Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shell Game

Living in a college town, as I do, means accepting certain rhythms in town life. Right now, Arcata's in the midst of its blissfully quiet summer vacation: few students, little traffic, quiet weekend nights. That's the upside. The downside, especially for those folks living out in the Bottoms, is a surge in abandoned pets.

(When we lived in Berkeley, the end of May meant Shopping Day as thousands of UCBerkeley students with more money than sense unloaded furniture, clothing, and whatnot onto city sidewalks in a Bay Area phenomenon known as put-out.)

(In an interesting side note, I could not find a link explaining the Bay Area habit of put-out, which is you put stuff you don't want out on the sidewalk in front of your dwelling, and people take what they want. You then discard whatever's left after a suitably short period of time—or get a littering ticket. There are put-out rules, too, such as: it has to be on the sidewalk. If it's on the lawn or stoop, it is NOT put-out. You are not supposed to put out garbage; nobody wants that. But a bag of recycling is valid put-out. Etc.)

But back to Arcata and dumped pets.

So about three weeks ago, this scraggly long-haired black cat showed up in our neighborhood. He doesn't belong to anybody we know of. At first he was looking really ratty, but someone is brushing him now (or maybe he just shed the extra fur...he's not wearing a collar). I see him in the mornings and evenings, mostly hanging out with the Hauser's cats next door, Big Red and Extra Red.

In his pitiful period, when he first showed up, I'd see him giving our door The Eye, so I started setting out a bowl of kibble for him in the mornings.

At first, he'd come by, eat the whole bowl, then disappear. But then he started showing up with Extra Red. Then Extra Red would stop by himself and ask for a bowl, and Extra Red has those Puss 'n' Boots liquid eyes down pat. Then sometimes it would be Ratty Black Cat and Extra Red together. Or Extra Fluffy from around the corner, and I know someone's feeding her 'cause she's rotund. Even Big Red will make an appearance at the food bowl. Then whoever showed up for the meal wanders off to the next food bowl...

Ratty Black Cat and Extra Red on their way to the Hauser's breakfast buffet.

So now I'm asking myself, am I being played? What's going on here? I've even seen Vivani Catpants sitting nose-to-nose with Extra Red...no aggression, just companionable silence! Sure, they break it off when they see me watching them, but I'm on to it. Could it be...holy moly, could I have gotten a peek at the secret, underground network of cats working a neighborhood? Have I stumbled onto the Cat Club?!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Knowing these cats as I do, I must say that if the Cat Club in partially also Fight Club, you are probably right. Keep the windows locked at night, please.