My house is rated* for three cats. At the moment, there are two: Mr. Ferguson, a charming lanky Irish bad boy who grew in the back garden a few summers ago, and Nickel Catmium, a Bengal who went slumming one night from her breeder-raised life with an idiot family and ended up wintering in the parking lot of my gym. Cats find me.
*The rating system for houses and cats depends on how many cats can be safely sequestered from one another, or from necessary and thoughtless intruders like plumbers, without risk of escape. My old house has three floors and wonderfully complicated internal divisions; I am always expecting to stumble headfirst into Narnia or Elidor.
Last December I had a fleeting glimpse of a small cat who resembled nothing so much as a gray cloud or a spectral emanation, seated — lightly, as if barely bending the grass — in a yard around the corner, closer to the main road than I like to see cats. I spoke, bowed politely (I always do to strange cats) and moved on.
Three blizzards and the start of spring later, I followed an intensely excited Mr. Ferguson to the window yesterday and saw Little Cloud Cat gazing raptly up from under the holly bush. Fergie got in a fight or two when he was outside, but likes girls, so I assumed we had a girl visitor; I crept around the house to put out a little water and food, which I regard as a courtesy, and shot a couple of photos from a distance. Cat ambled off.
Later in the afternoon I tackled the continuing job of disassembling slaughtered shrubbery that is still prostrate from the double blizzard, and hola, there on my back porch was the gray cat again, not the least bit shy — head-butting me like a boxer sparring with my shins, and exhibiting peekaboo glimpses of what looked like full tomcat tackle. Fergie was rapt, boy or girl, and not at all hostile. The conversation that followed went on for most of an hour.
I eventually had to take evasive action to keep Torvald from following me inside. OK, by the end of the hour I was calling him Torvald. OK, I put out an old cat carrier under the porch with used sheets to make him a little cabana.
He’s not very hungry, and very friendly, so he probably has a family, but I have a real moral dilemma when it comes to the testicles. There are feral colonies around here and the ladies don’t need any more babydaddies complicating their lives.
My engineer, a fellow cat lover who supervises a household of nine counting the outside guests, says it’s rude to get someone else’s cat neutered. He has a point. But Torvald was back at ten-thirty, chatting away.
Maybe he’s just a friendly stray, in which case neutering him would be a mitzvah. Torvald, not the engineer.