The story below is an excerpt from our Jan./Feb. 2015 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, view our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app!
Full ownership involves playthings real and natural, and planting catnip.
Here in the Shenandoah valley of Virginia, no one buys a cat. Don’t have to. Out here, cats choose you.
Cats just appear. First, they start hanging around the edges of the property. Then they make themselves comfortable in the shed. Next, you notice them moseying across the front porch. By the time they’ve laid a dead mouse on your welcome mat, they’ve had their mail forwarded to your address.
The cat introduces himself with a gift of a rodent in rigor mortis and you praise him for it. You may even express your gratitude by putting out a few crumbs, a bit of milk, nothing really at all. You did nothing, except to the cat your small gesture is the same as if you had signed a 40-page contract in blood. He owns you now. He’ll appear at your kitchen door every day at the same time expecting a saucer of something yummy. You have just become the indentured servant of a feline and you poor slob, you never saw it coming.
My friend Emily had a cat appear on her front porch. She came home from work to find the scruffy calico stretched across her porch swing, soaking up the afternoon sun. Her dogs were all at the picture window, foaming with disbelief that a cat dared to trespass on their turf. The cat took no notice of their frenzied barking except to yawn and stretch a paw towards the dogs. If cats had middle fingers, one would have been lazily extended.
Emily did not acknowledge the cat. For days, she didn’t admit there was a cat there at all. She started referring to the intruder as Ga. Ga is not really a name so much as a wish. It stands for “Go Away.” The cat had other plans.