My daughter-in-law, Nola got a kick out of watching Bridget dropping her toys at my feet. My dog wanted me to play fetch with her. I’d tell her to bring a different toy and she’d run off to find it and drop something new on the pile. Her stuffed rabbit, mouse, and banana looked like gifts she was sharing. I adopted Bridget from the pound and Nola said, “She reminds me of Lucy, a stray kitty that adopted my parents. She brought gifts to them all the time.”
Lucy didn’t arrive at her parents’ doorstep in a basket like an abandoned baby. She either ran away from her feral mother to fend for herself or her mother mewed, “You’re outta here, kitty. My milk is gone and so are you.” Those things happen all the time in the mammal world. In any case, this skinny young street cat, not yet named Lucy, hung around their front yard for a week. She was a wild little creature, unapproachable, starving, and, unfortunately, in heat. The news of a cat in heat traveled fast, because every Tom cat in the neighborhood came a’courting. The male cats didn’t notice that she was scrawny and unattractive because Tom cats are blind when they mate.
Eventually, the family managed to move the kitty to the back yard, isolating her from suitors. The poor thing was so exhausted from all the attention that she lay on the grass for a long, long time, not moving or eating. She needed desperately to rest. After mating time had passed, she started taking food from the family but not shelter. That’s when their granddaughter gave the critter a name. Once the family managed to touch and pet Lucy, they took her to the vet for a health exam. The vet revealed that she was only six weeks old and barely pregnant, which did not surprise anyone. The vet said, “Six-week old kittens don’t make good mothers and often neglect and abandon their babies, leaving them to die.” For that reason, Lucy became a “fixed” kitty instead of a mother. Nola’s family loved her and nursed her back to health and helped her to grow up.
Lucy grew into a lovely and adored pet, but her street-smart ways had taught her to be a vicious and skilled hunter. She was so grateful for being rescued from her wanton, poverty stricken life that she showed her appreciation with the most interesting gifts she could kill. Her first was such a shock that my daughter-in-law leaped back in horror when she almost stepped on it as it lay on the door mat before her. It was a dead, fluffy thing that appeared to be the tail of a young squirrel. It was not gory but neat and unsoiled, like something you’d see in a science fair. From then on, all of her gifts on the door mat were clean, imaginative and morbid.
She left a tidy bird foot, a spotless bird heart, an occasional small dead snake, and a pair of hind legs of a young squirrel, still hooked together. But the strangest gift of all was a complete set of tarantula legs, barely attached to just enough of the body that they lay on the door mat like six curled fingers facing upwards.
Lucy’s kill-and-share method of gift-giving was her favorite activity for many years. Eventually, she either ran out of ideas or got tired of shopping for unique presents. They showed up on the door mat less frequently, appearing only when Nola’s parents had been away for several days. When they returned, they never knew what they were going to find on the door mat. The family was not at all offended when their pet stopped shopping and dropping which kept them all hopping.
Lucy is now a twelve-year-old fat cat living a life of luxury and contentment. This is quite a different life from the old days when she bedded down with every Tom cat in the neighborhood only because it was nature’s way. That’s behind her. Now, she sprawls on the couch, or flops on the grass by the pool or lounges on the patio furniture under the trees. No matter where she chooses to recline, she ends up in peculiar positions such as on her back with all four legs sticking out like an octopus or curled up on her hip with her head upside down. Food and water appear in her bowl and she eats and drinks and never thinks about Tom cats or John cats and she wants nothing to do with kids. She takes her easy life for granted and assumes that all cats live as she does: in the lap of luxury.
Lucy’s hard life as an alley cat isn’t even a memory anymore. She thinks she was born here. Once in a while she plays with a mouse till it dies, but only for something to do. A dead mouse on the lawn lacks the flair that marked her early work. She stopped killing things for humans a long time ago, because they didn’t appreciate them anyway.
illustration by Betty Auchard