She could make awesome parking spots suddenly appear in crowded lots. I can also make awesome parking spots appear, but my timing is off and usually the car ahead of me actually gets the spot (you're welcome!). She could change traffic lights from red to green with a twitch of her nose. For me, the trick works about fifty percent of the time.
Mom's presence always strengthened my witch powers. Together, we could make two or three parking spots open up. Together, traffic lights were always green when we needed them to be.
One of my witch tricks is that I can spot stray cats. I see them huddling in bushes or under cars. I glimpse them running in ditches, strolling through parking lots, darting across busy streets.
But my witch powers have never been strong enough to actually catch any of these stray cats. They don't know that all I want to do is help them, give them a little food, a soft place to sleep, a chance to find a forever home or to reconnect with their humans. They see me coming, and they run, slipping away into the tall grass or around a dark corner, and I am left with nothing but my good intentions.
Meet Ruddy, the cat who stayed.
On a warm evening exactly one week after Mom died, as my cats enjoyed a fresh breeze through the screen of our deck door, I heard a long, low moan. I instantly recognized it as the kind of "greeting" my cats use with unfamiliar cats. I found Clara standing at the deck door, staring into the darkness. And sure enough, there were two glowing eyes staring back at her.
To my surprise, the cat let me approach. I picked him up. He began to purr. I carried him to the neighbor's house, knowing that they have an orange cat who often sneaks outside. I was pretty sure this cat wasn't their cat, but I had to make sure. Nope, they didn't recognize him. And this whole time, the cat stayed calmly in my arms.
We gave him some food. He hung around for awhile, weaving between our legs, jumping on our laps, letting us rub his belly. Then he went back to the screen door, where Clara was watching him closely. He must have gotten too close for her comfort, because howls and hisses split the night as the two cats threw themselves at each other, with only the screen between them. The cat quickly ran off into the darkness.
He didn't come back for two days. I figured once again, my witch powers had failed me. Or maybe, I hoped, he'd found his way back home. But Sunday evening, there he was. I held him again, and he nuzzled against my cheek, purring loudly. He nearly fell asleep in my arms.
We didn't want to expose our cats to any diseases, so we kept the cat in our garage. Meanwhile, we tried to find his owners. We checked with more neighbors. I took pictures and posted them on Facebook, Craigslist, and the Animal Humane Society. On Tuesday, we took him to a vet to check for microchip. There wasn't one. The vet verified that he was a male, about 1 or 2 years old.
Nobody came forward to claim him. But we started feeling guilty keeping him out in the garage. He had food, shelter, and a soft bed. He was safe, but he was lonely, even though we visited him as often as we could.
We decided our best option was to provide a foster home for the cat. That way, he could get vetted and checked for diseases. If he ended up being a good fit for our family, we could adopt him. Or maybe another family would adopt him. Either way, he'd get the forever home that he deserves.
On Friday, we contacted Mending Spirits Animal Rescue. Arrangements were made, shots were given. We named him Ruddy, in honor of my mom. (Ruddy was her maiden name.) On Monday, April 25, after a week of living in our garage, he came into our home.
Will we keep him? To be honest, I'm torn. On one hand, we already have three cats. We had talked about getting another one this summer, but we were thinking more along the lines of a kitten. Besides, Clara, Darwin, and Zora have not been very welcoming. I haven't seen any all-out, fur-flying fights, but I've heard plenty of growls and hisses.
On the other hand, Ruddy is a sweetheart. He loves to cuddle. He's gorgeous, too, with a fluffy tail that just won't quit.
But most importantly, he's the cat who stayed. He showed up just one week after Mom died, and he stayed. I can't help but think that Mom has something to do with all of this.
Whatever we decide, we helped this cat. That's all I've ever wanted to do.