When I heard Bob the Cat screaming in the backyard, I crawled out from under the Burford holly where I'd been plugging the hole under my house's foundation. Burford holly has very sharp leaves, which is why I planted it outside my windows. In my rush to get out from under the bush, I got some ugly scratches on my cheeks and arms.
I ran to the backyard where the mercury vapor lamp cast a spotlight on Bob and the black-and-white kitten I'd caught in my humane trap the previous night. They were about twenty feet apart with Bob on my patio spitting threats, and the stranger standing motionless on the grass.
I probably need to 'fess up about Bob the Cat. He's a lover, not a fighter. If you want to read his backstory, go here. While he is a fearless hunter, he is socially inept when it comes to other cats. His companion cat, Tribble, was already old and frail when I brought Bob home from the SPCA, and he was only three when Tribble died at age 23.
Bob's just never had much experience with other cats beyond repeatedly getting beat up by the neighborhood's stray toms.
I say all this to justify why a 17-pound cat would be reduced to howling for help at the sight of a cat much smaller and younger than he.
The kitten wasn't growling or making any threatening moves. It was small--probably only ten pounds--and I guessed between eight and ten months old. Its lack of aggression and failure to run from Bob's over-the-top display of hostility suggested it needed something--either safety or food.
I scooped Bob up and carried him into the house. In the kitchen, I opened a cat of Fancy Feast food and dumped it into a bowl. I carried it outside and tried to approach the young cat. She--although I couldn't see the sex with the long hair, I'd decided it was female--backed up, poised to run.
I stopped, put the bowl on the ground and slowly backed away. "Go ahead," I crooned. "I won't hurt you."
She was clearly torn--wanting to come forward, but fearful of me. I sat in one of the patio chairs. "I won't bother you. Go ahead."
Hunger finally overcame anxiety, and she darted forward to eat. I continued to murmur soft nothings to her while she ate.
She inhaled the wet food. I realized she was famished and slowly got up to return to the house. I filled two more bowls--one with kibble and the other with water--and brought them out to her. This time, she let me approach to within six feet before she retreated. I put the new dish down and backed off.
While she ate the kibble, I studied her. She looked clean, no snarls or knots in her long fur. Her white chest and legs were pristine--no dirt or mud. "Are you lost, baby, or just waiting for your family to come home to feed you?"
She didn't answer. When the kibble was gone, she turned and left, without so much as a "thank you." I shrugged, picked up the dishes and went back inside to bed.
We didn't hear the possum in the walls that night. John Boy was shopping for a new residence. The free food handouts were over, too. It was time the little guy learned to fend for himself. It was early September; he had time to find new shelter before the cold weather set in.
The next day I lugged the humane trap into the garage. For the next few days, I waited for the mercury vapor light to be triggered by motion, expecting to see the young cat return, but nothing happened. I decided she was a local pet that had drifted in and out of my backyard.
Finally, after many months without rain, North Texas began to experience rainfall.
More later ...