It was one of the first sunny, mild days in March. I went to the door to let my little dog, Elliot, out. There were two cats on my walkway. One, a big, fluffy orange-and-white beauty, was rolling around on a warm flat rock. The other, a big, soft gray one, was sitting a few inches away watching her, or him.
When the orange-and-white one got up and walked a few feet, the gray one followed, close behind. When the orange-and-white one stopped and sat down, so did the gray one, sometimes pressing up against her friend. (I have decided she’s a girl, though I don’t know for sure.)
The gray one appeared to be smitten with the orange-and-white one.
The orange-and-white one spotted me and ran, and the gray one followed. They disappeared around the side of my garage.
A couple days later, the gray one appeared, alone, on my walkway. She sat and stared at me as I walked out the door, then turned and ran off. The next morning she was back, in the same spot. Again, she split as soon as I headed toward her. I placed a bowl of my kitty, Ruby-2-Shoe’s, food, in the spot.
The next morning, there she sat, next to an empty bowl, looking at me beseechingly. I’ve been a bleeding-heart animal lover all my life, and ignoring a hungry stray cat has never been an option. I was carried out of a movie theater, a sobbing 5-year-old, halfway through “Bambi,” and I never fully recovered.
One of the first things I noticed about the cat, after her beautiful soot-gray coat, was her big ears, one missing the tip. I named her Bunny.
I learned that the missing ear tip may have been the result of the shelter, a few miles away, clipping the ears after taking feral cats in, neutering them and administering shots, then releasing them. I had been thinking about luring Bunny into a carrying case and taking her to the shelter. That was no longer an option.
Sadly, I never saw the orange-and-white cat again. But happily, Bunny continued showing up each morning for breakfast, then later for dinner. I gradually started moving her bowl closer to my deck. She followed the bowl, and I fell in love.
Unfortunately, Ruby-2-Shoes didn’t. The first time I let her out to meet Bunny, she rushed at her with a scary shriek, and Bunny ran. Ruby stalked back inside, tail fatter than I’d ever seen it.
On the other hand, the first time I let Elliot out to meet her, Bunny rushed up to him, purring, and rubbed up against him. It was love at first sight. She started hanging out on the deck staring at the door. Whenever I’d open it to take Elliot out, she’d practically throw herself at him. If she wasn’t already waiting on the deck, she’d appear out of nowhere to greet him.
Bunny is a lover, not a fighter.
Elliot would lick her, and she’d swoon. I took a video of them one day. She was leaning into him so fervently she nudged him aside and fell over.
When I take Elliot for a walk down the road, Bunny walks beside him, sometimes pressed right up against him. They’ve been known to stop traffic. When I leave him on the deck for an hour, Bunny sits beside him. She’s smitten.
Over the course of the spring and summer, through miserable. rainy days, and searingly hot, humid ones, I worried about Bunny. I placed one of Elliot’s old beds beneath a chair on the deck. She might disappear for a few hours, doing her feral-cat things, but she slept in that bed every night, and crawled out every morning for breakfast and to say good morning to Elliot.
As fall approached, I started worrying about her being cold, sleeping outside. She would be living inside with her boyfriend, and me, if not for Ruby. Ruby is 15, and I love her. I can’t force her to share her home with Bunny. She still hisses whenever she she sees Bunny sitting on the deck, and she does that Halloween cat thing, with the arched back, when Elliot and Bunny have a love fest.
But though she’s not exactly sharing our home, Bunny now has her own room.
It’s at the back of my house, unheated, but insulated. I opened a window to the deck around six inches and blocked off all but a hole big enough for her to get through. There’s a twin bed with Elliot’s bed and an old, thick down parka on it. There’s an electric heater that I turn on when it’s especially cold. She sleeps there every night.
Today is a cold, rainy day. Bunny, who was probably holed up in some cold excuse for a shelter last year at this time, is in her room, curled up in her bed. I just peeked out there. She sat up, looked at me, yawned, and went back to sleep.
The thought of keeping that back room warm enough throughout the long, cold winter is somewhat daunting, but as I said, I’m a hopeless bleeding heart when it comes to any animal. And Bunny isn’t just any animal.