Frosty, the wandering vagabond cat

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By Michael LaRocca

For a long time, we had a four-pet home. Daisy the border collie mix and Bebe the dachshund/doberman mix. Witchie and Taz, the Siamese couple. Pumpkin wandered into this mess for a disruptive while. What was especially disruptive is that Taz and Pumpkin, two males, became best buddies. Then Pumpkin left us.

Weeks later, Taz was still depressed. No more running up and down the stairs and making weird noises at three in the morning. Always looking out the windows or at the doors as if Pumpkin would show up at any moment. Witchie was happy, damn her, but Taz was miserable.

Finally, we visited the Humane Society to bring home a new little buddy for my son Taz. Once again, things didn't quite work out as I'd planned.

A skinny white male with some black and brown highlights, one year old, told me with his eyes to stop looking at those other cats.

You know you want me. That's right, me. Over here, you idiot. I'm the cat you want.

Who was I to argue?

It seems that this fellow, Lucas, was adopted from the Humane Society at six weeks of age. A year later, his parents moved into an apartment that didn't allow pets, so he was back.

We changed his name to Frosty. Don't ask me why.

There were two things I didn't realize about Frosty. He was much larger than Taz, and he had never lived with any animals except humans.

He adapted to the dogs quickly. They tried to herd him like Pumpkin, but he simply stood his ground until they rushed past. Sometimes Bebe, being uncoordinated, crashed into him. This became the new ritual, the failed herding of Frosty.

Frosty first walked into my house knowing that he owned it. That was fine with Taz, but not with Witchie. Frosty was a bit taller than the Siamese, and as I fed him he quickly grew larger than they were. He also had youth on his side, since he was one and Witchie was at least seven. She didn't care. She had to teach him his place, and that was that.

The war of wills was fun to watch. He trained Lisa and me quickly enough, and the dogs, but Witchie was untrainable. So was Frosty, it turned out.

Witchie decided that Frosty wasn't allowed on the floor. Whenever he sprang down from a piece of furniture, she charged at him hissing and swatting until he ran for dear life and sprang onto something else. This went on for months.

I think Taz tried to play with him once, but Frosty wasn't interested. Also, given his size and his attitude, he was scary. Taz was torn in his loyalties again, upsetting Witchie. If looks could kill, Witchie would be the world's finest assassin.

In the year that I owned him, Frosty left me one mouse, but thats only because he didn't catch very many. When he hunted, he got fat. When he was fat, he was too slow to catch mice. When he lost enough weight, after failing to catch mice, his speed returned and he caught them again. Lacking Pumpkin's natural camouflage, he didn't catch very many to begin with.

Finally, Witchie accepted him as a King worthy of Her Majesty the Queen. They ruled their domain together, as reluctant equals. I'd have bet real money that such a thing was impossible. Young Taz, meanwhile, accepted his new role as Court Jester.

The rules at feeding time changed when Frosty arrived.

At a certain time of day, usually too dang early, Witchie demanded a can of food. Nobody can demand anything like a loud squawking Siamese, as their owners and neighbors can attest. I fed her and she ate her fill, which wasn't much. If the food didn't meet with her approval, she ate none at all. She resumed demanding food instead, even more insulted than before. What a terrible affront it is to her dignity to feed her inadequate food.

I eventually learned that cats don't eat what they can't smell. As they get older, their sense of smell fades. In other words, stinky food is best.

I always fed Witchie on the counter, for the very obvious reason that the dogs would steal her food otherwise. I also kept the litter box off the floor, because the dogs were obsessed with it as well.

When Witchie finished eating, Taz ate two bites. He preferred crunchy dog food, which was fine with the dogs, but he had to put in a little showing just on general principle. Then Daisy and Bebe fought for the leftovers.

I was able to determine who won those fights. If it was a plastic bowl, Bebe carried it away and ate the food. If it was ceramic, Daisy ate the food. Thus I could regulate their weights, and ensure that they alternated.

