Miss Purr thought she was a dog. Even though she grew up around cats and dogs, she seemed to identify more with the other species. She let herself in and out the doggy door, just like the other dogs, and she preferred licking people’s hands to cuddling and purring. Purr spent her days in a dog grooming shop, supervising from her perch on anyone’s shoulder. When she got bored, she would check her humans’ hair for “cooties.”
She learned how to open the screen door, and she would come and go at her leisure, but she made it a point to be present whenever anyone was eating cheese – cheese twists, cheeseburgers, pizza, it didn’t matter; she just wanted cheese. Unfortunately, she was the one and only lactose-intolerant cat I’ve ever met, and even the tiniest taste of cheese or dairy upset her stomach. She begged for it incessantly.
When she was little, she slept in a laundry hamper in my bedroom, but as she got older, she began spending more and more time outside. Eventually, she only came in at night to sleep. I wanted to take her with me when I moved to Mississippi, but I knew she would hate apartment dwelling. Christabelle, my Manx kitten, was much more in touch with her domestic side, and she rarely ventured past the threshold. Purr howled and pounded on the doors whenever she was locked in the house.
Purr was content at my mom’s house with the dogs, going and coming, and then she discovered mousing. As she grew up, she got in touch with that one aspect of her feline personality, and she loved to show off her kills. Sometimes, however, she didn’t quite kill her prey. My mom came home on more than one occasion to a stunned bird sitting in her kitchen or a startled mouse running through the living room. The worst were the snakes. I don’t know how she got them in the doggy door, but mom found two and I discovered a third one behind a cabinet.
One day, I was cleaning, and I saw something peek out from behind the cabinet. It looked like a mouse tail, so I finished my vacuuming and called Chris to come get rid of the mouse at Mom’s house. He pulled the cabinet away from the wall, and we were greeted by an ugly surprise: the three-foot long snake began lashing at us as we moved its hiding place. Chris got a hoe, a bag, and reinforcements to help him remove the snake. I picked a vantage point a safe distance away and let the men handle the wrangling of the serpent. It was less than cooperative, and it didn’t leave in one piece, but that was Purr’s last chance. Either she could go home with me immediately, or she would meet with an “unfortunate accident.”
We took her home, and she did everything in her power to prove to us that she hated being confined indoors, but we didn’t have a doggy door and had no intention of installing one. Where Mom has a fenced yard with a deck that sits 10 feet off the ground, our porch is level with the ground and very inviting to all manner of opossums, raccoons, and squirrels.
For the first time ever, Purr found that she was an exclusively outside cat. Most of the time, she loved her freedom, but from time to time, she would pound on the door or window to see if I had changed my mind yet about installing her doggy door. She played in the yard and rambled far into the woods, but I never saw her go near the street, and she usually came when I called her. Almost weekly, she would bring me a present: a mole one week, a bird the next, and sometimes even a snake.
After awhile, a little black tomcat appointed himself Purr’s new best friend. She had had cat friends before, and her best buddy in the dog grooming shop was a huge orange marmalade cat named Sundance, but Howler was her first wild friend. It took over a year of constant feeding and reassurance before Howler let me pet him, but late last fall, he finally decided he enjoyed attention just as much as Purr.
Howler would leave for weeks at a time, and suddenly he would show up again as if he had never been gone. Purr usually stuck around closely, but during a January snowstorm, she disappeared for three weeks. Following the May floods, Howler came home muddy and thin as a rail after a lengthy absence. I never knew where they went, but they always knew their way home.
During another night of storms, I checked on them both. Purr was curled up in a chair and Howler was finishing the last of the cat food I had put out for them earlier in the day. The storm cleared Sunday morning, and neither was around. When I started to leave home just before noon, I found Purr. She had been hit by a car across the road from my house. It was the first time I ever saw her anywhere near the road. I got her taken care of and buried in my family’s own little pet cemetery, and when I returned home that evening, I found Howler a mere 30 feet away, also struck by a car. It was too dark and stormy to do anything for him right them, and when I got up Monday morning, there was no sign of him.
I’ve never had good luck with indoor-outdoor or exclusively outside cats, but I thought these two were different. I thought Purr, at least, had sense enough not to go near the road. For several years when I was growing up, every Halloween, one of our barn/carport cats got ran over. They were too wild and plentiful to lock in the house, but I have dreaded Halloween ever since. Now, my two furry friends met the same fate on the same day, and I can’t imagine how that “coincidentally” happens.
I know cats tend to run out in front of cars, but it doesn’t hurt to slow down when driving through residential areas – even ones out in the country. They aren’t just animals, to some of us they’re friends and companions. So drive carefully, and be aware – you never know when a cat, dog, or kid might cross the street without looking.