed up one summer about five years ago. They were half-grown kittens. Who knows where they came from. Sharon tamed them and fed them, then Spotty disappeared. I told her he might come back and shared the story of our Mr. Pood, a cat similar in coloring to Spotty. When he was 7 years old, Mr. Pood disappeared. He was my sister’s cat, but we all loved him. After a month, we mourned him as dead.
Two months later, my sister was on the phone in the kitchen talking to a friend. My parents had gone out for the evening. Suddenly she started shrieking and threw down the phone. Mr. Pood, battered and bloody, was back.
Sharon looked doubtful when I related the tale of Poody, but a month later, Spotty reappeared and has been her cat ever since.
Because Spotty looks and acts like Mr. Pood, I am rather attached to him myself. He has a distinctive personality, and it’s quite pleasant. Spotty is a hail-fellow-well-met kinda cat. Clancy would disagree, as would Sadie.
Sadie, my lone dog, has tried these past two weeks to make friends with Spotty. Sadie’s friendliness has been offputting. Terrier Gracie didn’t care for him. She knew he was not “our” cat and charged at him every chance she got.
This morning, Spotty and Sadie touched noses. I cheered inwardly. Sadie pursued the friendship in a doggie manner, but Spotty took offense. He slapped her across the face with his paw. Sadie, shocked and disheartened, ran into the house.
I shook my head and gave Spotty his breakfast. That’s what he’d come for after all.
Jan Hearne is Tempo editor for the Johnson City Press.