A Cat’s Tale

By Jeffery Cohen

A Cat's Tale

My father was an animal lover, and though we lived in the suburbs, that didn’t stop my dad from collecting quite a menagerie. We raised sweet singing golden canaries, a coop of cooing homing pigeons, a waddling duck, and even a raccoon that rode around on my brother’s shoulder after my brother adopted him from an overcrowded petting zoo. A neighbor “gifted” us a rabbit that had gotten too big for his cage. Another handed over three chicks that had outgrown their Easter cuteness. We had dogs of every size, shape and breed. The one thing we didn’t have was a cat. In fact, we weren’t even allowed to bring the subject up.

When my folks were first married, they owned a cat. My father came home from work one day and startled the kitty, which happened to be clawing her way up the living room curtains. The cat leaped at my father, leaving bloody scratch marks down his cheek. The cat was gone the next day, along with any notion of ever having another as a pet. So, cats were not a part of my life, until the day my eight year old found an abandoned kitten in a nearby field and brought it home.

“Can I keep it? Pleeeease,” he begged, stroking the tiny ball of fur.

I tried to warn my son of the perils of owning a cat, but I had to admit, the playful kitten seemed harmless enough, and not at all as dangerous as the dive bombing feline breed I’d grown up hearing about. He was a tabby with white paws, so we gave him the name Mittens.

We decided that Mittens would be an indoor cat, and then quickly learned it would not be our decision to make. Mittens had his own ideas. One morning, when the kitchen door was left ajar, he slipped out. I shook my head thinking we’d never see him again, but near dinner time, he showed up scratching and whining and waiting to be fed. From that day on, Mittens came and went as he pleased.

As he grew, he filled out, and began to look more like a jungle cat than the house variety. Daily, he prowled through our backyard, sizing up squirrels and birds or taking the occasional leap at a fluttering butterfly. Packs of screeching blue jays would gather on tree branches, planning their attack strategy while Mittens positioned himself in the high grass, waiting for their next assault. Down they would swoop and at just the right moment, he’d spring into the air, ready to do battle. Each day would end with him meeting me at the end of our driveway when I arrived home from work. He would look up, greet me with a twisting meow, then proudly escort me through the front door and head straight for his food dish.

There were evenings when Mittens was happy to stretch out on the living room rug or curl up on the couch next to my wife and me. I could spends hours just watching my furry best friend sleep. I’d never seen a man or beast look so relaxed. But there were those evenings when the call of the wild was greater than the comforts of home. He’d cry to be let out, and then disappear into the black of night. The next morning, he’d drag himself in, beat and battered after a night of carousing, ready for a good meal and a warm cozy spot to sleep.

One October night, he skulked off under the moonlight, but he did not return the next morning as was his usual routine. When a second day passed without a sign, I began to search the neighborhood. Block by block, I spent hours combing every possible corner as I called his name, but I turned up nothing. By day three, I widened my search. Following the railroad tracks that ran by the house, I rustled through bushes and poked into overgrown patches of weeds. Nothing. I came to the logical conclusion. Mittens was gone. I wanted to believe that some wealthy kid in a passing limousine had snatched him up, and driven off to a spacious house in the country where there were acres of open land, and Mittens would be treated like royalty. I imagined him being served warm milk and shredded chicken in sterling silver saucers for the rest of his days. That’s what I wanted to believe because I just couldn’t imagine any harm coming to my best friend.

“Someone must have found him and taken him in,” I explained to my wife as I tried to hide my heartbreak. “Maybe he’s with a nice family who has a bunch of kids. Maybe they even have other cats that he can play with.”

“Don’t give up hope,” my wife whispered, placing a consoling hand on my shoulder.”He’s a tough old Tom. I still think he’ll come home.”

I figured we all have our ways of dealing with grief and if my wife wanted to believe Mittens was one day going to return, I was willing to let her think so. I shrugged my shoulders and let it go.

Later that night, my wife went down to the basement to do some laundry.

“You’d better come down here,” she cried.

When I reached the bottom of the stairway, there was Mittens, curled up in an old shirt. His fur was muddy and matted. He was so weak he could barely lift his head, and there was a bad cut in his neck. We rushed him to the vet.

“He’s in pretty bad shape,” we were told. “If I have any chance of saving him, I’ve got to get right to it. You folks go home. I’ll do everything I can. I’ll call you when I know something.”

Ten days later the doctor was ready to release our now recovered pet.

“It was touch and go,” the doctor admitted.”He was scratching at death’s door. I’m guessing he was in a fight with another animal. The wound he received was pretty bad, and he lost a lot of blood, but he’s responded to the medication I gave him, and I think he’ll be just fine.”

When the vet carried him out, Mittens looked like a new cat — healthy, strong and hungry, as usual. I smiled as I ran my palm over his fur, and he nuzzled up to me. On the ride home, as I listened to Mittens’ contented purr, I couldn’t help but think.

They say that cats have nine lives. One down…eight to go!

About this writer

  • Jeffery Cohen Freelance writer and newspaper humor columnist, Jeffery Cohen, has written for Sasee, Lifetime and Read, Learn, Write. He’s won awards in Women-On-Writing Contest, Vocabula’s Well Written Contest, National League of American Pen Womens’ Competition, Southern California Genealogy Competition, and Writer’s Weekly writing contest.

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One Response to “A Cat’s Tale”

  1. Your story was delightful. Mittens owned you, not the other way around. Our old boy is an indoor cat but he can find many ways to get into trouble.

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