Monday, November 26, 2012

That ain't no house cat!

Toby has been gone for many years, now.   He lived with us for over fourteen years before kidney failure killed him. He showed up on our front porch asking for food.  My mother fed him, of course.

He was an enormous cat, not fat, just big. His head was even with my knee when he stood on all fours. A classic tabby, his fawn and black swirls reminded you of an ocelot.  I told my mother that such a beautiful animal must belong to somebody.  She responded, "Someone dumped him."  I think she was correct.

Even though we had dogs, Toby did not leave. He probably knew that for all their noise, they liked cats. The second day he appeared on the porch, I decided to take a closer look at him, so I could place an ad in the newspaper ( this was long before the internet).  He was neutered that was good, someone had cared about him.  He had enormous feet, but the front ones looked a little strange.  To my horror I discovered  that he had been declawed.  Neither Mother or I believed a cat should be declawed. We also believed a declawed cat should never be outside. (Toby would change our opinion on that.)  I looked him straight in the face and realized his head was lopsided. One side was much larger than the other. It only took me a moment to determine that Toby had a large lump on the side of his head just over his jaw joint. He did not protest as I felt it and that scared me. I thought cancer.

Off to my veterinarian this new cat and I went. When we arrived, I was asked for a name for my new cat. "Toby," I said without thinking, and Toby he was. The veterinarian examined the lump.  Toby never moved.

"He's a good cat. I think this is an abscess that needs to be drained," my veterinarian said.

Those words were great news.  An abscess could be treated.  

She took a scalpel out of a drawer and made an incision. Toby did not like that, and it took all my strength to keep him on the exam table.  He was big and strong.  He wanted to leave, but he did not bite.

The veterinarian's diagnosis was correct. Yellow pus flowed out of the incision in a torrent. Once drained and flushed,  she filled the hole with antibiotic ointment. I left with pills and ointment and instructions to bring him back if he did not improve.

He improved.  The wound healed without any complications and no visible scar.

I placed the ad in the paper and asked around the neighborhood, but no one claimed Toby. He became part of the family, unphased by four dogs and two other cats. We did not try to make him an indoor only cat because we had a doggy door that opened into a fenced yard. We hoped Toby would have sense enough to stay in that yard, and for the most part, he did. The yard was surrounded by a six foot chain link fence (tough neighborhood, bars in back and a flop house across the street in front). Toby loved to perch on a fence post and survey both the back yard and the adjacent alley.

One day, my mother was in the back yard trimming shrubbery. Toby had assumed his normal perch on the fence post where he could supervise. My mother was five feet two inches tall and slender. That meant there was a twenty pound cat with the markings of an ocelot teetering on a metal fence post about a foot above her head.  Mother paid no attention. Toby did this all the time.  If he lost his balance, he simply jumped to the ground.

Suddenly, she heard a man yell, "Ma'am, ma'am, look out for that wild cat."

Mother looked around.  She did not see the wild cat.  The only cat in sight was Toby, who had now decided to jump to the ground beside her.

"Ma'am," yelled the man who was sprinting down the street toward the fence, "Run."

At that moment, it dawned on Mother that the wild cat the man was so concerned about was Toby. As the man reached the fence, Mother reached down and petted Toby.

"He's no wild cat. Toby is a house cat."

The man had reached the fence and now simply stared at mother. "Are you sure?" he finally asked.

"Yes," said Mother. "He's a family pet."

The man shook his head, turned and walked away.

Mother heard him mutter as he left: "That ain't no house cat."

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