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by Judith A. Stock

Cat in the Sun, by Ragen Mendenhall
Cat in the Sun
by Ragen Mendenhall

That November day, the gray cat looked as bleak as the overcast sky from my kitchen window. Snow seemed imminent on the landscape, and I had to remind myself it WAS Southern California, after all. Two hours later, that darn gray cat was still there, still crouched by the step, as I cooked dinner. Like a magnet, my thoughts invariably returned to the gray cat. Was he hungry? Was he waiting for food? Peg and Fritz jumped on the kitchen counter to give me their gentle hint about dinnertime. I took a can of ocean-whitefish-in-gravy from the pantry shelf, and spooned out the contents into two separate dishes. If you know cats, you know they don't share.

Another fact of cat-dom, if you feed homeless cat, homeless cat is no longer homeless. End of story. But I couldn't help myself. With a fair amount of resignation, I opened another can of cat food and plunked it into another bowl. I couldn't let this cat starve. He looked like he hadn't eaten a decent meal in a week and I didn't have the heart to make him wait another minute.

I knew I was doomed to be the owner of another cat.

Gray cat on the steps. Feed gray cat. Gray cat never leaves. This routine went on for days, then weeks. Oh, sure, he left the steps to wander in the backyard. He chased the squirrels up the tree or over the brick wall at least 15 times a day. When this game no longer amused him, he chased the other cats from the yard, hissed and spit, and intimidated any animal foolhardy enough to wandered into HIS territory. I knew what he was doing and I know that he knew that I knew what he was doing. This gray cat felt confident about his rightful place on the steps, but I knew he wouldn't stop there. His actions were calculated to gain entry into the house, and into my life.

It happened a month after the gray cat had first appeared on my steps. The gray cat decided it was time. Time to give up the step sitting for the warmth and comfort of HIS house. He started with a soft meow or two. Then more insistent meows, which increased to plaintiff wails. As if his behavior hadn't escalated enough, he added standing on his hind legs, reaching for the doorknob with a paw, all the while meowing loudly. In that one month the gray cat had perfected the game of watching, watching and waiting for just the right moment.

Did the gray cat sense what he might be in for if he decided to come inside the house? I wasn't sure the gray cat knew a scruffy black schnauzer puppy named Ann lived here too along with the other two tabby cats. All my wondering to the contrary, it seemed to have no impact on the gray cat that other animals lived in the house. He continued to remain focused on his goal: get inside the house.

Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. I opened the kitchen door and invited the gray cat into the house. There was a look of amazement on his cat face, like he just couldn't believe it was finally true. Then he gingerly put two paws onto the kitchen linoleum, then all four paws. The gray cat looked confused and hunkered down like a pancake, hugging the floor; his eyes became quicksilver slits. He quickly scoped out the kitchen. I could only wonder if the cat thought his sudden invitation into the house somewhat anti-climatic, since he had spent many a day and night on the steps, and had planned his entrance so carefully.

Did the house meet his expectations? Would it be home? The gray cat looked deep in thought, pondering the very same questions. He had backed up to the door, as if poised to leap to safety. Maybe it was just precautionary, just in case something went wrong with his plan. He sat there and thought the whole thing over as the two house cats caught sight of that terrible interloper. They both started to hiss, with tails swishing back and forth, ears pinned back, ready for a cat fight. They looked like the kitty version of Custer's last stand, as they dug their claws into the carpet. Ann the dog had been escorted into the bathroom, and the door closed, as she had hardly been able to wait to terrorize the new cat. The last thing I was worried about was the dog. Experience told me cats had a special way of putting all dogs in their places.

After setting the stage for the main event, the two house cats, Ann, the dog, and the new gray cat did finally meet that day. Animal sounds filled the air in the small kitchen and spilled into the other rooms. Hours later, the animals settled down, and calm was restored. However, the two house cats quickly figured out this situation wasn't going to be temporary. Peg and Fritz were not happy about this turn of events. They could accept a dog but another cat? Never! So they moved outside to the porch steps and became outside cats.

Pete, that persistent interloper, does lots of purring these days and lives his kitty days knocking back dry cat food, downing flaked tuna from a bowl with his name on it, and sleeping on my desk in the study. He is very pleased with himself. Pete always knew what he wanted.


As a full-freelance writer, Judith Stock writes for both the web and print publications. In addition she produces newsletters for her business clients. She is the Fiction Editor for Moondance, a literary e-magazine and Contributing Editor for Suite 101 as the guide for art museums. Her work has appeared in publications as diverse as: Reader's Digest New Choices, Santa Clarita Valley Living Magazine and Tufts University Catnip Newsletter. You can find her work on the web regularly on sites ranging from business to fashion, art and museums, travel, gardening, genealogy, parenting, pets and humor. In college she majored in Art History and English. Her writing experience includes poetry, nonfiction, personal essays, and interviews. A native of Birmingham, Michigan, she currently lives in the San Fernando Valley, near Los Angeles, California with her raggedy Ann dog, the Pete cat and two koi, Nick and Dinah.


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