This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for August 29, 2019, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.
About nine months ago, a grey tabby kitten appeared, rustling through the leaves in our backyard. Now this is rather unusual since our large, resident, King-of-the-Manor cat, Gatsby, usually perched on the porch-swing cushions, will leap into action, ferociously chasing away any stray cat or kitten (though if it’s a dog he will hide). How she made it all the way to the patio without being savagely attacked by Gatsby, I don’t know.
In any case, here’s this skinny, stray kitten, itching because of fleas, sneezing, wheezing, and flinging out cat snot, and hungry enough to eat anything. Needless to say, we took her in, kept Gatsby outside, fed her, and were captivated by her impishness. Prior to her coming, my wife and I had decided that if we ever got another cat, we would get a grey tabby, because I had researched cats and discovered that the grey tabby made the best pets and each one had a very different, likable personality. And now one shows up. And with a playful, impish personality, — so much so that we immediately named her “Pixie,” a name she has certainly lived up, too. But that gets ahead of the story.
We fell in love with our new kitten. Our granddaughters fell in love with our new kitten. We and they fed it, played with it, pampered it, and took it to the Vet. Gatsby was the only one who hated her, and he made it known with his growls and snarls, so we had to keep them apart, at least for a while. Believing that tensions had eased between the two felines, we let her out in the backyard to romp and play in the winter leaves and withered grass. That was a big mistake! Suddenly, there were no cats in the backyard. Pixie disappeared, and Gatsby was nowhere in sight. My wife called the neighbors to ask if they’d seen Pixie, and one neighbor had noticed her running across the street. We couldn’t find her anywhere.
What alarmed me about this development was not Gatsby, as he had seemed to grow somewhat indifferent to the kitten, but the predators I had been noticing in our neighborhood. There was a giant, nightly owl who was bent on reducing our squirrel population, and a huge daytime hawk who sat on top the same light pole every day in our neighbor’s yard, periodically swooping down on some creature in the leaves below. After several days and no Pixie returning home, we were all convinced one of those giant predators had snatched her up. I don’t know who was sadder, the grandparents or the granddaughters!
Fast forward nine months. A skinny, grey tabby, teenage-girl cat appears in the alleyway. I think it’s a neighbor’s cat which Gatsby will keep away, but the granddaughters rush out to the alley, pick her up, and bring her in the house. Incredible! The tabby markings and the nose coloration are the same, — and the wheezing, sneezing and flinging out cat snot made it very clear that after nine months, Pixie had come back.
I couldn’t help but think of that old, old children’s song written in the 1890’s by Harry Miller, “The Cat Came Back.” The lyrics of the song are really too bizarre to be a kids’ song, but I guess attitudes were different back in the 19th Century when it was popular. And those lyrics certainly don’t fit Pixie’s situation. In one version of the old song, the cat kept coming back again and again, and the last time it came home, the lyrics say, “The cat was a possessor of a family of its own, with seven little kittens, and then came a cyclone.” Well, Pixie left as a kitten and came back old enough to have a family of her own, but thankfully she didn’t. And in one of the most bizarre of all the versions of the song, the cat dies, and comes back as a ghost of itself. I like what happened in our real life version much better than that.
Obviously, neither the owl nor the hawk had been able to snag our precious little Pixie. So, no doubt what happened must have involved Gatsby. He must have chased her out of our yard into the neighborhood, and I’m sure, because of the loving care she had received from us, Pixie tried to come back again and again, and the jealous Gatsby chased her away again and again. Until that one providential day recently, when she, now a cat, came back and was retrieved by her happy family!
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired teacher and a retired pastor, and author of the book, It Must Be the Noodles.