Over the years, several cats decided to be ours for a while before moving on. When we had one dropping by to be fed, we always bought cat food and fed on a regular schedule. A couple of our guests let us pet them from time to time. One was willing to come into the house and one was great friends with our dog—and then there was the other one, the one I will never forget.
Born wild, this cat would eat our food—even come when called—but we were never able to touch him. That he would not permit. A beautiful tiger cat, he came every day for a long time, easily two years or longer. My husband enjoyed the routine of calling him every morning to breakfast and the challenge of trying repeatedly to actually pet him.
It was from that grouchy old tom that I learned a really valuable lesson. It was a lesson that is simple but profound. You don’t love a cat—or even a human—because it loves you. When you take care of something you learn to love it. We loved that miserable old cat, fed it and worried about it even though it never showed us a shred of affection. When he was hit by a car as he was crossing the road, we were both devastated.
That was many years ago, but in my mind’s eye I still see that cat running across the road, so free and wild that even getting killed didn’t stop him. In the vision I see in my mind, his spirit kept right on running, I believe he may be somewhere out there still, running across the fields, chasing little ghost mice and showing up on our porch to eat the meals that are now there only in memory.
He was not an engaging animal, but he was memorable; and he taught me something about love.