“I have lived with several zen masters—all of them cats.”
When Adi and I returned to Mansfield after spending last summer and fall in Galveston we made a deal—at least I thought we made a deal; no cats in the house.
“I will move back to your family’s land, but I really don’t want any cats living with us,” I requested.
“Right! No problem. No cats,” Adi replied.
Me, being somewhat naïve, assumed that this was the end of that discussion. We moved back and within days I began noticing that a grey-haired cat that Adi’s dad calls “an old bag of bones” began appearing in the kitchen of our new home. I wasn’t exactly sure how this had happened, and I quickly began my campaign to get the cat out of the house.
“I thought we agreed about not having a cat in the house,” I protested.
“Yes, we did, but this is Remy. We have had Remy for 15 years and she has always lived on the land. Remy is trained to go potty outside. You’ll learn to love her,” was the response I got from Adi and our oldest son, Brennon (his name has been changed to protect his teenage reputation).
In a matter of days, Remy became a constant companion in the house. Not only did she begin living in the house, it wasn’t long before she reclaimed her status as the “Princess” of the house. Before I knew it, she began taking her position on my lap for her
sometimes hourly pettings. Everyone, when they meet Remy, falls in love with her. She is a lap cat of the highest caliber and she revels in being massaged and petted and is insatiable in her desire for affection. I resisted as much and for as long as I could before I finally relented and gave in to popular demand that the cat be given a home inside the house.
“Remy, how would you like to move in with us?” I asked her one day as she stared blankly back at me.
“The jokes on you, David. You’re the new tenant here, not Remy,” Adi informed me.
“She has lived on this land for 15 years and you just got here. Be thankful Remy is allowing you to stay.”
I couldn’t believe how quickly I learned my position in the pecking order of our new home. Remy was a certified tenant and I, tentatively, was on a probationary period to see how long that I got to stay. In a matter of weeks, Remy had made her way to sleep at the foot of the bed each night (eventually she abandoned this as she realized how much Adi and I move around at night) and I surrendered my authority to a cat. Remy was sweet and won my heart—reluctantly at first. She even used the dog door to go outside to use the restroom. No litter box, no cleaning, and really not much of an imposition. I learned over time that Remy had made me a part of her family and not the other way around.
Then came George. George is a tuxedo cat that looks like a cow—only he’s a cat. He’s plump and afraid of his own shadow, thus we call him scaredy-cat. If you place a plate of food in front of George, walk away for less than a minute to fill up his water bowl to place beside the food, he will nearly jump out of his skin entirely forgetting who you are. I think George has PTSD. I’m not sure what caused it but it seems that he has a story to tell if only he could talk. George has lived on the land for three years, but I was assured that he would never live inside with us.
“George stays close to my parent’s house,” Adi assured me. “He won’t even want to come over here.”
For about two months this was true. I would walk outside near George, and he would see me and run like hell to hide under the house. I would call to George, he would run and I would chuckle to myself. George was my kind of cat. He kept away from me. George isn’t feral, he just seemed to be more of a loner. We have a possum that lives on the land and George is friends with the possum. He even walks like the possum. They hung out together and formed an unusual friendship. It was cute and I loved that George had no interest in being inside our home.
That is until the great Texas snowstorm of February 2021. The weather started turning rough and Adi’s heart couldn’t take the thought of George braving the weather alone with the possum.
“We need to give George a home for a few days,” Adi said.
I protested. “We had a deal. No cats.”
“Just a few days, until the storm passes,” Adi insisted. “He will go back outside once the storm is over.”
Before I knew it, George had taken up residence in the house. He made himself very comfortable very early and I could tell that George had little intention of ever getting back out into the “wild.” The storm passed yet George decided to abandon his friend the possum and instead show up every morning on our back patio for his morning breakfast, and then lunch, mid-day snack and finally dinner. George wasn’t going anywhere and our agreement for a cat-free home had evolved into a two-cat home. I sensed I was losing the battle.
Around late winter, Adi and I began noticing an orange feral cat that began making an appearance in our backyard. We could tell that the cat was a female because she looked pregnant from afar. She would walk the perimeter of our large backyard but would never come close to the house or us for that matter. This was definitely the way I liked it. This felt like a minor small victory to me and my status as “head of household” felt a little bit firmer (I needed even the smallest of victories).
Adi decided we needed to at least offer the orange cat food on the back porch in order to sustain her newly forming brood. Each day, Adi would put both canned and dry food out
in a bowl for the orange cat to eat (I mistakenly named the cat Cheeto—don’t do this if you ever want to get rid of something). In the morning, Adi and I would check the food bowls and see that everything had been consumed by Cheeto and the possum (Adi has a soft spot for the possum too).
It wasn’t long before Cheeto began trusting us and slowly made her way towards the house until finally she trusted us so much that she would walk into our kitchen when we left the door open. After a month of this, she began letting us pet her (after first hissing at us when we bent down to do so). One day while Adi was petting her, she noticed that Cheeto had her babies. She could see dried milk on her nipples.
“Cheeto had her babies,” Adi said. “I wonder where she keeps them?”
“Hopefully in a land far, far away,” I responded.
Five nights ago, I discovered how off I was with my wish. Adi and I walked out into the garage (we keep the garage open so that the possum and Cheeto can eat late at night) and there was Cheeto with her five, yes, count them—five kittens in tow. Over the course of about two months, we earned Cheeto’s trust, and she brought her offspring to us to feed. She is still very protective of them, hissing at times when we first approach only to let her guard down when she sees we are feeding and nurturing them.
Adi and I were both amazed that this once wild cat was responding to our acts of kindness. We intentionally made sure our energy was loving and inviting to let Cheeto know that we are only here to help. Last night, Cheeto brought her kittens to us to be petted and loved on. She would do her mama call (a strange guttural meow) to let them know everything was safe. The kittens instantly approached us, and we spent the most magical night watching the kittens play as the rain poured down. Cheeto laid down in the garage and surveyed everything and looked entirely relaxed.
Something remarkable has happened in the last few months. When we first moved in, I made a request to have zero cats in the house—we now have eight cats (including the five kittens) on the property—only two are allowed inside. In relationship terms, some would say I lost the battle with Adi over the cats. I, however, believe this is called compromise while others may call it defeat. The truth is that all of these cats and kittens have opened my heart to the brilliance of this Universe. As Adi and I sat and watched the kittens play I said to her, “This is what life is all about. These small moments that show us so clearly how everything is connected. I find such joy in just watching nature unfold before my very eyes. By nurturing these cats, I nurtured myself.”
Adi and I know that we have to find these kittens a home. We have plans to take Cheeto to the vet to get her spayed to prevent more little kitties from entering the world without a home. In the meantime, if you live in North Texas and would like a new kitten, we would love to gift you with one of these precious little souls that clearly could help bring some love and healing into anyone’s life. They certainly did mine.