Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Little Brother

Little Brother has gone from two visits a day to one. He comes to get fed.

For months he came to the back door and sat on the deck furniture waiting to get noticed by us for his feeding, and now he goes to the front door. We usually have the door open in the evenings, with storm door closed. Since I walk past that door several times an evening I usually notice him. When I see him it spooks him, so I go upstairs, put together a plate with a small bowl of evaporated milk on the side, leave it on the front porch. He comes back, inhales his dinner and goes off to do his Little Brother thing.

Little Brother and his brother are two black cats I once called Black and Decker. They were ferals who showed up two summers ago when they were kittens. We think someone dropped off their mom in our neighborhood when she was pregnant.

B & D learned to hunt in our back yard. At that time we had created what I called an attractive nuisance. Sally, animal lover that she is, had built a wild bird feeding station. Actually not just one, but several. So we had birds filling up our back yard all year long. Naturally birds attract cats, and what a great place for B & D's mom, Mama Cat, to teach them how to hunt.

Because of the nuisance factor we took the feeders down (sorry, birds), but the cats stayed. By this time they had grown into teenage cats, jet black with piercing green eyes. Their mom was a purebred applehead Siamese. A beautiful little thing, but she came and went for a time, then finally went for good. I'm sure someone picked her up.

We had come to pity them and we put out food for them, eventually building them a house made from two large Sterilite storage containers, under our deck. By then they had no reason to leave our yard!

In the meantime Sally found out from No More Homeless Pets of a lady who let out traps with which to catch feral cats, so she signed up for the program. I won't go into detail, but I can't say enough for organizations like NMHP. They do yeoman service in trying to keep down populations of stray animals. They gave us a voucher and after we trapped Black and Decker we took them to a local vet, who was part of the program and neutered them for $10 each.

When we got them back from the vet we released them and they stayed away for a few days. Scared out of their minds, no doubt, but maybe even pissed off because we had their nuts cut off. I know how I'd feel if someone did that to me.

Black came back first. He was the bigger of the two, an alpha male. His little brother, Decker, was a lot more skittish, more easily frightened away. Black ate first, always, got what he wanted and left the rest for his brother.

Last December, about 8 p.m. one night just before Christmas, I was lying on my couch trying to will my broken sternum to heal when I got a knock on my front door. A hysterical lady was sobbing that she'd hit and killed a cat right in front of my house. When I went out to look sure enough, there was Black, dead in the road. He was a black cat crossing a dark road, and I know how hard that would be to see. I tried to make her feel better by telling her his story, that he was a feral, that his life wouldn't be long outdoors anyway. I felt worse for the lady than I did for Black. I told his lifeless body as I carried him to the spot in my garden where I buried him, "No more cold winters for you, buddy."

After a time his brother came to our back door by himself, probably puzzled by the absence of his big brother, but also glad he was getting fed.

I started to call him Little Brother rather than his original name, Decker, and Little Brother he's been since then. We used to be able to set our watches by when he'd show up for meals, but now it's getting more erratic. He went two days last week without showing up. Maybe another sucker--errrr--kind soul is feeding him.

Because he's still a 'fraidy-cat--he puts the "pussy" in "pussycat"--other neighborhood cats who come up on the back porch because they know there is food scare him off. One night we noticed him in the front, so we fed him out there, and while the dumber neighborhood cats wait at the back door for a handout, Little Brother is getting fed at the front.

When we trapped him and his brother and had them neutered, we became their caretakers. Little Brother won't come near us. He'll never be a pet. He'll be a cat who lives under our back porch in his Sterilite cat house and who shows up for meals. But while he's around we'll try to keep him fed and then nature has to take its course with our Little Brother.

Ciao for now, El Postino

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