When Pumpkin arrived, he ate after Taz was done. He never emptied the bowl, having gorged on mice. Then Daisy and Bebe fought for the leftovers.

With Frosty, everything changed. Witchie still ate first, with Taz sitting guard duty and keeping Frosty away. Then Frosty ate next, at which point Daisy ran to the kitchen and waited. This was because Frosty pushed the bowl all over the counter. Daisy knew it would soon hit the floor, or at least make its way to the edge where she could steal it.

I didn't mind that Frosty didn't eat much, since he was fat. Taz didn't mind not getting any, because there was always a bowl of dog food. Bebe lost weight, which was good because overweight dachshunds wind up with broken backs. Daisy was getting fat, but eventually I worked that out too. It took me two years to do it, though.

When Lisa and I worked out the terms of our divorce, we quickly decided that I'd keep Daisy and Bebe, and she'd keep her horses and her Siamese cats.

Frosty, she decided, would have to go. She would be smuggling her two precious Siamese into a no-pets apartment, but Frosty wouldn't like it at all because he was an outdoorsman and a free spirit.

I was selling the house and moving into an apartment myself, leading to the same problem, but if she couldn't find Frosty a good home I'd find a way to keep him somehow. He deserved the best.

Lisa gave Frosty to Shannon, owner of the boarding stable where the horses were living. we thought he'd be much happier there than with me, since he'd grown so used to the company of other cats, so Frosty moved in with Shannon's barn cats. I figured he'd be ruling the roost before the day was over, and when I visited him a week later, he was.

About a week after that, I was typing at my computer when I heard a familiar noise out on the porch. It was a meow. I recognized the voice, as did Taz and the dogs. Witchie recognized it as well, and she scowled angrily.

Hed lost a bit of weight, yes, but Frosty had returned home. A mile or so down the road, and he'd simply decided he didn't like it there. I assumed I'd be keeping him after all, but he had other plans.

A few days later, one of Lisa's coworkers dropped in because we were selling furniture and such. Frosty, now fat again, decided he would go home with her. He rubbed all over her legs, purring loudly, looking up with lovesick eyes.

'Hes free if you want him,' said Lisa.

'Oh, he's beautiful, but I can't take him. I already have two cats.'

'Frosty won't mind. He lives with two now.'

'Oh, but these are males. They'd fight.'

'Frosty's big enough to take care of himself.'

'My cats are pretty big, too.'

This conversation lasted another two or three minutes, during which Frosty continued to woo and charm the lady as only he can. Heck, I didn't realize the old boy had it in him. But he was in love.

Come to think of it, I didn't choose him when I visited the Humane Society. He chose me.

Finally she picked him up. I suspect she already knew what a big mistake that was.

'Well, the other two stay outdoors,' she finally said. 'Maybe Frosty could be an indoor cat. Do you think he'd be okay indoors?'

'Oh yeah,' Lisa lied, 'He loves it indoors. He'd be great.'

This is the cat who, on his first day in the house, howled and clawed the inside of the door until I let him out. When he was ready to come inside, he leaped onto the window screen behind the TV and yelled. He usually found himself on the wrong side of the door about once every five minutes, as if he'd had a cat door at his previous home. He never stopped doing those things.

But I'm sure Frosty made his own rules, as always, and lived happily with his new love and her two cats. Really, I think Frosty is just one of those who likes to move to a new home every year.

But he has to choose his new home, you see. Shannon -- no. This woman -- yes.

By now he's probably tired of her and moved onto greener pastures yet again. Maybe one day, if you're very lucky, he'll come spend a year with you.

Like almost all my pet stories, this is an excerpt from AN AMERICAN REDNECK IN HONG KONG. http://freereads.topcities.com/rednecksample.html contains three free chapters.
Mad About Books ( http://freereads.topcities.com/archive.html ) is a free weekly newsletter to help you publish your writing. It'll also tell you about my experiences teaching in China.

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