By A. JULI PEDRO
EVERY breakfast and dinner, a black and white cat patiently waits for his meal outside the gate of my house. It's been that way probably for the last three years when it decided I should run a special soup kitchen for him.
I've grown fond of this cat despite the fact that we started off on the wrong foot or paw. I used to frequently chase him away as he would trespass to hassle my cats. But I've always found this stray cat handsome with his big round head, green eyes and sweet face. He was always full of battle scars and skin lesions so I called him “Gnarly”.
Being an incorrigible cat lover, I felt bad for this homeless cat, so one night I found myself throwing him a piece of salmon. Watching him smacking his lips in pleasure felt good; I knew it was his first time to eat salmon. I also knew it as an occasion that forever changed him from being a completely feral cat to one that finds human companionship not too objectionable.
We became like mutually beneficial friends – he got food if he left my cats alone. But he did knock up one of my cats. I needed no further proof of his paternity when my last kittens all came out black and white. Interestingly enough, he also made an unscheduled vigil outside the gate the night my cat went into labor.
I am amazed that Gnarly follows a circadian rhythm to avail of his benefits. He simply knows the time to park himself outside and wait for food. And wait long he does if I wake up or stay out late. Sometimes he gives up and leaves, and sometimes I worry when he skips a meal or doesn't show up for days.
Unless it's a stormy day, Gnarly doesn't mind waiting in the rain. When it's hot, he uses the plants for shade. He likes meat and doesn't really care for kibbles.
Gnarly now trusts me enough to let me carry him to the spot where I prefer him to eat. For a cat who spends his days under parked cars, he sure is smart to pick up which one is mine. Sometimes, I would pass by him on some street and he would immediately follow my car home.
Despite our unique friendship, Gnarly refuses to be domesticated. He prefers to be the cat who walks by himself, just like the one in Rudyard Kipling's story. He is also never without gnarly battle scars and wounds, proof that he is continuously defending his turf and his status as an alpha cat in the village.
Since we became friends, Gnarly has kept his end of the deal and never bothered or hurt my cats. He also knows a bit about reciprocity. One time at dawn, I saw him carrying a huge rat in his mouth. I didn't know it was for me until I saw it later outside my gate.
Here is a cat who is not afraid of dogs, people, cars and bad weather. Winning his trust was quite a feat and I'm glad to help him keep up his stamina with daily rations. Like everyone else, Gnarly is getting old and wrinkly. I know one day he will stop coming and I would miss him. But for now, he is very welcome—for breakfast and dinner.