Astonishing Moments with Emerald
Twice daily I feed about a dozen stray cats which hang around my immediate neighborhood. Some were left by neighbors who moved away, some ARE neighbor’s cats but aren’t being taken care of, some wandered into the neighborhood, and some were dumped in the neighborhood.
One such cat I named Emerald because he had gorgeous emerald eyes. He was male, but was the least aggressive male cat I had ever encountered. Indeed, he was timid to the extreme, and would only eat after all the other cats had eaten. In short order, I would watch to make sure that there was always enough food left for the dear boy.
I call all these cats the Front Porch Kitties.
This is because I also have Back Yard Kitties, and these are mine. My back yard is fenced, quite dramatically, with eight-foot-high walls of steel panels. This means the cats can’t climb the fence, so they are safe. They also have a heated winter cat house.
At some point years ago I found Emerald in the back yard. Well, it is easy to get into the yard, but near impossible to exit.
“Emerald! What are you doing back here?” I asked. He did not deign a reply. Having never touched him before, it took some enticing (wet cat food) to lure him to me, whereby I gently grabbed the scruff of his neck, and put him back into the front yard. I only did this however after putting on leather gloves and a leather winter coat, to protect myself from teeth and claws. I need not have worried. While he was NOT happy about being picked up, he did not, as was his usual form, exhibit any aggressive behavior. He just, it seemed, pouted.
A few days later he was again in the backyard. “Emerald!” Again, I placed him in the front yard. He pouted all the way.
A few days later he was again in the backyard. “Emerald!”
This went on for months. I finally gave up and Emerald the Front Porch Kitty became Emerald The Back Yard Kitty.
The years passed and this summer I belatedly realized that Emerald had gone completely blind at some point. Oh! And this realization instantly forced a change in my patterns. Instead of just putting food out twice daily, I had to assure that Emerald knew that food was out. Usually, he would amble slowly over to the deck, walking into walls and rocks and trees, but he would eventually make his way to the deck (which is but 6-inches higher than the ground). Once he found the food, I calmed. Ahhhh, all was well.
Sometimes, Emerald would get stuck in a cul-de-sac of impediments he could not escape from, and I would rescue him even though I now well knew that he did NOT like being picked up or touched.
Recently, he has dropped a lot of weight. Oh dear. And, frankly, he looks terrible. He did not four months ago. The cause might be that he could no longer eat the dry food I put out, as I noticed he seems hungry but had trouble eating.
With some effort, I managed to get him to the vet, who said the cat was very old, at least fourteen. Fourteen? Geez. I had no idea.
The vet wasn’t sure what was wrong with him, in addition to old age. I won’t go into the other obvious maladies afflicting poor Emerald, but it was clear that he had good reason to have trouble with dry food.
So, once again, my patterns changed. I started feeding Emerald wet food, and we have now developed a ritual.
I place a bowl of wet food just inside the back door. I open the door a bit. I call out to Emerald, while using my foot to nudge the other beasts away from the door. Emerald appears, and I call out to him. He ambles slowly inside, smells the food, and ambles over to it. While he eats, I feed the Back Yard Kitties (and goldfish) and Front Yard Kitties. I then do a few other things, and because I now have the timing down, when I return to the back door Emerald is finishing up. I then open the door and nudge him outside. Ahhhh, all is well.
Whenever it rains I instantly race to the deck (which is roofed) to see if Emerald is on it. If not, I burst out into the rain to find him. He is invariably stuck into another cul-de-sac, and soaking wet. My heart is just stabbed with sympathy. I quickly pick him up (always first calling his name so he is not surprised by my touch), ignore his protestations and pouting, race him inside, towel him dry, and then gently place him on the deck. He ruffles his whole body, but seems, I think, just a tiny bit grateful.
Last week it started raining in the morning. I raced to the deck…and no Emerald. I dashed into the rain…and no Emerald. Where was he?
Then a question popped into my head: Did I nudge him outside after breakfast? Ahhhh, I was not sure. I went back inside, looked around, and no Emerald. I went back outside (with an umbrella this time) and still no Emerald. I went back inside…and found him.
And could not have been more astonished.
Emerald had never been in my bedroom. So, how did a blind cat figure out that the thing in front of him was a bed? And that if he jumped up he would land on something soft rather than a bottomless pit? I mean, if you watch him, he is incredibly timid in his movements. So, the first time wandering inside the house and he manages to find Comfort Central????????
With my eyes wide from astonishment, I gently laid down on the bed, and gently stroked Emerald. He instantly responded by getting up, and moving to me.
Moving TO me????????
Then he started nudging my head, and purring.
Tears spontaneously filled my eyes. OMG, Emerald was…loving me.
I continued gently stroking his boney body, and he continued nudging me with his head, while kneading the sheets.
My eyes were wet. My heart was racing with joy. This was an incredible moment.
The next day I was again astonished.
After breakfast, I gently picked him up, and we walked over to the sofa. I sat down with Emerald on my lap. He instantly, as if we had done this a million times, sat up and started nudging me with his head, and kneading my chest, while deeply purring.
I can only think of one explanation for this astounding behavior: Emerald was, long ago, a cat beloved by somebody. An indoor cat. Who spent every night in a bed.
Then something bad happened, and he eventually found his way to Ross Land.
I am pretty sure that Emerald will soon be departing. In a week? Two weeks? A month? But it brings me immense joy that this poor creature, who has evidenced nothing but a gentle spirit, should find comfort and love in his remaining time.
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