For the most part, I have dutifully restricted my cat ownership to a maximum of two at a time. Except for a time about twenty years ago, when I lived way downtown in Toronto. My house, in a “transitional” neighbourhood that stubbornly resisted transition, had a tiny backyard consisting of a deck surrounded by a six-foot fence. We would sit outside in Muskoka chairs after dinner, with a DIY fountain burbling away, not quite up to the task of drowning out the non-stop sirens from Dundas street. When September started to give up on pretending to be summer, a cat began to jump up on top of the fence to join our evening sit-down. It was a skinny orange tabby, a literal alley cat, that was clearly not afraid to dodge the hookers and drug dealers plying their trade just beyond our fencing fortress.
The thing about cats is they somehow know where other cats live. And if there are other cats, there must also be cat people. It did not take long before we started feeding the interloper outside, then brought him to the vet around the corner to be neutered and checked for disease, then brought him in the house to join the existing crew of Daisy and Lucy. We called him Ricky. We were extremely original.
Ricky lived a life of at least ten lives, including the time my neighbour asked us if we were missing a cat. The precipitously-slanted slate roofs of our street’s Victorian houses had a habit of regularly shedding snow in a spectacular avalanche, which landed on our front steps in a three-foot tall icy heap, and one day a dead cat turned up underneath. Not an orange tabby.
My current brood of cats (both orange tabbies) live a life of the kitty one-percent. Many places to lounge about, obliviously depositing great swaths of orange hair, and enough food that they see fit to turn their nose up at anything that’s languished in the dish for longer than a New York minute.
A few days ago (or probably more like a few weeks ago, somehow the days flow seamlessly into weeks lately, even though they all seem to last much more than twenty-four hours), I heard a cat meowing outside my front door. Not one of mine. Mine were both fast asleep, dreaming of caviar and small flightless birds. When I opened the door, I saw a scruffy, fluffy, blue-eyed beige cat scampering off. He (she?) showed up the next day and the day after that. At which point I caved and started putting food outside under the roof overhang for the under-privileged, possibly homeless, kitty. Food my princelings were leaving behind in their dish. Not mushy enough. Too mushy. Not fishy enough. Too fishy. Not fresh enough. Too fresh.
In the movies, this is how things would play out. Under-privileged kitty gratefully dines on the leftovers. Under-privileged kitty regains his (her?) strength. Under-privileged kitty endears his(her?) self to my bratty, spoiled kitties, becomes part of the family and adds his (her?) fur to the furniture. Wait, I never noticed that before. My cats put the “fur” in furniture. Do not even think about stealing that one. But I digress. Here is what’s actually happening. Under-privileged kitty still shows up semi-regularly. Except there’s rarely a lot to eat. Somehow, my asshole felines have decided food that’s been soundly rejected inside turns into an alfresco delight when transported outside.
I’m hoping others on my street who are equally as housebound will also rise the occasion. I dearly do not want to become a three-cat family. And, as they are clearly demonstrating, neither do Dennis and Henry.