(a slightly off-beat true tale of one amazing cat, honouring everyone’s feline friend)
Furby the tabby cat lurked outside waiting for the raccoons to leave. From that very first day he’d learned that once they finished scavenging, they always left something behind for him. As mama raccoon passed by him, she barely glanced at his hiding spot within the bushes, cooing to her three babies to stay close. He had to be quick getting those leftovers before another animal chased him off, like the opossum that sluncked around the backyard or the skunk that show up sporadically.
He carefully climbed the six porch steps, which seemed much taller than the carpeted townhouse stairs he’d once bounced up. Or, maybe he was losing strength from weeks of little food. Gobbling the few morsels left, he was alarmed when the outside light flicked on. His yellow eyes glowed as he glanced into the back door window, two human eyes peering at him.
Inside the house, Wendy turned to her husband and said, “I can’t figure it out. This cat keeps coming back. It’s obviously afraid of being here. And, it’s been such a bitterly cold January. Why is it even outside?”
Wendy cautiously opened the door.
Furby scampered away. He distrusted humans after one reached out as if to pet him, and instead swatted his head, throwing him off their porch. It was only his gnawing hunger pangs that forced him to risk being on a house porch now. He’d finally settled into this yard where barely locked garbage and compost cans hardly tested the raccoon’s opening skills.
As Wendy closed the door, sealing the house from the bellowing cold wind, she said, “I wonder if maybe it has an elderly owner with dementia, and they’ve forgotten to feed the cat. Or maybe the owner died. I’m putting out some cat food.”
Every night Wendy watched for the cat to came back. She worried if she went to bed before he appeared. But her husband said, “Don’t worry. During the day, I think it hides behind the shed in the yard, beneath some overhanging bushes. It doesn’t seem to have a home. Sometimes I see it shivering on the porch, eating that cat food you put out, furtively turning its head continually, as if its terrified something is going to yank the food right from its mouth. It’s strange alright. All the other cats stay away from our house. I’m sure they smell that it’s our cat’s territory. “
Furby knew all about that slick grey cat. He’d hear it howl and hiss every time he crept out from the bush to race across the lawn in the pitch dark. It even heaved its body against the inside glass window to try to reach him. Stlll, Furby’s basic survival needs overrode any other instincts.
After three more weeks of subzero nighttime temperatures, Wendy was pleased to see the cat on the porch early one evening. Bundling up in a heavy winter coat, she hurried around back, wondering how this scrawny cat endured the cold day after day. Carefully climbing the stairs, whispering in what she hoped was a calming voice, she tried to entice the startled cat to accept the bit of meat she held between her fingers. The cat hissed several times before hunger overcame it, stretching its neck to snatch the meat. She fed it several more before stretching her hand forward to pet its head. Immediately the cat panicked, growling and swishing its tail as it backed against the door. Dropping the remaining meat on the porch, Wendy quietly stepped down the stairs.
Watching the starving cat gulp down the meat, she wondered why she’d seen no signs stapled to light posts in the neighborhood looking for a missing tabby cat. Clearly the cat had once belonged to someone, as evidenced by its collar. Had they lived far away, and driven to abandon the cat here?
The next day Wendy borrowed a well-used decrepit animal kennel to provide the cat with shelter, bundling in soft cloths and putting cat food deep within it. She hoped the cat would feel safe enough to sleep there, so she could capture it.
Furby approached the strange box on the porch that night as Wendy observed through the back door window. Sniffing all around the container, he smelled the food inside it. Stretching his neck, he reached into the box, grabbed a tidbit and jerked out quickly.
Despite getting food this way for days, the cat never curled up and slept within its confining walls. No doubt it could still smell every frightened animal that had spent time there.
The following weekend,at the start of the seventh week of caring for the scared cat, Wendy looked outside in the early morning to see it gnawing on a chicken bone. Too large and too hard for it to swallow, the cat chewed on the bone, regurgitated it, pick up the remains, chewed them, regurgitating it again, making it all mush. Obviously other animals were eating the cat food left outside. With this cat now in such dire straits as to mulch a chicken bone for survival, Wendy knew it was time to forcibly capture it inside the kennel.
As she held the cat’s attention on her, moving her face across the window, her husband rushed up the back stairs, threw a blanket over the startled cat and thrust the gagging cat inside before hurriedly latching the kennel door.
Furby yowled mournfully inside the kennel. But, after being outside in the cold for so long, in a few moments the softness wrapped around him like a blanket and he laid down in exhaustion. Feeling so cozy reminded him of the time a little girl with pigtails held him under her soft warm blanket when she went to sleep.
Knowing how notoriously understaffed the SPCA was, she reassured the subdued meowing cat before entering the building. Fifteen minutes later, as she tediously completed a lengthy report on finding this cat, a staff member unlocked her car and retrieved the kennel.
Furby blinked as a human with a soothing voice lifted him out of the confining container. Settling into the warmth of a human’s lap, Furby fully relaxed for the first time since he’d lived outside. He barely protested when the human softly stroked his earflap back to look inside.
Hours later, a revived, well-fed and restless Furby paced the ledge of a cat clawing station in the SPCA. Just before closing time, he leapt towards the window when he spied a little human with pigtails. The little girl stopped and began waving her arms and joyfully jumping up and down. Furby only stopped loudly meowing when he was placed into her outstretched arms.
Receiving a phone call from an elated SPCA receptionist that evening, Wendy listened to the astonishing tale of this cat’s amazing feat. The family had lived just behind her house. When they’d moved, their indoor cat had disappeared from their new home.
When Wendy started feeding the confused cat, it had already been lost over a month, after managing to walk over 4 miles to his previous home. The family had indeed posted pictures on multiple lamp posts, but only in their new neighborhood. Furby was not a forlorn abandoned pet but a loved and mourned member of one special little girl’s family. The parents had given up hope, offering their daughter a new kitten, but she’d refused.
As Furby purred besides his little girl’s body that night, stomach full and fur brushed cleaned, he recalled tales of his survival endured during three miserably cold winter months in the wilderness.
As Wendy said to her husband, just like us all, the cat’s life survival was thanks to a little help from his friends.
We all get by with a little help from our friends.