Orange Fades To Black: A Cat Story

Posted: March 19, 2017 in Real Life
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I haven’t talked about my cat much recently. I knew when the time was right, I’d tell the story. Now feels like the right time to talk about how he went missing 4 months ago. But first, let’s start at the beginning.

Prior to my birthday, I began thinking about getting a pet. Dog or cat, dog or cat? I weighed the pros and cons in my mind. A dog would be great because I could take him out with me when I go to grab a beer with friends. I could walk him, and I’d get exercise as a result. On the other hand, there would be all of the potty training, etc. I also couldn’t leave him alone for very long since I don’t have a backyard to leave him outside while I’m gone. With a cat, I couldn’t really take him anywhere or get exercise walking him; however, I could leave him unattended pretty easy.

I decided a cat would be the most practical choice, so I planned to go to the Humane Society to adopt one as a birthday present for myself. On October 10th, I did just that, and Durden became my new roommate. He was very shy at first, but eventually he came around. He seemed to enjoy hanging out on the couch with me in the evenings while I watched TV, so if I was out for the evening, I tried to spend some time on the couch before I went to bed. I work from home, and when he felt too ignored, he’d visit me at my desk and be sure to lay right in the way.

The first time he got out was kind of funny. I was bringing in groceries, and he used the opportunity to dart out the door. He didn’t go very far into the outer hallway. He walked maybe 6 feet, looped back around, did it once more, then came back inside. The second time wasn’t as humorous. He decided he was ready to explore the apartment complex, so when I left the door open too long this time, it resulted in about an hour of me following him around before I was able to grab him.

Most nights he would decide that right when I was ready to go to bed was the perfect time to meow at the window or the patio door as if he was dying to go outside and check out what was out there. I started keeping a water gun on my nightstand, so when he would start making a lot of noise by the window, I could squirt him. That helped some but didn’t remedy the situation completely.

Then I decided to get a harness. I thought how great it would be if I could satisfy his curiosity about being outside and get that out of his system. If it worked, this would also allow me to get some exercise. It was also encouraging to see an Instagram account where another cat owner was doing this with his cat. Wednesday, November 16th was the night I tried the harness on Durden. I remember the date because that’s the last time I saw Durden. After following him around the apartment complex for a few hours and unsuccessfully grabbing him, he eventually went into the woods behind the complex where I couldn’t follow since the underbrush was too thick. Putting up flyers yielded some calls and texts of alleged sightings, but as I walked around to investigate, I usually found imposter orange cats.

As I walked around the apartment complex, I began to learn just how many stray cats were here. A few of them could be found frequently in the same area, and a couple were even friendly.  One of the friendly cats had just one eye, which was sad since the injured eye was still open. This cat was friendly, too. He’d let me pet him, and I’d see him frequently when I walked around the other side of the apartment complex. One day as I’m walking around, I encountered the tenants of the apartment where I usually saw him eating. I asked if he was theirs, and they said he wasn’t. They just left out food for him since he was always around, but they didn’t know if he belong to anyone. As much as I felt sorry for him, I had no plans to pick him up and walk him all the way back to my apartment to take care of him, especially since I was hoping my own cat would come back.

In addition to posting flyers and walking around, I left food and water out on my lanai, and I left the screen door cracked enough so Durden could get in. I was hoping he’d come back on his own. Even though he didn’t, I got to witness other nearby cats appreciate the food. It was pretty consistent, though. The same two or three cats would come on the lanai to eat, and I’d never see any of the cats I encountered on the other side of the complex.

On the evening of Wednesday, January 18th, something changed. For the first time, I saw a grey tabby on the lanai. After a closer look, I noticed it only had one eye. It was my friend from across the way. I opened the glass door, and he came right in, making himself at home. I left the door open for a little bit to see if he would leave, but he was pretty comfortable staying. I closed the door and decided to take him to the vet the next morning, hoping to get his eye fixed. That night, he seemed pretty happy to be inside. He even slept on my bed. I began to wonder if this was the friendliest stray cat ever or if he had been someone’s and been abandoned.

The next day, I take him to the vet to get checked out. When they evaluate him, they discover that he’s neutered but not microchipped. Except for the eye, he’s in good health. Unfortunately, the eye issue had to be addressed by a specialist, but I’m more than willing to handle that, especially if I get to keep him. Shortly after I get a call from the vet with this info and letting me know I can pick him up after work, I get a knock on the door. Some lady has lost her cat, and my neighbor wonders if I might have seen him while I was out looking for mine. She hasn’t seen him in about 5 days… and he only has one eye.

I give her the story of how I first encountered him and what led me to taking him to the vet, probably too much info, but I didn’t want her to think I just stole her cat. Thankfully, she provides the backstory also. Apparently, he’s been in their family for about 12 years. His name is Striper, and he’s an indoor/outdoor cat. She says she took him to the vet years ago, and the vet advised that he was stressed about being kept inside. Ever since, she’s let him have his freedom. She says he usually comes around when they pull up to the apartment. She also mentions that they took him to the vet about the eye, but the vet told her it’s fine as long as it’s not bothering him, which is the same thing the vet told me.

I forget if it was one or two nights later, but guess who was back on my lanai waiting for me to let him in? I really expected that after putting him in a carrier, taking him to a strange place to get poked and messed with, and his owner picking him up, that I probably wouldn’t see him again. I figured he’d associate my apartment with that experience. But here he was. I opened the door, and he came right in. This has become a routine now for the past two months. He’ll come in to eat and chill out, then he’ll ask to go outside. He’s only spent the night once or twice more, though. Usually after he leaves in the evening, I won’t see him till the next day. And I haven’t heard from his owner either, so I assume he’s going over there to check in regularly. I keep expecting a knock on the door from her.

Although he’s been a regular visitor for the past two months, I was curious to see if he would still come around after not seeing me for five days while I was out of town. It didn’t take long for that mystery to be solved. Shortly after I got home I opened the sliding door since it was cool out. A few minutes later, my little visitor is in the kitchen asking me to feed him.

How does that make you feel?

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