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The Cat Who Came Back

Julie, Kansas, USA
August 2002

Some might say animals don't have souls and are incapable of emotions. They are so terribly wrong. Animals are fully capable of loving people who are good to them, and can show that love in unexpected, impossible ways. My story is proof of that fact.

I love cats. My son always tells me that cats somehow know I will help them when they are sick or hurt. And in a way, maybe he is right. Strays show up on my porch, seemingly knowing that I will feed them and clean them up before sending them on their way. I always have a little extra flea spray, wormer or antibiotic ointment on hand for whatever doctoring might need to be done for one of my furry friends. And sometimes a cat shows up that stays for awhile before moving on. This story is about such a Cat. He came into our lives as a stray, and stayed long enough to forever change our lives.

My son and I lived in a terribly run down apartment building for nearly 2 years. The apartment building was on the outskirts of a rural town and very near neighboring farms. People from a nearby large city liked to dump unwanted animals in the town, and the farms had a lot of barn cats and farm dogs. Our landlord detested animals. No pets were allowed and he was under suspicion in the disappearance of several neighborhood pets. I heard him brag once about poisoning and shooting stray cats and dogs. So,whenever a stray Cat showed up at our door, I fed them and treated any wounds they had, but they were never allowed in the house because of the landlord.

When we had lived there for about a year, a stray black cat started to visit our apartment. He only came around at night as if he knew he shouldn't be seen. My son told me that he had seen the cat before around an old abandoned house about 1/4 mile from the apartment building. We assumed he was another pet that had been dumped in the country by irresponsible owners. So we fed him, and on several occasions we cleaned up cat fight wounds and got burs out of his pretty sleek black fur. The cat would purr and rub up against our legs and beg to be petted. He was a lovely animal.

Usually we didn't allow ourselves to get too close to strays out of fear of the landlord hurting them, or evicting us. But we bent the rules for this cat. He was special. My son bought him a bright neon pink nylon collar with a bell on it. Using a bright blue permanent marker he wrote "Cat'' on the collar and put it on the black cat. He looked wonderful in his new collar, and the relationship seemed good for all of us. We had a cat to pat and he had food and nightly pats and cuddles, while still being free to cat around as he wished. And the landlord had no clue.

We figured "Cat'' was a good enough name for him - he didn't seem to want something more fancy. Just Cat was enough. Cat made his nightly visits for months, just like clockwork. When it got dark, he would scratch on our screen door or meow until we came out to pat him. If we were gone from home until late, he would wait on our porch until we came home, enjoy his petting and pampering and then go on his way.

A few months later, I decided to go back to college and we had to move from the apartment to live with a relative to cut expenses. My son didn't want to leave Cat and begged to take him with us. I had to be firm with him and say we couldn't take a cat to someone else's home. But every night when Cat came for his nightly visit, I could feel my firm resolve weakening.

Then one night Cat didn't show up for his nightly visit. We waited for him for awhile, and then went off to bed. No Cat the next night - or the next either.

The next evening we started moving our things out of the apartment and had most everything stowed in a moving truck. We were moving out the next day. My son and I were cooking dinner for the last time in our dingy apartment. The stove had never worked right, and I had to light the pilot light in the oven with a match to cook the pizza. We commented on how glad we would be when we lived somewhere that had a stove that actually worked. I put the pizza in the oven and went to sit down at the kitchen table to play cards with my son. The table, paper plates and plastic silverware was just about all that was left in the apartment. The rest was all packed in the truck already. We planned to eat, sleep on the livingroom floor in sleeping bags and leave the apartment early the next morning.

Just as I sat down at the table, I heard that familiar scratching at our screen door. "Cat!!'' My son and I both jumped up at the same time and went to the front door to greet our favorite fur face. We went out onto the porch to love him up. "We were worried about you!'' My son said, as Cat lovingly butted his head against his face. We sat down on the porch and were scratching the cat's ears when there was a bright flash from our kitchen and the gas oven exploded.

The fire department came and put out the fire and the gas company came and shut off the gas to our apartment. Looking at the old stove, the firemen commented that it had mostly likely been an accident waiting to happen. We were lucky to be alive. Our kitchen table was totally burnt. If we had been there playing cards when the stove blew up, we would have been seriously injured, if not killed immediately.

While the fire department was at the house, my son stood in a daze holding Cat and scratching his ears. Without Cat there, my son would have been scared out of his wits.

I made my decision right then and there. We had an old cat carrier from when we owned our own home and had pets. We had to give them away when we moved to the apartment, but I had kept the carrier stowed in our hall closet just in case we ever needed it again. It had been packed into the truck. I opened the back of the truck and took the carrier out.

"Put Cat in the cat carrier and we'll take him with us,'' I said, as my son smiled, excited at not having to leave his friend behind. The golden bell on Cat's bright pink collar jingled as he went into the carrier and my son clipped the door shut.

What had been left in the kitchen area of our apartment was ruined, and rest of our belongings were already in the truck so we decided to just leave that night. The cat carrier sat in the middle of the seat between my son and me. As I put the keys in the ignition, I looked over at Cat and put my finger through the carrier door to scratch his ears. I could hear him purr.

"Yep Cat, you're coming home with us. You saved our lives.'' I said to him, and then started the truck's engine. We waved goodbye to the apartment building as I pulled out of the driveway and up to the stop sign at the intersection with the highway.

Then I saw something that made my blood go cold. On the side of the road was a black cat that had been run over. I told my son to stay in the truck and I got out. The cat had been hit at least a couple days before as the body was already decaying. Around the dead cat's neck was a bright pink collar with a gold bell and Mikey's uneven "Cat'' in blue marker.

I was in shock. How could Cat be here dead on the side of the road, when we had him, pink collar and all, inside the truck in a cat carrier??

I don't even remember walking back to the truck. I opened my door and looked up into the cab.

The carrier was empty.

We firmly believe that Cat came back to save our lives, and then went on his way. One last nightly visit.

Julie, Kansas, USA
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