© Copyright 2018 by Kathryn Lynch
By feral standards, the tom cat was a senior citizen. The average feral lived three years, but the tom was still wandering his turf at the age of six. He was king of his territory, challenged often by young toms, scuffed and ripped, but always the victor. When it came to competing for females, he had no equal.
He had outrun innumerable dogs, avoided foxes, bears, and snakes, and competed for food with raccoons. He had experienced long periods of hunger when he grew weak, and periods of illness after being torn up in a cat fight. During those times he lay low in one of the hiding places he had discovered over the years. He always recovered.
Hunting had been slowed this past Winter by the heavy downpours which drove away the rats and rabbits which made up much of his diet. He was gaunt and thin. His fur was clumped and dry. His ribs and backbone protruded unnaturally on his frame.
So it was, that in his quest for food, the tom wandered onto the Old Lady's land. The cat was terrified of people. He could smell a human close by, so he approached the trailer cautiously. Slipping under the porch, the odors of cooking food peaked his interest and penetrated him in the gut. He knew that in spite of his finely honed hunting skills, there was really no way for him to get some of the food without a human encounter.
It shocked him when an Old Lady labored down the steps and placed a bowl of food on the ground nearby. The cat was extremely suspicious. He remained hidden under the porch for more than two hours, until darkness descended on the yard. Then he approached the bowl cautiously, took two bites, and ran back for cover under the porch. When nothing happened he ventured out again,making a second assault on the bowl. At last he was full. The cat crawled back to a corner under the porch to groom himself.
"Things are looking up", he thought. He decided to stay. The tom was living like a king, eating every day, staying out of bad weather, and on sunny days wandering about to visit his girlfriends and dig his daily hole. The Old Lady named him "Porch Cat".
He had just become accustomed to the routine when the Old Lady came down the stairs without the bowl of food, carrying a metal trap which held an open can of tuna fish. The cat who had learned a few things during his six years on earth had seen traps before. He knew how they worked and that they needed to be avoided at all costs. He could not understand why the Old Lady, who had so far been kind to him, was trying to corral him.
For three days the tuna fish in the trap was replaced but the bowl of food remained absent. Hunger drove him to explore ways to retrieve the can without being stuck inside the trap. Finally he tiptoed into the frame and reached forward with one foot for the fish. The door fell shut with a loud snap.
He was caught. The cat was convinced that the end of his life was at hand when the Old Lady picked up the trap and placed him in a car. He was brought to a strange place full of people where a long needle penetrated his rear leg.
"I've given it a good run", he thought, before everything went black. He awoke in a large cage. After his head cleared, the tom began to groom himself. He discovered to his delight that the fleas who tormented him daily were nowhere to be found, and to his horror that his tomcathood was gone.
The Old Lady took him back in a cat carrier and released him under the porch. Bowls of food and water were placed nearby and he was left alone. The cat was confused about this array of adventures, but after he calmed down, healed, and the bowl of food showed up daily, he began to accept and appreciate the trade off. His stomach was full, he was at peace, and he was home.
As time passed, the old tom grew fat, but never lazy. He patrolled the night from under the porch, watching every furtive movement of wild animals. Ripped ears forward, he listened for every foreign sound.
So it was that the cat heard the soft footsteps before he saw the man in the shadows walking toward the trailer... He was carrying a large plastic bag in one hand and a shovel in the other. The man mistakenly believed that the trailer was vacant, so when the Old Lady's dogs began to howl, he dropped the shovel, threw the bag under the porch, and ran to his vehicle, taking off in a shower of rocks.
Porch Cat's muscles rippled. The tom's gutteral yowl filled the night as he protested this invasion into his turf. He circled the bag cautiously, sniffing deeply. "Useless", he thought, as he could detect no food smell, no animal smell, no unusual sounds to peak his interest. The cat clawed the bag, penetrating the plastic and tearing open several small holes. Finally, he showed his utter contempt for the 'invader' by spraying copious amounts of urine onto its surface.
The following morning, the Old Lady smelled what the cat had done. She pulled the bag from under the porch using a metal rake, intending to clean up the area for her elusive pet. Curiosity piqued her interest enough to tear it open to see what it contained. Strangely, she seemed pleased with the foul smelling green papers she found bunched up inside.
The Old Lady spread the wads of papers on the ground, washed them liberally with the hose, and left them in the sun to dry. Later that day she placed the bundles in another bag and drove away.
Porch Cat watched these developments from the safety of his hideout. “People!”, he pondered, wondering to himself about their strange incomprehensible ways. He would never understand what made them tick,though he had grown fond of his old caretaker.
Lately, he had even entertained the thought of approaching her when she brought out his food dish, but he had not quite overcome his fears. He had made peace with her dogs and they ignored his little domain, but a real live person? That was quite another matter!
The sounds in the trailer above were different these days. Things were being dragged across the floor and in time a truck arrived. The truck men carried boxes, chairs, and even a bed out to their vehicle and disappeared.
Porch Cat sensed his secure world was crumbling about him. When he saw the Old Lady load the dogs into her car and drive off, he knew that she was never coming back. He was alone....
He could return to the woods of course, but the daily hunt for food held little attraction for the aging feral. Or, he could attempt to remove the tuna from the horrible trap which had reappeared nearby. He took a chance-and lost again. He was trapped in the metal bowels, with no one around to release him.
The feral, who once prided himself on his hunting skills, was now going to starve. He would be scorched by the sun, pounded by the rains, and buffeted by the winds, until he died. It was all over.
That evening a man threw a blanket over the trap and loaded him into a car. Porch Cat had given up all hope. He was hungry, thirsty, and exhausted. There was nothing he could do but ride quietly to the doom which awaited him.
The trap was placed in a darkened room. The blanket had been removed and to his surprise, the door to the trap had been opened. At last the morning light began to filter into the windows to reveal his surroundings. He could see a full bowl of cat food with a dish of water nearby. Across the room was a box filled with odd smelling little rocks. He saw a padded chair with a nearby table and lamp. Finally, it dawned on him that he was INSIDE A HOUSE, a fate he considered worse than death!
He was still cowering in the trap when the Old Lady entered the room, sat in the chair, and turned on a box of lights with strange voices. He was glad to see his caretaker who spent the afternoon talking to him with her soothing voice.
That evening after dark, when no one was looking, he slipped quietly out of the trap.
Epilogue: The plastic bag contained the proceeds from an armed robbery. The store owners, who were insured, used cash register receipts to recover their funds from the insurance company.
The robber later returned to the trailer in an attempt to retrieve the bag. He found that the dogs and the bag of money were gone. The trailer was vacant.
The Old Lady purchased a home she had previously seen for sale but believed she could never afford. Had the cat not peed on the bag, it is unlikely that she would have attempted to drag it out from under the porch.
Porch Cat lived in the house until the age of 16. He grew fat, lazy, and content; spending his afternoons alternately dozing and purring in the Old Lady's lap.
The old tom, who was known in his later years as “P.C.”, never hunted again.