Guest Star Cat: Saga of Nano

The following story was submitted by Rick R via email:

Looking through the kitchen window, I saw our white, outside cat Mr. Klaatu, on the barrel head at his bowl.  Then I did a double take and thought, wait a minute, that’s not Klaatu!  I went out and chased you away.

You came back, and I chased you all the way to the front of the property.  You returned.  After a few rounds of this we said, oh, the heck with it, and put out another bowl – one on the barrel head for Klaatu, and one on the deck for you.  This pleased you greatly, and you established yourself on the stuffed deck chair right outside our sliding glass front door.  You were home.

By your size, appearance and attitude, we guessed you were probably around two years old, possibly three.  You carried yourself with a sort of saunter – the cool cat on the block.  You exhibited little fear of us, even after I’d chased you.  When I sat down on the chair, you climbed up my leg, then arm, walked across my shoulders and down my other arm and sat in my lap.

One day, as I was standing at the sink and happened to look out the window, I saw you jump onto the barrel where we had placed Klaatu’s food, and head for his bowl.  I quickly tapped on the window and, when you looked up, shook my finger at you.  To my amazement and amusement, you made a scrunched “curses – foiled” face and got down off the barrel.  This behavior in any animal, I think, is astonishing.

It was obvious you needed to be neutered.  Since as far as we knew, you were still “wild” (though very friendly), rather than try to stuff you into a cat carrier we put out a trap with some food in it.  Soon, we were able to watch as the wily Klaatu (who wanted no trouble, and with whom you quickly developed a tentative detente), walked into the trap, stepping carefully over the trip plate, nibbled at the food, then turned around and left.  After observing this, you entered the trap and promptly tripped the gate and locked yourself in.  We thought this hilarious, but you were not amused.  In any case, you were on to your first trip to the vet.

The one time we had been able to trap Klaatu, who had gone to the vet just for a check up and shots,

as we returned he’d stayed crouched in the back of the cage and would neither eat nor drink.  When we set the trap on the deck and opened the gate, he took off as if blown from a cannon and we didn’t see him again for three months.  Upon your return from neutering, we set the trap on the deck and opened the gate.  You stepped out, looked around at your butt, looked at us as if to say “what was that about?,” and walked over to your chair and curled up as if just back from a morning’s stroll.

I bought you a little nubby brush, and when you joined me while sitting on the other deck chair I brushed you.  I’m sure it was your first time.  Clouds of white hair blew onto the lawn.  After several brushings your coat became less bristly and eventually quite soft.

When I went out to work in the garden or vineyard, you would often accompany me, wandering around in the general vicinity of wherever I was engaged.  On the way back, you would invariably cut me off, so that I would have to pick you up to make any progress back to the house.  A wild kitty indeed.

The most striking thing about you, which quickly became apparent, was your exuberance – we’d never before seen an animal who so obviously and thoroughly loved life.  If, on a trip out together, we passed a deployed orchard ladder, you would jump through it over the fifth or sixth step.  If you were busy somewhere at the back of the property and your mom would stand on the deck to call you for dinner, you would come bounding over the fields like Lassie.  (You would do this if she was calling Klaatu also, but no matter…)  Standing at the kitchen sink one day, I happened to look out and saw you halfway up in the branches of one of the apple trees, making your way west to east.  I guessed a bird had caught your interest.  You were the busiest (and most successful) hunter we’d ever seen.  I came to call you the “great white hunter” (you were, after all, white…)  During your year outside here, all the gopher mounds disappeared, along with the gophers.  Klaatu, who was basically wild and depended to some extent on foraging, had never quite developed the skills you had.  You ate the gophers (as we witnessed a few times), often bringing them back to toss them against the house (to stun them into submission?  To tenderize them?) before sitting with them upright in your paws and disappearing them in five bites, starting with the head.  Last would be the feet and tail, slurping down the maw like spaghetti.  The voles you would pile outside the door, to let us know you were working.

The fact of your chair being situated directly to the right of our glass front door gave us a good vantage point from which to watch you, and you us.  Often, as we’d look out wondering “what is he up to now?”, we’d see you lean out looking in, wondering “what are they up to now?”  In the evenings you would spend time rolling around grooming and playing with your tail, or commune (to the extent possible) through the glass with the indoor kitties.  You would often try to grab little Marcus’ tail as he walked by, impossible of course through the glass.

