Burton Rustle

Mama Sled loaned out her trap again, this time to someone with a raccoon problem. Raccoons are endemic in these parts — where are they not?? — and a couple living nearby, who periodically bring me their busted body parts, have been suspecting one of riling up their dogs around two in the morning. I told them to get a cat when their last dog died, but no, they had to go get two retriever puppies, some people are gluttons for punishment. Anyhow I told them to keep the trap as long as it took to get Herr Waschbar.

This morning they sent me a photo of the trap and captive.

I came down to have a look. He was fatter and glossier than you can tell from the photo, occasionally rattling the trap and meowing in a musical, appealing voice.

I sized him up as someone who would go territorially head-to-head with my Nickel Catmium, and moreover as a cat who probably has a home nearby, even if his people are dunces enough to let him out at night; longtime strays and ferals look more pinched, ragged and pocked about the face. Mrs. Retriever circulated his photo on the local neighborhood e-mail list, and I brought a towel soaked in Feliway to mellow him out so he could await a response for a few hours without getting PTSD.

I found myself thinking of him as Burton Rustle, the plumpest of the actual cats who modeled for the cartoonist Kliban. He had the same long, smugly aquiline profile and convex habit of body. I doubted he was the agent of chaos that was rousing the dogs; cats hunt at dawn and dusk, but raccoons will raid your bins right through the dark night of the soul, and sell what they find out about you to the papers, like as not.

Around five, no owner coming forward, they let him go, list-serve exhortations to contact the local shelter notwithstanding. Even if he didn’t have a home, I know that shelter and they come up with some of the goddamndest excuses for not adopting out cats. “He showed aggressive behavior while I was removing him [from a cage in a freezing cold back yard].” “They are feral kittens and can’t be domesticated.” Burton Rustle looks like he is doing fine on his own.

Maybe he could even learn to like Golden Retrievers. Someone has to knock some sense into these people.

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