Cats have many lives, but not quite in lore of old

I moved into town several years ago after living in rural areas for quite some time. While my two feline friends had access to the great outdoors living in the country, I made the decision to keep them safe inside once I relocated to the city. The neighbor I shared my backyard fence with at the time had two large outdoor cats, a very dominant orange male and a quieter female.

“Orangey,” as I cleverly named him, was an instigator who loved to agitate my indoor cats. He would come up to my front glass door, hissing and squalling, followed by pawing and slamming his body into the door. He would yowl at night and frequently use my garden as camouflage to capture wild birds. I was frustrated with the animal and his owners but resigned myself to the fact that this was a condition of living in close proximity to others.

Needless to say, I was pleased when the neighbors moved out of the house earlier this year, taking their cats with them. However, my peaceful backyard soon became noisy again as the new tenants arrived, bringing kids, a dog and a large white cat. “Whitey” would venture over the fence on occasion to inspect my backyard but typically stayed away.

That was until my little friend Bennie showed up on my porch this past spring.

Bennie is a young cat who wiggled his way into my heart even though I had decided I’d take in no more cats prior to his arrival. (I’m such a pushover for a cute, homeless kitten.) When I began feeding Bennie on the back porch, I would catch glimpses of Whitey in my yard as he came over to help himself to the cat food. At first, he would scramble away as I tried shooing him home, but then he became increasingly brazen as time went on.

And then he began picking on Bennie. The big albino fur ball would chase the young cat away, not only from the food bowl, but my yard as well. Bennie became fearful of Whitey, often cowering under the blanket on a porch chair or jumping up on the roof to elude his aggressor. The situation escalated in the past couple of weeks when Whitey’s owners moved out of the house and left the cat to fend for himself.

For some strange reason, I seem to attract cats. I guess they intuitively know I am a pushover, that I will not let an animal go hungry or thirsty. I do not know why, but I seem to beckon felines that need my help on their journey. Whether I liked it or not, I knew I was entrusted to care for Whitey until I figured out an alternative plan.

Since his family left, Whitey has pretty much taken up residence in my front yard. His constant presence on the porch chair is unnerving for not only Bennie, but my house cats as well. When I first saw Whitey from a distance, I surmised he was an adult cat, still lithe enough to carry a bird in its mouth. However, when I eventually saw him up close, his demeanor portrayed an old man.

It is often hard to determine a cat’s age from observation because many felines age gracefully without physical features such as gray hair. In the case of Whitey, though, I surmise he is probably in his golden years by his facial attributes, especially around the eyes. He has a demanding, loud yowl — not a meow — when he wants your attention, as he rubs his thickcoated body on any nearby leg.

While I am irritated with the beast because of his aggression toward Bennie, I also feel remorse as I sense his loneliness and anxiety over losing his family. It is perplexing to me, again, as to why people abandon their pets. Apparently, I do not share the same sentiment as others in caring for an animal for its entire life. I understand that people’s lives change, however, I will never comprehend abandoning a family pet to fend for itself.

If Whitey had been nice to Bennie, I imagine I could have cared for the lonely soul, but he continued to harass him. Fortunately, a friend of my daughter’s stopped by recently and, after hearing his story and spending some time with Whitey, decided to take him home. He is settling in nicely in his new home, adjusting to a different lifestyle and family. As for Bennie, he finally came off the roof and is getting back to normal, glad to have his favorite chair to sit in once again.

■ Charlé Thibodeau has been a passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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