Life in Missoula, Montana.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. I walked through the back door of my house, into my kitchen (back then I sometimes left the back door open), and found a cat standing in the middle of the room.
“Oh. Hi,” I said, surprised.
He gave me a look that asked, “Should I run for the door?” He was a beautiful tuxedo cat with long, graceful whiskers.
“If you don’t pee on anything you can hang out here,” I said.
The cat turned and walked into the living room. He looked under furniture and sniffed around, going room to room. I suppose he was checking to make sure there were no other pets. Soon he was satisfied that the coast was clear and hopped up onto the futon in my office.
At first, the cat came and went. He would show up, take a nap on the futon, then wander out. I didn’t know where he lived or who owned him. I thought my house was just a quiet, safe place to crash for a while. I didn’t know his name or even if the cat was male or female. I guessed (incorrectly) that the cat was a male. I referred to him as “little guy”.
One night the cat was sleeping on the futon and it started to get late. I watched the clock, wondering what to do.
“Hey, little guy, It’s almost ten o’clock. That means I’ve got to close the doors and lock up for the night. You can stay if you want, but once I lock the doors, you’re in for the night.”
He gave me a sleepy look, one eye half open, then he let his head sink back onto the futon. He had decided to stay and after that night, he slept over once in a while. I started to wonder where he lived, who owned him. One morning I went out into my garden and he came walking out of the bushes. He had slept in my back yard.
I assumed he belonged to someone else, so I hadn’t been feeding him; I didn’t want to steal him away from his owners. Now I wondered. I began to leave out a little food. He still came and went, sometimes sleeping in the house, sometimes curling up in the bushes outside, sometimes disappearing for a few days at a time.
I was gone for a week, working as support staff on a bicycle trip when I started to miss my little guy. What if no one was taking care of him? What if he decided I’d left for good and stopped coming around? I didn’t want to lose my new little friend, so I called my brother from the road and told him to get some tuna and leave it out for the kitty.
When I got home, the cat was sitting on my porch, waiting for me. He ran up and rubbed against my legs. He was as glad to see me as I was to see him. After that, he started to sleep inside most every night, though once in a while he would sleep out in the yard. I made the commitment of actually buying cat food. I had a cat.
The cat made concessions, too. I told him I wanted him inside at ten o’clock at night and he abided by that pretty well. I could always go out at ten and whistle and he’d come inside (though sometimes reluctantly).
My neighbor was the one who told me she was female. By now I’d learned that this little cat was sweet and gentle and sometimes funny. She loved to sleep in sunbeams, and to take long naps in the backyard. At times, outdoors, she would take off running in a straight line and, if there was a fence or tree in her line of travel, she would go straight up. I named her Loco.
Ten years later, Loco is the best cat a person could ask for. She’s good-hearted, and calm. She follows the rules pretty well, if I can make them clear enough. Her favorite thing is to snuggle up next to me at bedtime: one of my favorite things, too. She has figured out that when I lie on the couch she can squeeze between me and the back of the couch and be in the coziest kitty place ever. Like many cats, much of what happens in my house revolves around her. In turn, she makes me smile every day.
Years ago I thought I didn’t need a pet, but Loco taught me that I did. She taught me to love her and care for her. She also taught me to be grateful for every day I get to spend with her. Some people might say I rescued a stray, but I see it differently. In my view, Loco was either homeless or in a bad living situation and she went looking for the right owner. She found me and knew I needed her as much as she needed me. There’s no question that Loco adopted me, and sometimes I feel that if anyone was rescued, it was me.
>>>>>>The above story was written for an anthology for a Chicken Soup for the Soul book about cats. Unfortunately, Loco passed away just a few weeks after I wrote this. I miss my little friend, but hopefully this will serve as a tribute to her.<<<<<<<<