Fred is old. Sixteen years old, the best I can guess. He’s cuddly and loving. He’s a great companion. He’s also a ruthless killer.

I worried about how he’d adjust to moving to the ridge. He’s been an inside cat all his life. The move meant he’d become primarily an outside cat. I took him to the vet for the first time in years to get his shots. I bought him an expensive seresto flea collar. After we moved, I gave him his favorite treats repeatedly to reinforce the idea of home. I did everything I could think to do to make the transition successful.

I shouldn’t have worried. Fred loves his new freedom.

One morning while I was away, my landmate sent me a picture of Fred under the house, standing over the fresh kill of a rat. I looked for the rat when I got home, but it wasn’t under the house. I knew before I found it that the rat would be somewhere in the house, and I was right. Fred left the headless rat on the floor beside my bed.

Yesterday, I walked into the bedroom to find a decapitated mole and two, kidney bean-sized aborted babies. One of the babies squeeked and squirmed as I grabbed it with a paper towel.

Fred is a murderer, and it seems he’s proud of it. Just look at him. His stare is paralyzing. I’m afraid to go to sleep at night, not because I’m think he’ll hurt me, but because I’m afraid of what new dead offering he might bring.

Mr. Mingles Needs an Intervention

Mr. Mingles

Mr. Mingles was rescued as a kitten from the rafters of a cabin where the kids and I were staying on a church retreat. A dog chased him up there. He watched that dog kill his kitty sibling. We never met his parents. Malnourished, dirty, and flea infested, we fed him yogurt and bacon from the dining hall until we could get him home. To this day, he sits in the kitchen every morning when I make my breakfast smoothie some can like yogurt from the spoon.

As you can see, he’s more than made up for his humble beginnings. Mr. Mingles is now a fat cat.

Son number one has returned from college and brought frat cat Percy home with him. While Ming gets along with Fred, our third cat and ruler of all, fat cat Ming cannot tolerate frat cat Percy. All Percy wants to do is play. Ming does not play, ever. When Percy tries to mess around, Ming responds with growls and hisses, and waddles to a spot on the couch or to his place on the dining room table (don’t worry, we never eat there).

There’s a kitty door to the garaged that leads to the one of two litter boxes. Ming has to think about getting through that door due to his oversizedness. To make matters worse, Percy has made a game out of lying in wait to take advantage of the lumbersome Mr. Mingles as he squeezes himself through the door.

All that is to say, Mr. Mingles can’t be bothered with using the litter box. Just before settling in for my meditation time this morning, I caught him just as he was squatting to take a wiz on the Christmas tree skirt. I quickly picked him up, morning mudra forgotten, and whisked him away to the box where he promptly peed. Fred and I discreetly waited on the other side of the door so we could praise him for his good behavior. We waited a good long time, but Mr. Mingles wasn’t going to risk the annoyance of Percy’s potential pounce. I finally broke down, open the door, and he came racing inside. I picked him up again, went back into the garage, and watched as he barley squeezed through the kitty door.

Mr. Mingles needs to lose some weight. I can’t figure out how to make this happen. I carefully measure out his meals and I take up everyone’s food so there’s no free grazing. Still, he’s as large as a small child and he seems to be gaining weight.

I don’t want to spend the holiday monitoring Mr. Mingles’ movements, but I also don’t want to live in a house that smells like a litter box. Why can’t we all just get along?


Fred the Cat

Today I am grateful for my cat, Fred.

Fred came into our lives a couple of years after we moved into our home of fourteen years. In the move we brought with us a solid black cat named Ray, but about a month after settling in he got out of the house and was probably eaten by coyotes. After trying to adopt a cat from the local animal shelter that turned out to be in poor health, eventually Frank and I found ourselves at Petco looking for a replacement through their adoption service.

There were several cats at Petco from which to choose, but I immediately honed in on a black cat, similar to our lost Ray, and asked a sales associate if I could hold him. Oddly, she replied, “You don’t want that cat. You want this cat.” She opened the cage, picked up a grey tabby, and put him in my arms. He immediately stretched out the length of my arm and nuzzled my neck with his head. The cat soon-to-be-named Fred knew he was going home with us.

Given Ray’s suspected demise, I try to keep Fred and our other critters in the house unless I’m outside and able to watch them. Fred often has other goals. He enjoys waiting inside the house by the interior door of the garage until I drive up to the house and open the garage door. That’s when he makes a run for it via the kitty door. His escape usually amounts to his running across the front porch and along the side of the house to the patio around back where he waits for me to let him back in. It’s a game we play.

Last night after dinner with a friend, Fred and I played this game, only this time he wasn’t waiting on the patio when I opened the sliding glass door to let him in. I called, “Fa-re-ed!” in the familiar way I do with no results. I did this off and on for the next hour, calling his name and shaking the kitty-treat jar. Nearing panic, I expanded my search until I eventually found myself walking through the neighborhood calling, “Fa-re-ed, Fa-re-ed!” along the sidewalk, up to the traffic circle, and around the overgrown briars, milkweed, sumac, and goldenrod on the hill behind our house. Desperate, I looked through the brush toward the patio when I saw a shadow, but in the dark at that distance I couldn’t tell if it was the base of the patio chair or the hoped-for silhouette of a cat. I made my way down the hill and into the yard. The shadow moved. Fred had returned.

I am grateful for Fred the cat and for his return. But as I examine how I felt during the search, I wonder about the nature of gratitude. Does gratitude take us to a place where we try to hold on to something lost? Does being grateful mean we hope to keep situations, pets, relationships, people, the way they are? Did my search and subsequent panic nearing despair make any difference to Fred, or was he in complete control of the situation from the beginning, watching from under a bush, or obliviously enjoying jungle-kitty mode as he stalked a mouse or a mole in the dark? How much of feeling grateful is tied up in actually being selfish, or in trying to control, rather than letting things be as they are?

I held Fred as I sat in a chair outside in the dark, feeding him his favorite treats  and releasing my frustration over the whole ordeal, relieved, content, and grateful.