I don't know if all cats are like ours. Maybe Buddy's early life on the dodge made him a little neurotic, or maybe all cats are neurotic. Take for instance the way he acts when he is out in the yard with us. He sprawls on the deck or in a chair, basking in the sun or cooling in the shade, looking like a perfectly domesticated cat. But when he thinks he is alone, he creeps furtively, hugging the side of the house or shed as he makes his way to the grassy back yard. When he reaches a corner, he pauses to study the grass in front of him before he moves, and then slowly and stealthily, he crosses the grass to the deck and disappears under the steps. When I next see him, his head emerges from the foliage of the crinum lilies and once again he studies the, deck before jumping onto it.
Even though he has clean, filtered water in the garage, he prefers to drink from the pond, and while hunched over the rocks, he drinks and watches the fish swim beneath the surface. The fish are wary, and seldom come close to the edge; visits by the blue heron trained them well. After drinking his fill, Buddy walks around the pond and crouches on the edge of the deck overlooking the cannas. Hubby and I wonder if he caught something there one time, or smells the scent of a mouse path.
Buddy loves the tall grass in the meadow area, though he usually stays on the edge of the mowed paths. He knows the meadow larks and rabbits like to hide in the tall grass and have to cross the mowed paths eventually and he is patient. But not patient enough. He looks around and the bell on his collar jingles, warning birds and rabbits that he is nearby. Then he stands up as if he meant to do that, and he walks into the grass and out of my sight.
When I call him for dinner, many times he comes streaking across the next door neighbor's front yard. He must have been visiting the neighbors on the other side. He doesn't want me to see where he came from and stops at the row of photinias, where he stretches as if he had been snoozing there all afternoon.
I'm curious where he goes and what he does during the day. But I'll probably never know. There are at least two of his breakaway collars laying somewhere along his journeys.
I've always been curious about my roaming cats. When I was a little girl, I had a male cat I named Mr. Muffin. He was a big, beautiful, tom cat with long black and white fur. He loved our little dog, but made the other neighborhood dogs walk on the other side of the street. One time I tied the end of a ball of string to his collar so I could see where he went. I pulled out a section of string so it would be loose and then I watched as the string pulled away. I waited as patiently as an eight year old can wait until the loops of string stopped moving and then I followed the string. He went straight to the back of our yard, climbed over our back fence, and crossed the alley to Mrs. Northern's fence.
Mrs. Northern was a crotchety old woman who screamed at us because our swing squeaked (she stood on our gas meter so she could see over our fence); she screamed at our next door neighbor because their fence was patched, and she screamed at my mother for not mowing the middle of the alley, even though they never touched the middle either. They had a lattice style fence and lots of shrubs around the perimeter of the backyard. And the string disappeared between the boards of her fence. Peering through the lattice, I saw a tangled maze of string wound around the trunks of shrubs, criss crossed over itself, and finally wrapped several times around the trunk of tree where it ended, tied to the collar of my very annoyed cat.
I shinneyed over the fence behind a tree that blocked the view from Mrs. Northern's house, and crept through the underbrush until I reached Muffin. After I broke the string, he ran in one direction and I ran the other, both of us anxious to get out of that backyard. Later that evening when Mr. Muffin finally came home again, my mother saw the string on his collar and asked why it was there. I plastered an innocent look on my face and repeated the mantra known to kids the world over: "I don't know."
I don't know what Mr. or Mrs. Northern did when they found the labyrinth of string in their shrubs, but apparently they never suspected me or my brother or I am certain I would have been confronted. But at last I knew what Mr. Muffin did when he left our yard, or at least what he did when he left our yard with a string tugging on his collar.
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