From an early age I had a negative opinion of cats. A big part of it could be that a couple of houses up the block from me lived what would be called one of those crazy cat ladies. I believe she was also a hoarder before the term became popularized, as what little I ever saw of the inside of her home revealed stacks of newspapers, magazines, clothes, etc. She probably had about a dozen cats congregating around her house, and she would leave food out for them. When I would walk past her house on the way home from school, I often held my breath because of the overpowering stench of cat pee emanating from her property. Around the same time, we got a pet dog, a miniature schnauzer, and so my early exposure to pets was a dog who always seemed happy to see me and eager to play with me.
Over the years since my wife and I bought our house in 2000, we would periodically have mice roaming around, and my wife would occasionally float the idea of us getting a cat. I was less than enthusiastic about it. I loved dogs, and I didn't even want to get one of them, as working full time and raising two children was responsibility enough as far as I was concerned.
Fast forward to May of 2016, and my wife tells me that she thinks there might be some cats living underneath our backyard deck. I hadn't seen any cats yet, so I was skeptical. But then a day or two later, while I was getting ready for work one morning, I saw a mother cat and her four kittens playing on our deck. I started taking photos and videos of them and posting them on Facebook and I would buy cans of cat food and put them out on the deck to feed them.
In early 2018, we started to get another regular feline visitor. It was a smaller tabby cat with a white chest who would run across our desk while nervously peering at us. At first we thought it was a male and called it Milo. But after capturing it the summer of that year, we discovered it was a female. So we renamed her Katrina. The top portion of her left ear was also clipped off, leading me to believe that someone had previously captured her and had her spayed. We also noticed that Oscar's left ear was similarly clipped. Maybe because she was older, Katrina never really became accustomed to being a house cat. She spent most days hiding underneath the love seat in our living room, emerging only to eat and use the litter box. I actually set her free after two attempts at housing her, the first time because she pooped behind the love seat. But I didn't want to give up on her and for a third time I was able to entice her into the house and then shut the door behind her. Katrina ended up living with us for about a year and a half. She still spent a lot of time hiding from us, but sometimes she would nap out in the open on top of the love seat or even on my bed. Every now and then I would be lying on my bed with the door open, and Katrina would walk in, sit near the entrance, and make noises at me. Snickers would rough house with her a lot, but at times he could be affectionate towards her as well. One time I was sitting on the sofa watching television and Snickers was napping at the other end. Katrina jumped up onto the sofa and woke up Snickers, who proceeded to start licking her.
In February of 2019, when Gilbert was still a regular visitor, I opened the door and let him in. Since I wasn't able to pick Katrina up to shut her in my bedroom, I had to take my chances with her. She went up to Gilbert and they seemed to share some level of affection together. She went out into the deck with him and then disappeared. On the previous two times where I drove her out of the house, she was back on our deck within minutes. This time, she did not come back. That night was rather unseasonable warm for February, but several nights later it had gotten very cold. I flipped on the deck lights to see if there was any feline activity and was stunned to see Katrina at the door looking up at me almost pleadingly, as if she realized she had made a big mistake. I opened the door and put some food nearby to entice her, and after a while she came inside and I shut the door behind her. She remained with us for almost the remainder of the year, but was able to escape out the back door around Christmas of 2019. She was not to be seen for weeks, and then in late January my daughter said she would sometimes see her on our front stoop. Then she began to visit our deck again in February. She looked to us to feed her but did not seem keen on coming in the house. However, I noticed that if Snickers was in the dining room, she would want to come in. So, rather than shutting Snickers away, I let him stay. I opened the back door and as before had a bowl of food to entice her. Katrina warily came in after a number of false starts and started to eat, but she looked up at me as I started to close the door. But this time, Snickers had conveniently placed his body between her and the door so that Katrina could not escape as I closed it. Katrina was back in the house again, but not for long. This past May, with the weather warm again, we would slide open the glass back door while keeping the screen door shut. Snickers though, being the clever cat that he is, learned that he could use his paws to push open the screen door, which enabled Katrina to escape again. She did not disappear though, returning to our door regularly to be fed, and retreating to hide under our deck if we got too close to her. I have been able to entice her into our house to play with Snickers a number of times, but she seems wise to my tactics now and all of my further attempts to shut her in have failed. Katrina seems perfectly content to be our outdoor cat, engaging with us on her own terms while spending her days napping on our deck and her nights sheltering underneath it. With winter approaching, I may try to make further attempts to capture her again, but only time will tell if I succeed.
Before the spring of 2016, cats were not a factor in my life. I never contemplated owning one and barely took note of the cats in our neighborhood. But ever since that morning when I observed Snickers, his mom and his siblings on our backyard deck, cats have become a permanent fixture in my life. Barely a day goes by where I am not feeding or taking notice of daily visitors like Katrina and Oscar, or taking note of new cats who appear for a day or a few weeks and then are never seen again.