Cats are a strange breed. They come. They go. All of their own volition and with little regard for what we may want. In fact, our cats own us. A case in point.
Several cats roam my yard over the course of the day. It is obvious that my quarter acre is nothing more than a pathway home or to destinations unknown. If they see me in the yard, there is a gentle sign of acknowledgement and they move along. Until one day, a young male yellow tabby comes through and wants to be petted. His affectionate ways and friendly manner led me to believe he must belong to someone. We would greet each other daily but other than that, he was not my concern.
After a couple of months of his daily visits, my granddaughter spies him laying on the front walk and brings him in the house.
"No," I said. "He is not my cat."
She insisted he was hungry. So we fed him. I know what you are thinking. You feed a cat, he is yours. But, still I emphatically declared to the world, "he's not my cat."
For weeks, he came to eat and cuddle. We walked up and down the street, with a picture of him, desperately trying to find his owner. As a recovering cancer survivor, there are times when I was too tired or sick to resist his loving devotion. He would spend the night. He jumped into my car, and unaware, I took him to work. He spent the day enjoying the attention, then found a nice hiding place in the office.
After weeks and weeks of searching for his "other" family, I finally resigned myself to claiming ownership and called the vet to set up an appointment. My granddaughter and I bought him a collar, with an engraved tag. Now, he's my cat.
He wore the collar all of 24 hours before someone called to say, it was their cat and why was my collar on him. Heartbroken, I told them to return the collar and apologized for the inconvenience.
Turns out the "other" family lives 3 doors down. Sadly, he is "not my cat" again. I am not ashamed to say, I cried. A few weeks ago, this would not have been the case. I even looked "not my cat" in the eye and told him not to break my heart. Yet, there I was crying over a cat that was never mine.
A couple of hours later, who shows up on my doorstep for dinner and a movie? "Not my cat" has no idea that there has been any disruption in the force. He continues to spend the night, eats, drinks and is all too merry for me to believe that he is living happily ever after with another family. He has chosen joint custody, I suppose. I have never had a shared custody arrangement, so am unclear of the rules. But then, who knows where cats go when they leave the warmth of the homefires? Perhaps, we are living with the delusion that a particular feline is our cat, when in reality, we are one of many who are owned by a cat.