Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Feral Cat Named Josepheline

This week she makes me feel like a superhero. Lately, she's relinquished a half dozen lives after I've made as many leaps and bounds down the deck stairs with hands on hips demanding: Drop IT! when I hear her little meow-meow-meow status as she prowls around the yard.  So, I figure it's time.  Get me that mask and cape.  I've reached superhero status for saving a few innocent wild lives lately.

She's a feral beach kitty we picked up nine years ago from the OBX.  I can still see my kids' three little faces in the rear-view mirror's reflection of the backseat as the van door slid shut and clicked closed.  Seeing those faces, I knew I was in trouble because I didn't want to say goodbye to her and watch her in my side-view mirror as we drove away either.  

That skinny young kitty had spent a lazy summer beach week crunching through our Golden Retriever's oversized dog food each evening.  We fed her from a recycled plastic feta cheese container on the porch as the sun slid silently over the Sound.  She was scrawny but oh-so friendly and comfortable around us.  She'd easily rub her heathered-gray striped tail around our legs or hop onto the porch swing to sit with us, purring loudly and affectionately.  Her tidily notched peach-colored ear told me she'd been rounded up by vets doing good deeds and gaining experience by doing quick spays and releases on feral beach cats up and down the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  And those big green eyes...  How could I say no to an easier life at home with us?

So, open the van door slid, in she hopped, and round-as-saucers went three sets of eyes in delight as she sniffed around her first car ride.  On the way home, she swiped at our dear old Chapman-the-dog once, before resigning herself to curling up on the floor on the passenger side floor. Yawning and licking and catnapping all the way to Raleigh.  

On the way home we talked about perfect cat names.  Just right names, silly names, appropriate feral cat-type names.  The boys were still at the Scooby-Doo cartoon age.  I mentioned Josie and the Pussycats and the name "Josie" stuck.  Beautiful but fun, I wanted her to have a more proper name than a nickname.  So, Josephine it might be.  Or, better yet, Josepheline.  A play on words as exciting as her little personality.  And since the beach would always be a part of her, I added Pearl, but spelled it "Purrl" because her motor was (and is) always running. 

Nine years later, our Josepheline Purrl has shown us she's got more than 9 tough lives. She's made us laugh, cry, hug her tighter, yell in anger, walk away in disgust.  We've carved out a niche in our lives for a feral cat who has seen us through not one, but four dogs. Quietly and cautiously she has tolerated all of them.  She flicks her tail as she sips from our koi pond, hopefully understanding they too are pets just like Caspian our twelve year old green-cheeked conure in his elegant standing cage.  

Exuberantly, she will dash through a nighttime backyard flickering orange with bonfire light, easily climbing ten feet into a wild dogwood treetop and shimmying carefully back down when she's done showing off her feline talent.  Loyally she trots after us on cold North Carolina evening winter walks for 30 or 40 minutes.  She drags home baby bunnies and squirrels each spring.  If we can't save them, she eats them.  All.  It is sad and perplexing, but deep inside, I know this, too, is a part of her.  When we brought her home we knew she was feral, and you can't remove feral from a cat who deeply loves her wild life as well as her tame family.

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