You were not apparently an “alpha” cat,  but you appeared to consider it your duty to protect “our” territory.  Despite your shaky accommodation with Klaatu, we’d occasionally hear fight sounds at night.  One evening we observed you lying on your deck chair, watching as a sizable possum came onto the deck and visited your food bowl.  Evidently thinking discretion the better part of valor, you chose to remain where you were.  A few times, however, we would find you with your rear quarters bloodied and would have to take you to visit the vet again.

One morning, we didn’t see you as usual, and upon looking around a bit found you curled up in the sweet pea ground cover behind the house, your butt apparently having been chewed on again.  You wouldn’t respond to us, just staring crossly up at us.  I figured you were either terribly embarrassed about your evident failure to protect us, or angry about our obvious failure to protect you.  Either way, it took a bit before you’d warm up to us again.  Your mom said, “that’s it – he’s coming in.”  This being the third trip to the vet for butt damage, the bills were making for an untenable situation.  I thought, he’s not going to like that, having observed how much you enjoyed life outside.

Upon arriving home, following your latest stitch-up at the vet, we brought your carrier into the house for the first time and opened the gate.  The other kitties (4 then) gathered around as you stepped out, looked around and thought “I’ve arrived!”  You were instantly very pleased and immediately got along with everyone else (not necessarily to be expected with cats…). 

From early on, you developed an especially close relationship with Hope and Marcus, our “twins” (two kittens from a litter born, most likely, under our deck) who were nearest your age – maybe a year younger, if our estimates are close.  So much so, we began referring to you, collectively, as “the three twins.”

You had not realized, however, that once you were in, you’d not again be allowed out.  At one point you opted for a change of scenery, and shot out the door when your mom had an unguarded moment.  I was certain you’d be back, but your mom (foolishly, I thought) opted to go out and recapture you.  This she managed fairly quickly and delivered you back inside, but not before you’d shredded both her forearms.  She was very lucky to avoid subsequent infection, or “cat scratch” fever.  So closed the last chapter of “outdoors Nano.”

Your further adventures would be conducted indoors.  One day we observed you and Lucio (a large Norwegian Forest cat, full Sylvester and King of the House) adorning cat furniture in the living room bay window.  There were two saddles, an upper (containing Lucio, of course) and another immediately below, where you lay on your back.  I then noticed a white paw sneaking up the side, until it achieved clearance and poked the King, who immediately poked back like swatting away a fly.  A few seconds later the white paw from below hit him again and he took another swat.  A repeat elicited a more serious swing from above.  Finally (not being able to help yourself) you poked the upper saddle yet again, and this time Lucio dove down a flight and you both took off across the room, over the couch, out through the kitchen and across the house (and back, and again) – I don’t remember exactly how this episode resolved, but I’m sure no violence was done, and you both got some exercise.

Eventually my mother joined our household, and we tore down our old double-wide and built a nice new (and larger) one.  The “3 Sisters” (more kittens born here, all white) joined us and brought our feline population to nine.  During an introductory phase, when we had the sisters gated into the spare bedroom, you walked by and growled at them.  (Had you wanted to be the only white cat?)  They never forgave you.

Once the sisters were “out” (loose in the house, that is) the most aggressive one (Nod, her sisters being Wynken and Blynken of course…) took to charging you and Hope, neither of whom appreciated it.  (Marcus would just ignore them, and eventually got along fine with them.)  You decided to decamp to our bedroom, and this became your territory from then on.  Nod treed the unfortunate Hope on the cat tower for, like, a day, so we brought her into the bedroom, too, and you became best buddies.  You never wanted any trouble, but Hope would defend the bedroom (and the office just beyond it) with all means.  Only Lucio (of course) and Abby (our old Abyssinian – the “little princess”) were allowed in.

I think the first time I perceived a problem was when I came home from elsewhere one day and found that, to all appearances, a cat had exploded in my office – there were clumps of hair everywhere.

Most of it was white.  Leaving the office for the kitchen, I noticed that Nod was a tad ratty looking – pieces missing here & there.  It wasn’t hard to figure out what had happened.  There were two subsequent occasions on which I had to separate Hope and Nod.  

Thereafter you, Hope, and Abby (and occasionally Lucio, when not patrolling the house) slept with us.  When eventually Abby, Lucio and (much to soon) Hope passed away, we erected a gate across the passage from the kitchen to my office.  You now had your own domain (with occasional intrusions).

Now we’re both old.  You’re my best buddy, and I’ll treasure however much time we have left together.  I often wish we knew where you came from, and what your first couple of years were like.  You can’t tell us, of course.  What we can say with certainty, though, is it’s been good to know you.  You have always been a very, very good boy.

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