OUR NIGHTLY VISITOR

Late at night and sometimes during the day, we face an intruder in our home.

He stares at us through the windows with hungry eyes and a cloudy visage, waiting until we’re gone so he can sneak in. And once inside, he steals things. Things whose absence is readily missed, things we paid good money for. Usually this happens while we’re asleep, but he’s even gone so far as to break in while Ross was minding his own business, sitting in the living room. He just strode on by, acting like he didn’t even see him.

We call this intruder Gray Cat.

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Gray Cat, as you might imagine, is no friend of Claudia’s. Here is Claudia, being an adorably cuddly kitty, the way she acts with most humans:

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And here is Claudia when she encounters Gray Cat.

When we moved into our current home, it came with a doggie door that leads from the kitchen to the outside, or as Gray Cat has learned, the other way around.

This is perfect! we thought, because Claudia, always an indoor/outdoor cat, never really learned how to use a litter box. When we first moved in we kept her inside for two weeks, against her door scratching and yowls of protest, to get her used to the idea that we were in a new place now and she couldn’t just go wandering off. During this period we hauled out a cat box, which Claudia regarded with a bathroom instinct of zero. We’d see her prepare to go poo somewhere, then have to pick her up and physically place her inside the box, where she’d stand, confused, until she eventually did her business. When it was finished, instead of burying it, she’d just kind of paw around it, like…is this right? After I go poo I just move some dirt around, right? Sort of like a human going poo, then wiping the toilet paper on their arm. She had all the right steps, but didn’t ascertain what the end goal was.

So it was a great relief for everyone when we un-barricaded the doggie door, and Claudia could go outside to wander, explore, and go to the bathroom in a less mysterious environment. I’m free! she thought. Until, that is, Gray Cat came around.

You have to understand that on our street, there’s a hierarchy of animals. On top is a black German Shepherd mix a few houses down that any small child could ride as a horse. But even though he’s enormous, he’s also on a leash, so he almost doesn’t count. Next is Orange Cat, who prompts the sad meow in Claudia: that low, throat-resonant sound that sounds like a concerned kitty cry. Orange Cat is like a big, fat mafioso who could certainly take Claudia, and likes to wander into our backyard from time to time just to show her what’s up.

And finally there is Gray Cat, who doesn’t scare Claudia, BUT PISSES HER THE EF OFF.

Why? Because he constantly comes into the house and eats her food. Poor Gray Cat is skinny, probably wild, and a total scavenger. Claudia gets the mad, high-pitched screech going whenever she sees him, as if to say, “bitch!!!! Get outta my yard!”

This phases Gray Cat not at all.

We’ve started feeding Gray Cat, leaving out bowls of dry food, so as to discourage it from coming inside. We’re not sure if it’s the right approach or not. We also have been barricading Claudia’s doggie door at night, which is fine until she starts frantically pawing at doors and windows like, “hello? Have to pee! And there’s no weird box of dirt around for me!”

It’s a classic Mexican standoff between us, Claudia, and Gray Cat. Mostly, we and Claudia are a united front. But sometimes we have to limit her independence to salvage her food bowl.

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No one is sure what to do. Some have suggested we take Gray Cat to a shelter, so that if he and Claudia ever did get in an actual scrape, at least he’d be clean and have his shots. That seems reasonable.

What Claudia’s dream scenario would be, however, would be to live in a world where there are no other cats but her. Which is the bizarre thing about cats: their supreme lack of camaraderie with their own species. Can you imagine what a weird existence that would be? To actively hate your own kind?

Fortunately, Claudia likes people. She may never understand that other cats are her, that she is in fact what she despises. But until that day comes, we’ll barricade the doggie door, chase Orange Cat away, and generally be her human protectors, because we love her. And also because she’s trained us well.