Miss Kitty's visitor comes calling

Friday, December 8, 2006

Miss Kitty has a feller.

Most of you, of course, know Miss Kitty. She's the calico cat with a bald patch on her face. She's the cat who allows us to feed her expensive food recommended by a fully accredited veterinarian and, in return, permits us to pet her while she purrs loudly.

Miss Kitty also hunts. I do not intend to spoil your oatmeal by describing her prey or its fate. Just let me say that she is an efficient, no-waste hunter. And, I might add, we have not had a mouse in the house since her arrival three summers ago.

Other than eating expensive food, begging for (and getting) treats (also expensive) from my wife, sleeping in her sheepskin nest complete with heating pad and going on occasional hunting forays in our backyard, Miss Kitty spends her waking hour guarding her territory.

It took almost a year for other cats in the neighborhood to understand where, exactly, the boundaries are. But the felines appear to have struck a division-of-land pact that puts the warring factions in Iraq to shame.

Recently, however, the biggest, meanest cat of all has come calling. And Miss Kitty, for all her territorial clout, seems to be permitting his presence.

This visiting cat is a brute. He's as big as a mountain lion. OK, I don't know exactly how big a mountain lion is, but this cat is a giant.

And he's mean. Every cat in the neighborhood has had more than one confrontation with Big Bad Tom. Some have the battle scars to prove it.

Big Bad Tom is easy to spot, with dark tabby stripes.

And he has one eye.

If I met Big Bad Tom in a dark alley, I would turn and hightail it to safety.

My wife had her first face-to-face encounter with Big Bad Tom a few days ago when she came home from work.

Her coming-home routine has turned into something of a ritual. She pulls into the garage, turns off the car, spreads a large bath towel in her lap to catch cat hairs, opens the door and waits for Miss Kitty to jump up for a love fest -- followed, of course, by a visit to the array of packaged treats waiting on the workbench.

But on this particular evening, Miss Kitty did not come running. She was hunched at the corner of the garage next to the entrance to the patio. And she wasn't budging.

It took a few minutes for my wife to determine that Big Bad Tom was hiding behind the hedge and making growling noises and hisses that were definitely unfriendly. Miss Kitty was standing her ground between the tomcat and my wife.

Being practical, my wife went to the garage cupboard and grabbed a broom, the weapon of choice for dealing with stray animals. Most visiting animals take one look at my wife and the broom and head for the hills.

Not Big Bad Tom. He was ready to fight.

My wife managed to shoo Big Bad Tom into the driveway, but it kept turning to hiss and growl at her instead of running away. Fortunately, a neighbor who had previously had his own confrontation with Big Bad Tom came to the rescue and managed to get the old meanie to leave our yard.

Miss Kitty took in the whole scene: two adult humans and a broom versus one large tomcat.

Sometimes it's hard to tell what Miss Kitty is thinking, but you have to wonder if she wasn't just a teensy bit amused. Miss Kitty has had several standoffs with Big Bad Tom, but she doesn't have a single scar. You might wonder: Why not?

The morning after my wife's showdown with the one-eyed cat, I stepped out onto the patio on my way to get the paper in the driveway. The cat door into the garage slammed open, and Big Bad Tom ran lickety-split across our yard and into the woods behind the house across the street.

I dreaded going into the garage, thinking I would find Miss Kitty in shreds. But when I opened the door, she was sitting on the mat next to her food and water, licking her paws.

So add another plus to Miss Kitty's resume. She's a lion tamer.

And apparently enjoys the company.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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