I opened the front door and instinctively took a quick half step back and glanced down, keeping an eye out for a hungry cat dashing in for breakfast as I ventured out for the morning newspaper.
But no feline creature surged over the door step to tangle up my feet. Again, I realized that after 27 years of having one cat or two waiting for me at the front door, we no longer served a cat or two.
In the spring, courtesy of my daughter who loves cats, we had two cats. The oldest, Kramer, a 16-17 year-old tortoise shelled cat that she adopted as a kitten, loved our warm laps in the winter and shunned us for the heated cement driveway in the summer. She exiled the youngest, Pirate, to our house after the second time it stretched luxuriously and left a scratch on her baby’s face. “Nothing mean about what the cat was doing,” she assured me. “It was just being a cat.” But her littlest one did not yet understand giving a real live kitty a break from her loving. We inherited a cat, its cage, litter box and sack of food.
Our cat-in-residence sniffed, spat and turned her back on the interloper, barely tolerating his intrusion at meal times. She sulked off to a corner and watched him take over the family and the house. If he was in, she was out, if she was in, he was out. She did not care for the intruder.
My door duties increased to monitoring the cat exchange as they swapped places hissing and spitting as they swapped front porch and front room. They took turns demanding to be petted when my husband or I sat in the lounge chair.
And they took turns waiting by the front door in the morning for a game of “trip the lady of the house.” I usually more or less missed them, but one morning no cat greeted my husband when he went out to pick up the morning newspaper. He quickly found the body of our elderly cat in the yard. He could not find any obvious reason for the end of its time with us. He buried it in the back yard and petted Pirate a bit longer that day.
The hot summer days warmed the cement for Pirate, now our solitary feline. A feline missed by our three-year-old grandson and his little sister who could now stand up for herself quite well.
We made no plans to move Pirate back home. They had plenty to do and we had no plans to visit … until a late afternoon call sent us snatching up clothes, suitcases and plane tickets for a family emergency. Not knowing how long we would be gone, we told – we did not ask – my daughter that we would be also packing up the cat and all its trappings. That would be her contribution to helping out during the family emergency.
Pirate walked into his old home, sniffed, walked around to remap the house and settled in for the long haul. After being there two weeks, he proved as amicable as ever. By the time I returned home, he had settled in again with my daughter. She visited me a week later, without the cat, her kids or her husband.
We shopped, cooked and sewed together for several hours. Towards evening she commented, “It’s quiet in your house.” The sound of an empty nest devoid of even the presence of pets demanding to scamper inside for their 4 a.m. breakfast.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at email@example.com.)