The Dumpster Cat by Helen Bing
There’s a determined scratching sound on the ranch slider. I clamber out of my recliner and go and open the door. Sitting there giving me the most pathetic silent meow, is Oscar. In he slides, rubbing himself along the side of the door, passes through my legs and heads to the kitchen where he looks hopefully at the empty food bowl. I fill it and top up the biscuits so that they are fresh as well. He has got me well trained.
Oscar became part of our lives 16 years ago. He was the cat that we had decided we were not going to have. We’d got past all that. They were a tie. We’d had our fair share of cats and one dog over the years. Our dear old Sweetheart had died the year before aged 22. The kids had almost left home, so it was our turn to do what we wanted. That was the plan.
Then came the phone call.
“Mum. There’s this kitten. He needs a home or else he’ll be put
down. There’s four of them all dumped in a dumpster. This is the last one. Can I bring it home?”
“Ask your Dad,” I replied.
“He said I had to ask you,” came back the answer.
And that is how Oscar came into our lives.
He was so small and wild looking. Our daughter carried him in trapped between the palms of her hands, snarling at this ever changing world he had found himself in. He really was that small. He was toilet trained and he could eat solid food, but he hadn’t learnt how to drink from a bowl. For the first couple of weeks he just dunked his nose into his milk or water and licked it off his nose. His huge eyes were still blue. My husband was home for a week or so fortunately, because this wee boy needed a babysitter. My daughter bought him a bright yellow gorilla, just the right size for a wee kitten. It got named Grolly.
TIme passed and the wild child grew. He turned into a slinky black cat with green eyes, a white bib and 2 white stripes across his tummy and exposed nipples! My daughter and I Googled black cats and their origins. This cat had to be more than just a Dumpster, we thought. Burmese perhaps? He learnt to climb trees and fences and to dodge the dogs next door. He desperately wanted to be a hunter, but without a Mum to guide him, he didn’t know how. For two or three years he sat up in the tops of trees waving his paws hopefully at passing birds.
We are sure he had something of our old dog in him crossed with a meerkat. There were only three people in his life - Tony and I and our daughter. Strangers were unwelcome, as far as he was concerned. If he heard anyone on the driveway, he would be up on the table, peering out of the window, sitting up on his hind legs growling. Anyone who comes into the house will not be met by our boy. He will be under the nearest bed and he will not reappear until they are gone. That is unless you’re my friend Robyn, who is not the biggest cat person in the world, and then he will decide to be your best friend.
Oscar is a homebody. The sign of the cat cage appearing will have him hiding in the back of cupboards, under beds or somewhere in the garden where you will have no chance of finding him.
Life was fine all the time our daughter was able to come and house sit if we were away, but the time came when we had to consider using catteries. Through word of mouth, a suitable one was found not too far from home. We had got a bit more cunning as time went by and learnt to leave the cage in the corner of the kitchen where he eventually ignored it.
We discovered though that catteries meant up to date vaccinations. This meant a visit to the vet, not something that was part of Oscars routine, except for a very early visit as a youngster to get his bits sorted. Anyway, the appointment was made, Oscar howled his way the whole kilometre and a bit to the vet and in we went. I warned the trainee male nurse that he was a wild wee thing and to be prepared. He didn’t and Oscar made his escape with a wild leap to the very highest part of the surgery he could find. Don’t ask me how, but he somehow managed to cling to the smooth bare walls for a brief time, before coming down. He tried hiding on benches and shelves, and yet nothing was sent flying. Finally, he was caught, the nurse was wounded and so was I and he was back in the cage. The vet came in and when she saw the chaos, was not best pleased. The nurse was sent off to attend to his wounds and the vet calmly reached into the cage, grabbed our boy by the scruff of his neck, and out he came like a lamb. This was the first of two visits. The second was much calmer.
The cattery wasn’t really a problem thankfully. He seemed to enjoy being with other cats and he got on well, which was a huge relief. The biggest problem was the owner - i.e. me - who could never remember the pick-up times at the end of his stay and always got into a panic and arrived an hour or two early. Mrs Cattery was slightly bemused though that our now 10-year-old cat still behaved like a kitten.
Then, new people took over the cattery. They seemed very nice, but you do get used to people. I went to pick him up after being away and I was told that there was cat ‘flu in the place. And yes, our boy managed to pick it up, even though he had all the jabs. This was one trip to the vet that he did not complain about, and $200 later, our cat was on the mend again.
Oscar is now 16. He still hasn’t worked out that he is an old cat. He still finds the extra-long ties on my apron a major temptation and swings off them if I am not quick enough. He still drags his Grolly around the house in the middle of the night, calling out to us in a what sounds like “Hurro”, then discarding it wherever is convenient for him. Grolly is no longer the bright yellow stuffed toy from years ago, but a balding, well chewed toy.
In his mind, all we have to do is sit all day providing him with a cosy lap. At night he comes into our bed in the early hours. He jumps up, walks along Tony, jumps off his head into the space between us. Sometimes he just curls up on the bed. On a cold night it’s under the blankets, or, his latest trick is too curl up on my pillow. Too bad if my head is in the prime spot. A very insistent paw tries to pull me over to the edge of the pillow. Once he’s got what he needs, then a very contented cat purrs into my ear.
He has an appetite second to none. It is a bit like feeding a baby. Make sure he has plenty to eat at the end of the day, then he is not so likely to wake you in the night suffering from starvation. He has two water dishes. A good-sized bowl for inside and a large dish outside. He seems to prefer the outside water because he can stand in this, then once he has had enough, he comes inside with sopping feet and jump on your knee. Nobody told him that cats don’t like water.
We may not have thought we needed another cat 16 years ago, but our Oscar still rules the roost. Any thoughts of moving to a smaller house have been put on hold. Obviously, we can’t inconvenience our boy more than necessary.
And with that thought in mind, it’s time to come to an end of this writing nonsense. Guess who is sitting in front of the computer, ears turned, tail twitching and looking vaguely pathetic. Oscar of course. It’s time for dinner.
“Come on, you silly old thing.”