From Pauper to Prince

From Pauper to Prince

It had been a summer of loneliness, and yes, freedom, too, after Sammy had passed away. The last of all the cats I’d rescued for over forty years, Sammy had made it to 16, until his kidney disease caught up with him. 

Grief and loneliness of living in a cat-less home coexisted with relief and a sense of freedom: Relief that no medications needed to be given; no kitty litter boxes had to be cleaned; the pet sitter didn’t need to be called (and paid) for overnights or vacations. So, I enjoyed, last summer, the freedom to come and go whenever, with whomever. And yet, an “empty nest” feeling lingered in my house without cats.

One windy evening last October, I returned from shopping. Lugging my groceries into the house, I noticed at the corner of the building, next to the bushes – eyes and a splash of white - a possum? raccoon? Wasn't sure; but since my condo is embraced by woods to the south, and I leave peanuts and suet each evening for wildlife, I figured it was a friend from the forest.

“Who’s there?” I called in the soothing “baby talk” I reserve for animals. The specter of white backed up and disappeared in the hedges.

Later that evening, as I ventured back outside to distribute the “Critter Vittles,” and opened my front door, there, on the porch, a black and white tuxedo kitty searched my eyes, beseeching in a long musical meow that translated to “help me.”

“Oh my, you poor little boy, you look hungry. Wait right here.”

The scrawny little kitty wolfed down the wet food and drank with gusto from a water bowl.

That night proved pivotal because once he’d finished, the little fellow didn't run off. He lingered in the bushes next to the door.

I sensed I was ready, after months of grief and freedom, to accept another cat into my life. It felt right. But I wanted the feeling to be mutual.

I propped the door ajar and said, “if you want to come in, you're welcome; your decision.” I moved away and observed him from the kitchen. He climbed the one step into the entrance and looked around and then ran out; then inched back in and sat inside; then he turned around and ran back out. He must have sensed profound change on the horizon if he committed himself to a new life in this strange, welcoming space.

His moment of truth came about two hours later, after successive trips back and forth.

By 10:00 p.m., the chilly air had driven enough of itself through the half-open door. I gave the newcomer his last call. “Okay, pal, bar’s closin’, it's either in or out, and since you're in, I'm closing up.”

I coaxed the door ever so slowly, to give him a chance to run through. He rested about a foot from the opening and watched it gently close. He didn't flinch; didn't panic; didn't pounce to scratch his way out; he just sat there and looked at me and, in his silence, said, “yeah, I suppose I’ll stay.”

So I knew when the little kitty entered my home willingly, that I was about to take on the joyful burden of sharing my life with another feline.

I set up an enclosure by the front door so he would feel safe and secure and wouldn’t wander around the house unloading fleas and ticks. This poor animal was so exhausted, he slept flat out on his bedding until he awakened to the scent of breakfast.

After placing signs at the local feed store, I checked the animal shelter. I put his picture on “Next Door,” the Facebook-type social tool. I discovered in people’s responses that he’d endured a month-long sojourn, lost and searching for help.

“He stopped by my back yard, but then ran off.”
“I saw this cat three times, poor thing.”

“He came right up to my door, and I fed him; I tried to get him, but he ran.”

“I’ve seen him running around for the past month.”

He’d lived the life of a homeless pauper, relying on people’s unpredictable responses when he’d begged for scraps. My search didn’t yield an original home, and so he became mine.

After the de-worming and removal of eight ticks, he was allowed to roam around the house. And it wasn’t long before he displayed his interest in intimacy. My friends chuckled when I told them, “I met him on Wednesday, and slept with him on Saturday!” He claimed his spot next to me on the comforter as if we’d always been together. He reminded me of my beloved cat Francois who had died eight years earlier; so my new companion became Philippe, a French kitty, too, oo la la!


During the day, Philippe loves to lie by the window on a cushiony pillow of bright, royal red. He fell into the comforts of gentlemanly living as if he were a prince entitled to his thrown. That September just before Philippe arrived, Queen Elizabeth had passed away, and her son was to become King. In his honor, Philippe inherited the nickname, Prince Philip.

He and I just recently enjoyed the six-month anniversary of his rescue. He’s added two pounds to his lanky body, and enjoys bird watching on three perches facing east and west out the kitchen and bedroom windows.

Time for a belly rub,” he says as he rolls on his back with his paws high in the air, his come-hither eyes looking right into mine.

When I’m first up, he leaps at me from under the bed and grabs my legs. “How about a pick-up game!” he insists. He impresses me with his athletic prowess, leaping off all fours to catch the airborne toy mouse and kicking with accuracy at the kitty-sized soccer ball.

Well, where’s my food?” the prince chirps after the game in a high pitch, and I say to him, “your wish is my command, your royal highness.”

Sometimes when I’m at my writing desk, I break from my work and catch a glimpse of Philippe sprawled out on the floor before the gas fireplace. He stretches his long legs straight out; his muscles flex; then he curls himself back into comfort for more snoozing.

I’m grateful. Happy I saved this animal’s life, whose presence has enriched mine. I’m thrilled he’s enjoying himself with security and pleasure.

I’d rescued Philippe, but it was Philippe, Prince Philip, who’d helped me reclaim the joy of loving an animal.

Prince Philip on his throne.

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