When I heard a cat yowling, I figured she was looking for a lover, but then it went on for too many nights, which made me wonder if the toms didn’t like her song. I really couldn’t blame them. Her pitch was off.
And then I saw her—a young calico walking along our dirt road. I knew all the neighborhood cats, and she wasn’t one of them.
Certainly, she had to be hungry and thirsty, and so I scrounged in the fridge for anything a cat might eat without harm, bringing it out onto the lawn along with a bowl of water. I did this for a week, always retreating into the house because, otherwise, she wouldn’t go near the food. When the week was up, I could remain outside as long as I stayed on the back steps.
One day, my husband took a bit of meat from the house, placed it in her bowl, then sat cross-legged next to it. She approached halfway and stopped, a hesitant paw held ready while she decided. He spoke softly, and she listened, eyes wide and ears forward. She took a step, then another and yet another until she was close enough to take the food. She backed up with it, and remained nearby while eating the morsel. She licked her lips, stared at him, and apparently being a very polite cat, she walked to him to give him a thank-you rub. She was silent the rest of the day, but when darkness came, she yowled.
I purchased cat food for her, each day placing the bowl a little closer to the house until it was on the back stoop. She enjoyed the food and was quiet during the day, but not in the evening. Why was she so noisy?
I took to sitting after sunset on the back steps, talking to her, and soon she was climbing the steps to sit near me while I shared my thoughts with her. It seemed to have a calming effect, and the yowling stopped.
I went outside much more often after that, and we quickly became best friends, sitting together or taking walks. Sometimes I’d lead her to places I thought she might not have seen, and sometimes she’d lead me, showing me the best places to find cat grass or chipmunks. We hunted each other or had races back up the hill and around the house. She always took on speed at the side of the house, and I’d turn the corner out of breath to find her sprawled by the back steps, winking at me as if to say, “What took you so long?”
One day I showed her the rubble and weeds behind the old shed next to the woods. I waited while she peeked beneath the shed, climbed the logs, sniffed where a rodent might have been, touched a paw to a discarded jar. She was engrossed, and I got bored, so I walked back to the dirt road,wondering how much longer she’d be.
It seemed forever since I’d heard that sound. The yowl that would make even a tom stick his paws over his ears. I called out, “I’m over here!” She blasted out from behind the shed, galloped back to me, and collided with my leg. I finally understood. She’d been a painfully lonely cat, and all along, she’d been yowling hello, waiting for someone to yowl hello back.
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The story of another stray you might enjoy is “The Cat Who Came for Christmas” by Cleveland Amory who describes his first sight of the stray this way: “For one thing, I could hardly see him at all. It was snowing, and he was standing at some distance from me in a New York City alley. For another thing, what I did see of him was extremely unprepossessing. He was thin, he was dirty, and he was hurt.”