44: The Cat Who Adopted Me

44: The Cat Who Adopted Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat

The Cat Who Adopted Me

Fun fact: Domestic housecats use many vocalizations, including purring, hissing, growling/snarling, grunting, meowing, and trilling. Feral cats are generally silent.

I was carrying a carton into our new home when I noticed a huge cat with luxurious white fur watching us from the picture window in the house across the street. When my husband, Joe, and I went back for another armload of boxes from the rental van, I noticed that the cat was watching us intently.

As we grabbed the last boxes I looked across the street and saw that the cat was still watching us. For the next few days it seemed like every time I went outside the cat was in the window watching me. Joe just shrugged his shoulders. “Evidently that is its favorite spot to sit and watch everything that’s going on. You just happen to be in its line of vision, that’s all.” I accepted Joe’s theory and tried to ignore the cat.

The following Saturday morning Joe went to golf with some of his buddies. I was unpacking boxes in the kitchen when I heard someone knocking. I opened the door and met my neighbor, an elderly woman with hair as white and luxuriant as the cat across the street. She carried a pie, still warm from the oven, and from the heavenly aroma I knew it was apple. She thrust the pie toward me, her huge smile making lovely dimples pop out in her cheeks. She said, “My name is Mary Shumaker. I live across the street.”

As I invited her in, I realized the big white cat was with her. “Can Chloe come in?” she asked. “She has been watching your house ever since you moved in so I figured she wanted to meet you, too.”

As we shared coffee and pie, Chloe checked out the house. When her curiosity was finally satisfied, she settled down on the floor at my feet and looked up at me with lovely, huge green eyes. I laughed at the look of satisfaction on her face. “I guess everything meets her approval.”

Mary laughed, too. “Chloe is a strange but wonderful creature. She has a strong will and a determined mind.”

When Mary stood to go, she looked a little flustered as Chloe remained on the floor by my chair. “She always gets up to go when she sees me stand.” Mary said. She looked down at Chloe. “Come on Chloe, it’s time to go.” She took a few steps toward the door and looked back at Chloe, who had not even looked in her direction.

Mary snorted. “So now you’re deaf, are you?” She looked at me. “I told you she was different, but she’s never done this before.” Mary finally had to pick up Chloe and carry her home.

Chloe had a cat door, and whenever she saw me out in my yard she would appear at my feet, looking up at me with eyes full of adoration. After playing with Chloe for a few minutes I would call Mary and let her know that her cat was visiting me again. This went on for a few months. One morning, Mary said, “I have a cake in the oven that will be done any minute. If you don’t mind having Chloe hang around I’ll just let her come home when she is ready.”

I had some chores to do so I took Chloe inside with me. When I opened the door to let her go home, she gave a yawn, stretched mightily, and lay down on the rug in front of the fireplace for a nap. I had to pick her up and take her to Mary.

After that, Chloe never wanted to go back home. I was embarrassed for Mary, who obviously loved Chloe and cared for her very well. Over time it became obvious that Chloe was spending more time with Joe and me than she was at home.

One evening I went into the basement and found Joe in his workshop building a cat tower for Chloe. I laughed. “You’ve fallen in love with her too, I see.”

Joe grinned sheepishly. “We didn’t adopt her, she adopted us.”

The next time Mary came to visit I saw her looking at the cat tower with an odd expression on her face. I patted her hand. “Joe just wanted her to have something to entertain herself with when she is over here. We know she isn’t our cat.”

Mary dropped her head. “But she is,” she said softly.

“Oh, Mary…” I began, but she cut me off.

“It’s okay. I don’t know why Chloe prefers you over me but she obviously does. Maybe she likes being around young people or maybe…” She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter why. This is where she wants to be and I know that you and Joe love her too.”

Mary took a deep breath and took my hand. “I’m going to give Chloe to you. I feel mean making her come home when she makes it plain that she wants to be here.” Her lips were trembling but she had a determined look on her face. When I started to protest, she held up a hand and shook her head. “My mind is made up. I love Chloe and I know she loves me, too. But that doesn’t mean she can’t be happier somewhere else. I told you she has a mind of her own and she is determined to have her way. That is one of the things I love about her. She can always come back home whenever she wants to. But if you want her she can stay with you as long as she wants to.”

That is how I came to have a special cat named Chloe reside with me. I won’t say that I own her because she is a cat that can’t be owned. She might decide at some point that she wants to live with Mary again, or perhaps even with someone else. If that day ever comes I hope I will be as big hearted, kind, and understanding as Mary was when she let Chloe stay with me.

Mary still visits, and when she stands up to leave, Chloe will walk her to the door but that is as far as she will go. She looks up at Mary with wise, gentle eyes as if to say, “I love you still but this is where I belong.”

And she does… for now.

~Elizabeth Atwater

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