In September of 2010 I wrote a column titled, “The cat who came in from the cold,” about Tiger, our neighbor Bob’s cat, who, at a year old, came to live with Bob after a harrowing tale of abandonment by our neighbors to the south, adoption by some kindly neighbor ladies to the north, and a hilarious (if you weren’t one of the parties) custody saga between the ladies and Bob mediated by a pet psychic (hired by the ladies), who aurally communicated with Tiger – over the phone.
Tiger, decreed the cat whisperer, preferred to live with Bob. It didn’t hurt Bob’s cause that Tiger, like Bob, turned out to be a devoted Yankees fan.
Tiger had actually decided the issue much earlier. Bob, a hunky single guy with a robust social life, had never had cats on his radar, so when Tiger kept showing up on his back patio, he repeatedly returned him to the semi-lawful-owner neighbor ladies. (Spending $700 on surgery for an abandoned cat, who shows up at your door should entitle one to a certain proprietary ownership). But minutes later, Tiger would be back. Bob’s live-in girlfriend at the time had asthma and avoided cats, which further decided the issue.
But on a cold rainy March evening, a drenched Tiger stood outside the sliding doors on Bob’s patio meowing piteously. On that night, Tiger moved himself both into Bob’s home and heart. Amazingly, the then-girlfriend suffered no allergic reactions to Tiger and in a twist of fate, now does cat rescue. Bob uses this as an example of how Tiger has impacted the lives of everyone he’s come in contact with, including and especially Bob’s.
The guy who barely knew cats existed was to find himself with a feline soul mate, never mind the perfect sports-watching companion. Bob liked to cite as the basis of their bond that they were both adopted and both only children. But how many girlfriends would have been perfectly (purr-fectly?) content to sit on the sofa with Bob for hours on end transfixed in front of two athletic-event-broadcasting TVs? Tiger not only knew the players, but also never, ever made stupid comments.
When Bob and Tiger walked around the yard together, it was always in perfect cadence, to the amusement of the neighbors. Girlfriends over the years universally fell in love with Tiger. Some even maintained a relationship with Tiger long after the relationship with Bob was over.
Bob never went out for the evening without making sure Tigee (as his intimates call him) was in for the night. Unfortunately, the adolescent Tigee was still very much in his Cat About Town phase and had evening plans of his own, usually deciding to make Bob climb up on our roof to get him. After a while, we just left the ladder out and gave Bob a key to our gate.
A few years ago, Tigee became an indoor cat on the advice of a vet when attempted applications of sunscreen to the pre-cancerous lesions on his nose, not surprisingly, failed abysmally. (It would probably have made a great YouTube video.) But a couple of times when Bob was returning late at night with a date, Tigee would make a break for it, feeling the call of his lost youth. A short time later, he’d reappear, his carpet-softened paws uncomfortably wet and a “you can’t go back” look on his furry face.