He just appeared.
Out the back window in a pool of light at 12:34 a.m. He showed interest in what was inside our window. When he looked in our house he saw two happy, healthy, well-fed cats with toys and cat trees and water fountains and beds. He wore a sad look of longing.
And then he was gone.
That was March 13. Since then he has returned many times. Sometimes he just shows up. He comes running when he sees us. Now he answers to our voice when he is around, or meows outside the window to come in.
We call him “Mr. X,” a man with no name, no obvious place of belonging.
When Mr. X arrived the first time, I was concerned. Animals show emotion on their face. After decades of living with cats, I could tell Mr. X was not happy outside our house. He wanted a warm blanket, a cat tree, something to eat, and a friend.
We continued to watch for him, and over time he would make another visit. Then another. Finally, one day, we invited him into the back porch. It’s segregated from our two cats, who live exclusively indoors and have clean health records. Mr. X showed incredible affection, loved to be petted, then held, then brushed. He smiled a big cat smile and purred when we gave him his own blanket. Then we bought him a water dish, a food bowl, his own litter box, a heated bed, all on his own glassed-in patio.
We wondered where he’d come from. Was he someone else’s cat? Did a family move away and abandon him? Five houses were for sale on our block — he could have been from one of them, perhaps from a family that moved out and left him behind.
We had a special, bright red collar made that contained our phone number. We planned to put it on him so if he did go home to an owner, the people could all us. Domestic cats have relatively small territories, males larger than females, but the territories are finite nonetheless. Mr. X happily accepted the collar and went on his way. We hoped we’d find an answer to the mystery of Mr. X soon.
On the morning of April 1, I got a text message: “My cat came home with a collar that had this number on it. Did you put it on?”
Success! Mr. X has a home, and a name. It’s Chester. (We don’t know his last name.)
As it turns out Mr. Chester lives next door. He comes and goes as he pleases. The people who own him have children who love him and take good care of him. His excellent disposition speaks to their kind treatment of him. But the person who texted me told us her husband is allergic to cats and they were looking to relocate him.
Of course, Mr. Chester has a vote in all this.
Over the next few days, Chester made it clear he loves us and enjoys good food, a heated bed, and a wide open back porch to lay in while the sun spills through the window during the day.
But Mr. Chester also loves his freedom. He wakes up from his daytime naps and wanders out of the back porch at night. He plays in the yard, running around me, playing fetch, getting petted, and stalking imaginary things.
Then he disappears.
We’ll see him in the window next door. Then outside. Then back in our porch. Our cats haven’t met him, except through the window and screen and by sharing scents on the back porch after he leaves. Mr. Chester needs a clean veterinarian exam before he integrates with our cats because of disease that can be transmitted from cat to cat.
But there is more: As it turns out, the man next door isn’t the only one allergic to cats. My girlfriend, Jan Mack, is also allergic, and she takes a coal shovel full of prescription drugs every day to moderate her allergies to our two cats, MiMi and Vice-Admiral Malcom Fredrick Davis III.
So the full integration of Mr. Chester into our home might never be possible for three reasons: First, Jan is allergic, and a third cat might add to the symptoms. Second, Mr. Chester might not want to live inside permanently, and outside cats can put inside cats at risk for transmitted disease. Third, MiMi and the Vice-Admiral might not want a new cat. They are curious about Mr. Chester’s visits but reserved about him being a permanent resident.
So Mr. Chester is the decider in this matter. If he wants to move from next door to our house, he is welcome as long as we can moderate the issues of Jan’s allergies and integrate him with MiMi and the Vice-Admiral. But those factors also weigh heavily on the matter.
For now, Mr. Chester is enjoying the benefits of two households and seems quite pleased about it. A veterinarian visit is in his future, and we worry about his exposure to traffic and other animals outside, but he appears to be a clever man who has made his way so far.
Have you ever formed a relationship with a mystery cat like Mr. Chester? Tell me in the comments section.