One morning as I was sitting on my front porch, my neighbor, Trish, walked over and said, “Your cat’s a murderer.”
“Why?” I asked.
Our cat, Fish
“I used to watch her sit on the sidewalk under that tree,” she said, pointing to a small tree across the street. “It had a cardinal’s nest in it.”
I noticed the word, “had.”
“Fish would sit under it every day watching them, and I thought, ‘Don’t you dare.’ Well, yesterday, I was sitting on my porch, and all of a sudden I heard this screeching and flapping, and I saw this gray blur run across the street with something in its mouth and run into Shelley’s yard. It was Fish. She must have taken a baby cardinal,” Trish said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Well, David walked over there and didn’t see anything, but Fish was lying on top of something. He couldn’t see what it was. Well, after that, the mother bird was just flying back and forth, shrieking. Back and forth. She wouldn’t stop shrieking. It was so sad,” Trish said.
I felt bad about the bird, but I felt worse knowing my neighbors would hold this against my cat. Nobody likes a bully. In fact the more I thought about it, the more I wondered whether Fish actually did kill the baby bird. Maybe the bird was already dead, and it was on the ground, and that’s when Fish grabbed it. It’s not as if she could have flown up to the nest and taken one out. And Trish’s husband, David, didn’t actually see the baby bird in Fish’s mouth. Maybe it was something else. The evidence seemed pretty circumstantial. It reminded me of that old riddle: there’s a room with broken glass on the floor, a puddle of water, and an open window. What happened in there?
People were already predisposed to thinking badly of our cat, ever since the mail woman, Sheila, claimed Fish attacked her. But Sheila’s had problems with other people’s pets as well. Our friend’s dog once bit her, and he said his dog never bit anyone. Maybe the problem is not the cat but the mail woman. But fiction spreads faster than fact in a small town like ours, and our cat has become something of a pariah.
Fish didn’t always spend her days outside. She used to be an indoor cat, until about seven months ago when she escaped and spent a couple of days out on the street. Since then, she comes and goes as she pleases, though we bring her in at night, to keep her safe and make sure she knows she still has a home in our house and that we are her family.
Fish the Predator
I like that she’s outside all day, running from one end of our block to the other. She expends a lot of energy, making her more docile when she’s inside. When she was just an indoor cat, she would run up and down the stairs like a feral animal, racing from the windows in the front of our house to the windows in the back as she chased cats and squirrels outside. It was unnerving.
But worse, when we had company, someone would always leave scratched or bitten. The problem was, she was like a siren. People would be drawn in by her beauty and her soft, fluffy, gray hair, and they would begin to pet her head or scratch her belly, and then just when Fish seemed to relax and enjoy the attention, she would suddenly swat or bite the person petting her. It was not uncommon for visitors to leave our house with a band aid and a bad feeling about our cat.
Thankfully, our neighbors are a forgiving bunch. When Fish was hit by a bicycle the other day, they were very concerned about her well being.
“I heard your cat almost hurt a guy on a bike as she was trying to kill herself,” said our neighbor, Lois.
“I didn’t chase her into the street. I swear,” said Trish.
When I was pregnant, we wondered what we were going to do about Fish’s wild ways once we brought the baby home. We considered having her claws removed, but the procedure is apparently so painful, our vet was reluctant to do it. I also feared what would happen if she got out of the house and had no claws to defend herself.
The day we arrived home from the hospital with our new baby, Bruce walked in the door and put the baby in his car seat down on the floor. Fish hadn’t seen us in a few days and came running over, and as she neared the car seat, Bruce kicked her and sent her flying.
“Leave her alone!” I shrieked.
I tried to grab her, but she ran off and hid. I stormed into the kitchen, kicked the garbage pail that was under the sink and then turned around and walked out of the house sobbing. Having just given birth, my hormones were raging, but up until then, Fish was like a child to us. I could feel the depth of the pain she must have felt being cast aside as I imagine I had been when my parents brought home my younger brother.
My First Born
It’s probably worked out for the best, but I feel badly about Fish. She used to sleep in our room every night. In fact a night or two before I had the baby, she slept on the bed next to me, with me sleeping on my side and Fish sleeping on her side in front of me, her body backed up against mine in the shape of a “C.” I put my arm around her and felt her soft fur on my skin. Since we brought the baby home, Fish spends most nights on the bed in the guest room.
She’s gone from being the center of our attention, like a child, to being just a household pet. She’s overlooked, underappreciated, and often gets yelled at now because she seems self-centered and completely unaware of anyone else’s needs, meowing loudly in the morning to be let out when we’re clearly doing something like changing the baby or getting dressed. Or she’ll walk in front of my feet and nearly trip me as I’m walking down the stairs with the baby in my arms. She once came into our bedroom at about 4 a.m. and knocked over the bottle of water I keep on my nightstand. The water poured out onto the floor, and I jumped out of bed to grab some tissues to sop it up, nearly tripping over the curtains that were now soaking wet.
“Fish!” I screamed, and she ran out of the room.
One night, I felt so bad about neglecting her that I took some slices of roast beef we had in the refrigerator, tore them into little strips and left them for her on a paper towel on the living room couch. She walked over to them and sniffed them and began to nibble. She seemed to like them, but when I looked over at the couch about an hour later, I saw little bits of meat all over the couch cushions, uneaten, as if to say, “Too little, too late, pal. You can keep your roast beef.”
Yesterday afternoon I was sitting on our porch when our neighbor, Lee, came over.
“You should probably put a bell on your cat. She’s killed a couple of birds,” he said.
“She killed one by my house and one by Trish’s, and a few days ago, I saw she had a sparrow, right here,” he said, pointing to my front garden.
“You sure it was a bird? Maybe it was –”
“Oh, I’m sure,” Lee said. “She had it on the sidewalk and then she put it in the garden and ate it.”
“Ate it?” I asked.
“Yep,” Lee said.
There are a lot of cats in our neighborhood, and I don’t hear about any of them killing birds or chasing mail men. I don’t know why ours turned out so evil, but I’m sure neglect didn’t help.
A couple of nights ago, our next door neighbor, Sandy, knocked on our door around 10 p.m. and said, “Can you get Fish out of my bedroom?”
Fish at Rest
Sandy acquired her father’s black cat a few months ago, and she leaves her front door open so that the cat can come and go. When Sandy went into her bedroom, her cat was comfortably lying on the bed, and our cat, Fish, was lying on the window sill.
“I tried to get Fish to leave, but she wouldn’t, so I sprayed her with a water bottle. I’m sorry,” Sandy said.
“That’s all right,” I said. “Better that than mace.”
Bruce went over to Sandy’s to get our cat and bring her home.
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