Not long ago, we were invited to the 10th birthday party of a favorite neighbor. Party hats, champagne, and elegant hors d'oeuvres were in evidence for the adults, and the guest of honor gamely posed for the requisite cake photo. But most of the time he was curled up in a ball under the coffee table, nose buried in a new catnip toy in abject feline heaven.
We've actually known Tiger, ne Caramel, from his earliest kittenhood when he used to hang out under our bird feeders hoping to get lucky. It was with no little horror a year or so later that I discovered his owners had moved and left him behind. Tracked down, they said they "thought" someone else might also be feeding him so they'd felt OK departing without him.
We couldn't keep him as our younger son is anaphylatically allergic to cats, but Caramel showed up like clockwork at our doorstep every night meowing piteously until I came out to the front porch with a can of people tuna. Meanwhile I posted his photo on "Do you know me?" fliers around the neighborhood.
A day or so later, two women called.
"Yes, that's our cat Tiger" they said. "He adopted us a few months ago but disappears for days at a time." I could believe it.
When Tiger/Caramel showed up at my doorstep that night doing his starving homeless cat act, I stared him down and said, "I'm on to you, you kitty con artist. Just how many homes do you have???"
Several, as it turned out.
Once the tuna train ended at my house, he began frequenting the master bed of another neighbor, Bob, whose French doors were often open. Bob had no interest in a cat, but Tiger was not to be dissuaded.
I connected Bob up with the two ladies on the next street. As often as Bob returned Tiger to their house, Tiger would be back to Bob's an hour later. The two women were distraught at Tiger's rejection and finally concluded there was only one thing to be done.
They called in the Cat Whisperer.
The kitty psychic ($150 hour) closeted herself with her furry client for a private consultation. Tiger, the cat shrink reported when she emerged, was distraught that there was now another male cat on the women's block who was more dominant than he.
His male ego bruised, he had sought refuge at Bob's where there was less competition, not to mention gratuitous male bonding. (The Cat Whisperer didn't specifically mention it, but I'm sure Tiger told her that he, like Bob, was a rabid Yankees fan.) While Tiger didn't want to appear ungrateful for the ladies' many kindnesses, at this stage in his life, he needed a more guy-centric environment.
Well, said Bob, who didn't want to admit just how attached he and his girlfriend were to the cat at this point, if it's really what Tiger wants ...
Easter Sunday some eight years ago was to be the official changeover day. Bob made a nice brunch and the two tearful ladies showed up, Tiger in tow, for the official handover of distemper shot records. They surveyed Tiger's new home, and approved. Food was served.
But when it came time for the relinquishment to become final, the ladies had a sudden change of heart. What if the Feline Freud had misunderstood Tiger's wishes?
Tiger was put on the phone during an emergency call to the cat psychic whose skills fortunately included aural communication over optical fiber. The ladies were assured that Tiger had re-asserted his wishes to live with Bob.
And that was that.
Bob, fairly clear that he was now the proud owner of a kitty bigamist, soon after decided that Tiger's cat-about-town days were over. Tiger became a quite content house cat. He made a break for it once, but was back as soon as his sofa-softened paws hit cold earth.
Whatever memories he has of his earlier days weren't obvious at his 10th birthday gig as he positively exuded marmalade tabby happiness. Or maybe it was just the catnip talking.