27 January 2012

Black cat redux

Gradually and against my wishes otherwise, I have been constructing a home for the homeless black cat. After twenty-five years of caring for cats, I wanted to relinquish the responsibility of caring for animals, and even though the household, against my wishes, had adopted two new kittens, I declared emphatically that I would not be caring for them. Whoever wanted the cats wanted to care for them. I was finished.
But I was not that strong. Perhaps I have never been so. I like to think of what I refer to here as weakness as ethics. Daily and a bit distant from the cabin this homeless black cat appeared, sitting passively in the woods beyond my windows, sensing a human presence and yet fearing it. It was thin and scraggly, and on its neck was the wound of a recent fight. It looked hungry and sad. At the beginning and before the regular cold set in, I began to leave food out at night that I had taken from the house, and by morning the bowl had been emptied. Since I never saw sign of any other animal, I assumed that the cat had partaken. For the most part I didn’t see the animal so much as sense its presence; the cat stayed quite clear of me. I had placed the food bowls on the North side of the cabin and under the eaves, and as long as the cat walked close to the frame it could remain invisible. Only the empty bowl indicated its presence.
One night, however, it rained, and the bowl in which I had left the food filled with rainwater, and even the cat wouldn’t eat the soggy mess. And so, I took from in the house a long, low pine table and placed it under the cabin eaves and over the food bowls. But in the first snowfall the wind blew the heavy flakes into the bowls and again spoiled the food that I had that evening brought out for the cat. And so I moved the bowls and the covering table to the west side of the cabin where the wind did not blow so strong and where the sun shone for a good part of the afternoon. Of course, outside of the cabin door sat a useless low pine table changing the aestheticthere was nothing to place on it and it was too low to serve much goodbut I felt that now, at least, the cat’s food would be safe.
As the black cat learned that there would be regular meals, I began to see it more frequently. Sometimes it passed less carefully and rather casually beneath my window, and sometimes it even sat before the door looking in awaiting its meal. Still, if I moved toward it, the cat always ran away, but since I sensed that it might be hungry, I put out the food. Soon the black cat would return, partake of its meal and head out again on its travels. It undertook, I considered, a large circular route through the environs, because it seemed always to arrive at the cabin from the east and north after it had headed out for the west and south.
Always the food bowls were under the table and for the most part safe from precipitation. But the weather eventually did grow very cold, and on several nights the food in the bowls froze and became inedible. On those early frigid mornings, I brought the bowls into the cabin to thaw out the meal, and I even occasionally placed the bowl over my tea warmer (!) and cooked the cat’s meal, so to speak. Then I would return the bowls to their spot under the table, and the cat would eat from the bowls and head on its way.
Now the black cat began regularly to come around twice a day at least; and twice a day I fed it. I began making weekly trips to the supermarket for food that I stockpiled in my cabin.
It snowed (finally and considerably) this week, and on a sunny afternoon atop the table outside of my door sat the black cat wrapped in its tail, and though the snow was melting, the cat seemed to be sitting, albeit resting, in the snow. I assumed it was wet and cold even though it basked in the sun. And so, I went down into the basement of the house and found there a small round cushioned bed we had once purchased for another of our cats now deceased, and I placed this furniture on the table. I went back into the house to fix myself a glass of tea, and while the tea brewed, I looked out the window and saw the black cat comfortably resting in the bed with only its head and yellow eyes visible. I think it looked happy.
I wonder when it will ever decide it safe to enter the cabin.  I do not want a regular occupant, but I suppose I might welcome an occasional visitor.


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