The Universe dropped off a cat at my back door the other night.
Actually, it wasn't the Universe at all but a woman from the hair salon next to my house. She and others at the salon had seen the cat hanging around between our properties and assumed that it was mine.
In spite of my efforts to convince her that it was not my cat and I couldn't possibly take it in, I somehow found myself sitting in my kitchen holding this strange creature when my husband came home. It might have had something to do with the fact that every time I said, "Here Kitty," the cat came running to me. I can resist many things but cute is not one of them. Besides, not even my kids come running to me when I call them.
Let's be clear: I did not want a cat, I did not request a cat, and I had no idea what to do with a cat. I'm what you would call a dog person. I adore dogs and have owned and loved many wonderful canines throughout my life. My current companion, Bailey, is an overly exuberant labradoodle who remains convinced that every person she meets exists specifically to make friends with her. I often wish that I could be more like my dog: she has honestly never met a person that she didn't like.
Cats, unfortunately, are another story. Bailey doesn't like cats, not even one tiny bit, which makes the fact that there is now a cat living in my house all the more interesting.
My husband wanted to know what brand of mental illness would possess me to take in a stray cat knowing that we'd have to keep it separate from the dog.
We've been down this road before. Just recently, we had to care for my mother's cat for two months while her flood-damaged house was repaired following Hurricane Irene. The cat had to stay in my son's Matt room as it was the only room with a door that was large enough in our circa 1830 house to hold a kid, a cat, and a litterbox. More than once Bailey pushed past us as we tried to enter Matt's room, scaring the cat and threatening to shorten at least one of his nine lives.
Once again, I had to ask Matt to share his room with a cat. Although he initially rejected the idea, stating that he'd "done his time", he agreed to let the cat stay. Then it was off to Walmart for cat supplies. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the cat, but I knew that I at least had to feed him. As if to prove my point, the cat was so hungry that he climbed right into Bailey's raised dog dish and began eating dog food as fast as he could.
Since his arrival, I've called the local vets, shelters, friends, neighbors, and lost pet places that I could think of to see if anyone has reported this cat missing. I've placed ads online with his photo hoping that someone would recognize their long-lost pet. I've fed him, and fed him, and fed him some more. I've learned firsthand that what goes in one end most definitely comes out the other end. Cleaning the litter box multiple times a day has been added to my already overscheduled to-do list.
Our efforts have paid off. The cat has gained weight and I can no longer feel every rib and vertebrae on him. He's rested up from his outdoor adventure and likes to show his appreciation by pouncing on Matt while he's sleeping. Life is good with a warm home and a full belly and now he wants to play. A lot.
Although there's no way we can keep him, I figure he'll have a better shot at being adopted if I have him neutered, so that's where he's going. Merry Christmas, Kitty: you're about to lose some dangly bits but you'll gain a life free of unwanted reproduction.
When I called to set up an appointment to have him neutered, the woman who took my call at the vet's office asked what we've been calling him.
"Well, that's a funny story," I said. "My one son named him 'Frodo,' my other son named him 'Jose,' and I call him 'Kitty' because whenever I do, he comes running. Put it all together and you have 'FrodoJoseKitty,' which is what we've been calling him ."
"That's the best name ever!" she laughed. "I'm going to put it on his chart just like that."
And that is how he officially became known as FrodoJoseKitty.
So FrodoJoseKitty is almost ready for someone to adopt him. I don't know why I was given the challenge of caring for a homeless cat a week before Christmas or how his story will ultimately end. Maybe his arrival, rather than being a gift for me, means that I'm supposed to give a gift to him. Maybe it's my turn to play Santa to a cat left homeless through no fault of his own. After all, second chances shouldn't be reserved just for humans.