Around this time last year, I was actively engaged in a plot to steal my neighbor's cat. Now, cat theft wasn't in my plans when I sat down to think about my resolutions for the year, but these kinds of temptations tend to rise up of their own accord. One morning, I discovered a beautiful gray and white cat sitting at my front door crying to get in. It was an uncharacteristically cold winter, and, fearing he might be a stray, I let him in and fed him some smoked salmon that I happened to have in the fridge. That was all it took for the daily visits to begin.
He was a sweet cat. Every day, he'd come by and let me snuggle him for a few minutes before perching himself on the back of the couch where he could watch the birds pecking at the shrubs outside of the front window. After a few hours he'd sit at the door and cry to be let out, so I would oblige him and then go on about my day. He was pleasant company at a time when I desperately needed it, and I began to think that I was meant to keep him, as if the universe had sent this cat to me to help ease my loneliness. He didn't even trigger my son’s allergies, which only served to fortify my belief that my relationship with this cat was, indeed, kismet. It made perfect sense to me at the time.
I made a feeble attempt to see if this cat had an owner, but even this half-hearted attempt easily revealed that he belonged to a woman down the street. She told me her cat's name was Gray Kitty, though the neighborhood children had taken to calling him Frank, and he had been unhappy since she added a dog to the household over the summer. She asked me to stop letting him in so that he wouldn't get too settled with me and I agreed, but when he showed up each morning, I would think to myself, He's clearly trying to move out of his house, and I'd let him in anyway. The heart wants what it wants. Who was I to stand in the way of such a thing?
Before long, I bought a litter box and a bag of cat food—You know, just in case I can't get him to go home some night—I explained to my husband, who didn't even register a note of disapproval with this plan as he sat on the couch taking selfies with said cat. It was a good choice, as he did stay over a night or two, burrowing under my covers to sleep curled up next to my feet. I had never been much of a cat person, but Gray Kitty had me completely smitten. I must have reeked of desperation, because just as quickly as my smoked salmon had lured him into my life, the litter box sent him running for the hills. That level of commitment proved to be too much too soon, and he disappeared as fast as a man spooked by the discovery of his girlfriend's toothbrush in his apartment. Gray Kitty would still come around the house occasionally, but he'd never come in. He'd just stare at me with a look that said something like I thought we were just keeping things casual. . .
He showed up on my doorstep a few weeks ago, obviously unaware that I had moved on and invited a dog to live with me. When Chino spotted him through the glass, he stopped dead and stared with a look of indignant disbelief, as if to say Are you kidding me right now, cat? It took him a few beats to collect himself enough to begin barking, which succeeded in chasing away the intruder. But before Gray Kitty turned to run off, likely for the last time, I could swear I detected just a hint of regret in his eyes, and it pleased me.