A Circle of Staring Eyes

My wife has cats. She loves them. Actually, she loves all cats. My wife is the kind of person who puts food out along with water in case any of the neighborhood cats happen to get hungry as they pass through the yard on their way to spray our front door. All of the cats for a mile around want to claim our home as their domain, and as a result there are always a lot of cats around. But a few days ago, one of my wife’s cats, one that actually lived in our home, disappeared out the door. My wife was standing with the door open and out went the cat. Not like that’s anything unusual, there are kitty doors for the cats to be able to come and go. But it was unusual that the cat actually strolled out the door rather than using a kitty portal. It was as if the cat was giving a last wag of the tail to say adios as it went off to seek its fortune. Probably in a neighborhood where there’s less competition.

Anyway, my wife was of course upset at the disappearance of the cat known as Little One. After a day she asked if I’d seen Little One and no, I hadn’t. The answer was the same over the next eight days and it was time to just admit that the cat had moved out, setting off to seek her fortune. The cat was brought to our house as a stray. My wife spotted her in the neighboring town of Liberty Lake in mid-winter. She was crouching beneath a shrub and looking chilly. The cat looked cold too. No, I’m kidding. The cat looked lost and miserable, kind of skinny and unkempt. Over the next week or so my wife would see the cat lurking, hanging around a vacant home. It had every appearance that its owner had moved away and just left the cat, a sad occurrence that is sadly common. Anyway, my wife approached the cat one day and it came to her immediately, purring and rubbing itself on her leg. My wife, always prepared for cat emergencies, got some food from the trunk of the car and fed it. The cat ate ravenously. Anyway, this repeated itself over a couple of weeks, and finally my wife just picked up the collarless cat and brought it home.

It has lived here for a number of years now. A virtual feline lifetime, I;m sure. Little One was never very sociable and tended to be reserved, staying aloof and separate from the other cats for the longest time. After the death of one of the more matriarchal cats, when new alliances were formed, she began to hang out with Squeek, an equally aloof black cat with poor vision and a loud mew. Squeek got her name by suddenly shrieking out of nowhere, at the oddest times, and then looking entirely pleased with herself before dashing off to hide beneath a couch or something. Since Little One’s departure, Squeek has taken to listlessly hanging around, rarely mewing at all, and just being the epitome of lethargy. This caused me to feel badly for both Squeek and my wife, and so I took to trying to find the missing cat.

In the middle of the night I went out on the back porch and stood, calling kitty, kitty, kitty on and off for a few minutes. A terribly dark night, I began to sense movement in the darkness that was, frankly a bit unsettling. Almost at once, I was confronted by a galaxy of glowing eyes, ringing me in a semi-circle around the porch. A low mewling began, punctuated by the occasional hiss, until I was listening to a crescendo of growls, mewls and hissing. I snapped on my flashlight and played it across the yard to see at least twenty cats all looking at me with intensive and unblinking stares. Little One was not among them, and so I backed into the house, moving slowly. As I slid the door closed, the majority of them stood in a compact herd at the slider door, all mewing and swaying like people at a concert.

I crossed through the house and went out the front door to find at least ten more cats in the front yard, all looking toward me with expectation. Since none of them was Little One, I abandoned my good deed and returned to the house and my bedroom. I had always made jokes about my wife’s affinity for cats and her anthropomorphizing of them. She was sure that she knew the history of the cats who frequented the yard, to the point that she had names for all of them and little stories that chronicled their furry little lives. I stood at the front window where I was joined by the two remaining live-in cats. Each of them took a position on either side of me and stared out the window, their fur all puffed out and them making growling noises at the multitude of felines occupying the yard. I’m pretty sure that front and back, we had about thirty cats who felt compelled to show up at my outdoor kitty call.

To me, this explained the relative lack of birds visiting our house, and likely the recent large contingent parked outside. It also explained why my wife was buying cat food in 50 pound bags, on a biweekly basis. I spoke to my wife about it, suggesting that she was luring the cats away from their homes, finding our place offering a more ready supply of kitty delectables. I asserted that perhaps it might be wiser to put out water, but leave out the food. After all, there were no doubt owners who preferred to care for their pets. I decided to try and identify them and so over the next couple of nights I began to take pictures of the nocturnal visitors. Mug shots, as it were, to take around to show neighbors in an attempt to locate the owners. Much to my surprise, not a one was claimed by anyone in a three block radius.What’s more, in discussing this with my wife, she admitted sheepishly that she had actually been collecting the cats up and taking them in for neutering and shots. Presented with her credit card statement, I found that she’d spent almost $2000 on the cats, taking responsibility where others hadn’t. I found it was difficult for me to complain, given that I was indeed looking at a large number of untended cats.

I had my wife write out the names of all of the cats on the backs of their photos and took that list and ordered tags for them all, each bearing their wifely assigned monikers and suggesting that anyone finding the cats were welcome to claim them and take them in. That was about a week or so ago I did that, and the kitty population had dwindled considerably.  Either collaring all of these cats annoyed them and they left, or more to my hopes that people had taken them in, offering genuine affinity over our production line feline soup kitchen.  I sippose that many might say the more responsible thing would be to deliver the cats to the pound, but I know that without adoption in but a few days, these cats would likely perish to lethal injection. My thinking is that why not allow them their freedom and let them live knowing that there is someone out there who values them and chooses to contribute a bit of money to ensure their well being.

I have concluded that this should be the way that we treat one another, especially those among us who have been abandoned by circumstance and left t try to survive on their own. That thinking disappointed me because I see so much in political news saying how this is not the way to act for the less fortunate among us. Just as animal shelters are overwhelmed with the volume of strays they can’t afford to help, I see the same thing in humans, reducing lives to line item financial expense over simply reaching out within our means to help. Instead, just as so many do with the feral cats in their yards raiding pet food and garbage cans of private citizens, our leaders instead vilify the lesser status of the many. How many hungry eyes might I have encountered had my wife been leaving cheeseburgers and shakes instead of cat food. and where might these feral humans derive from.

Taking care of each other is the is a tenet of our constitution and religious teachings. We are our brother’s keepers and the same is true for our sisters. I have to think that the many people unable to see to their own needs should get our help, and given the numbers of them, who better than the government to dispense that aid.? It would make for a stronger nation if we gave a little to help the lame and halt among us, and in that way build a more powerful and stronger country. How many of my fellow Myelomites might be better able to contribute if we did the same for them? What about the rest of the less fortunate? A country is only as healthy and strong as its citizens are.