A stray who stays

By Kris Ferrazza | Sep 03, 2020

“Don’t come in! I’m making a surprise,” my daughter called cheerily.

“Okay!” I said, happy to hear her mood lifted.

At 14, things can change in a hurry, and lately she’s been in a snit. She wants a cat, and any attempt to joke about it, like calling her a sour puss or accusing her of having a hissy fit, doesn’t help. When she sulks, we can’t reference Grumpy Cat, say “Cat got your tongue?” or suggest she’s in a “bad mewd.” She shoots us a look that makes us hope we have nine lives.

As the aroma of fresh muffins wafted from the kitchen, I knew there was something tasty in store. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad suspicious.

“Ta-da!” she finally trumpeted, standing in the doorway with a dish. It was filled with warm muffins adorned with chocolate chips and a charming paper banner. The festive bunting hung like a tiny clothesline between two wooden skewers. It read simply: “CAT PLZ!”

“Here we go again,” I said, and pilfered a muffin. “Is there catnip in these?”

Things escalated quickly. Why couldn’t we get a cat? We’d always had a cat. Didn’t I still like cats? Of course we all love cats. Then why don’t we have one?

We lost our sweet kitty to illness in February. Our house has never been without a cat in the entire 30 years my husband and I have been together. Certainly Elizabeth had never existed without a cat in her 14 years of life. Yet here we were, a full six months later, still cat-less.

So I choked down the treacherous muffin, took a deep breath and explained it all again. Yes, we all like cats. Yes, we will one day have a cat again. We are in the midst of a pandemic. We don’t need another single thing to complicate our lives at the moment.

She was listening, but still didn’t get it.

“I’ll pay for it!” she insisted. “I have money.”

It’s not about money, I assured her. It’s about extra responsibilities like cat litter and food, medications and vet visits. Nail clipping, ear cleaning, dead mice and hairballs. Scratched furniture and woodwork, litter boxes and grooming.

These are things on the cat to-do list that need to be added to busy schedules at a stressful time. I have no doubt a cat would be a happy addition to our home. What is more relaxing than a purring kitty in your lap? Nothing. Every single pet we’ve ever owned has brought immeasurable joy. (Okay, maybe not the donkeys, but they were another story.)

I wrapped up my speech with, “We will get a cat, I promise. But not right now. Go play with the dog.”

She wasn’t going down without a fight.

“What if a cat comes to us and needs a home?” she asked.

“Then we’ll take it in,” I said.

She brightened and returned to the kitchen with her muffins of manipulation.

All summer she has been pining for a replacement for her last cat. Not that he could ever be replaced.

Czar Nicholas was a stray Russian blue who lived around a neighbor’s house for years. When we heard about his situation and with winter setting in, we captured him. Actually, all we did was scoop him up and take him home. No capture required.

We wondered if he might escape and go back to the neighbor’s house, as it is just a short distance as the crow flies. But he never did. He settled into life in Harriman Hollow and never looked back.

Over the five or so years we had “the Czar,” he was like a brother to my daughter. An only child, Elizabeth has grown up with our dogs, cats, chickens and pony serving as surrogate siblings.

The Czar, like all of the cats and dogs that preceded him, was dressed in costumes, forced to sit through tea parties, and even used as a furry sofa for her Barbie dolls when the leggy blondes needed extra seating.

To be fair, she does love cats. As soon as she could walk, Elizabeth invited her kitties into her tree house, on the swings, down the slide and even into the pool. Sometimes they obliged. Sometimes they did not. She never forced them to do anything they didn’t want to do. They rewarded her with love beyond measure.

For whatever reason, the Czar was extra special, and she spoiled him rotten. At Christmas, she dressed him as Santa and herself as an elf. She taught him to ring a bell and give her high-fives. She built him a kitty condo out of a cardboard box and elaborately decorated the inside. She even made him a hand-sewn pillow and taped miniature family photos to the walls inside the box. I think he slept in it twice.

Yesterday morning, she joined me on the porch where I was having coffee.

“Last night I prayed a cat would come to me, and then I dreamed one did,” she said, still rubbing sleep from her eyes. “When is my cat going to come?”

It was too early for this. I took a sip of coffee to buy some time. Then something miraculous happened.

“There’s your cat right there,” I said, pointing behind her. “Go catch him.”

She whirled around and, sure enough, there was a gray and white cat under our pear trees. Elizabeth looked at me with eyes wide, mouth agape.

Go!” I said, laughing.

She took off running, and I laughed harder. Of course the cat ran and hid in the bushes. I told her it probably belongs to a neighbor.

“But it may be the cat from my prayers,” she said, still hopeful.

“You just never know,” I said.

And the beat goes on.

Kris Ferrazza is a former reporter, assistant editor, copy editor and columnist with the Courier newspapers. She lives in Waldoboro.

If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at knox.villagesoup.com/join.
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at knox.villagesoup.com/donate.
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.