I was walking through the living room yesterday and noticed a cat rubbing its shoulder on the outside of the door wall.
As I approached he looked up at me. Our eyes met. I immediately recognized him. I flung open the sliding glass door and exclaimed, “PETE! Oh, my God, you’re HOME!”
He was purring like banana cakes when I picked him up. He nuzzled my neck all the way around the side.
Six years. He’s been gone six years.
We’ve had a rough summer; two elderly dogs in our pack went to the Rainbow Bridge.
The remaining dogs in our pack started barking at Pete. He scrambled and left two scratches on the outside of my arm (didn’t even notice until a half hour later). I scooped him up and took him into our daughter’s room. He wouldn’t stop purring and nuzzling me. His energy was, “I’m home.”
I spent about 10 minutes loving him up, and ran to get some cat food from the garage. I grabbed an empty cat litter box, filled it with fresh litter and put it in the room with him.
He ate like a pig — and didn’t stop purring.
After about a half hour, my critical thinking kicked in. Was this happening? Was this really Pete? Nobody was going to be able to take away the experience of my experience, but I started thinking about how crazy this situation was. I was going to have some explaining to do. I needed evidence.
I ran into the basement, opened the fire safe, and started rifling through photo albums. I couldn’t find the picture of Pete I knew existed. I considered texting the kiddo at school, but thought better of it; she wouldn’t be able to concentrate the rest of the day and would want to come home.
So, I went back into her room to spend some more time with this prodigal cat. He was skinny, but not emaciated. His belly was small, round and hard. He wasn’t a mess, but he’d obviously been running. Then, I spotted a flea. We don’t do fleas here. I’m a wicked bitch about it— only because I’ve dealt with a false infestation (that’s another story) and won a war or two against those nasty buggers. I grabbed the one extra cat flea treatment leftover from just a couple of weeks ago (no kidding), put a few drops down the sink (because no way is he nine pounds), and treated him.
“You know we don’t do fleas around here,” I told him.
Everybody else recently had been treated with what must be the best (and most expensive) stuff on the planet, so I wasn’t too worried. He wasn’t infested.
Besides, who cared? He was home. The biblical story of the Prodigal Son flashed through my mind.
It was time to go get the kiddo from school. I started wishing for the helicopter I’ve wanted for decades. I spent the entire drive to school considering my options.
Should I tell her or let her discover him at home?
Should I ask her what she thought she’d do if she ever became a mom and had a surprise for her child?
I decided I couldn’t contain my excitement (plus, she and my husband HATE it when I start stories with questions). I flat-out told her the way I started this blog post — before I pulled out of the parking spot.
She squealed, “Pete’s home? Hurry up! What are you waiting for?”
I tried to dial her back a bit in case I was wrong. We talked about how he was darker — and older.
She blew by the dogs with on-the-fly pats when we arrived home, walked into her room and said, “That’s not Pete.”
His backside was to us so she didn’t have the same eye-to-eye experience as I had.
She started to talk to him, picked him up, and started to see what I’d seen. She grabbed his baby picture — still in the frame and on her bookcase this entire time — and we started comparing his markings.
It was undeniable, but still. Were we crazy? Was it possible?
He spent 40 minutes purring on her chest. We’ve had a lot of cats. None of them tolerate that much attention for that long — but Pete always had.
He was the coolest kitten. He was remarkably smart.
You know how dogs can behave like a human in a dog’s body? Pete was like that. We were convinced he could understand English. Our suspicions were confirmed after he disappeared the night my husband and I were talking about getting him fixed.
It became a joke around here. “Don’t talk about getting them fixed in front of them! You remember Pete, don’t you?”
I spent the bulk of the afternoon and evening reading articles about if, when and how a cat’s coat changes. His is darker, meaning he likely had some deficiencies in his diet. His eyes are a slightly different color, but he was between four and six months old when he split so that’s not a big deal.
It’s Pete, people. He’s so at home that he went into the utility room where we USED TO keep the cat litter boxes and food. He’s navigating the house as though he never left. He’s hanging out on the cat tree. He’s not crying to go back outside. He has zero interest in leaving.
My husband noticed it looks like he’s been fixed.
“What if some little girl is missing him,” my husband asked our daughter last evening.
She shrugged her shoulders and said, “She’s gonna have to toughen up; I did.”
I told her she’s going to have to read the book, “Flowers in the Attic” in order to understand my reference to keeping him under wraps for a bit.
I don’t know why he came back after all this time. We’d written him off as coyote food five days after he disappeared (crude, but that’s our marker after years in the boonies).
He slept at the foot of our daughter’s bed last night. He used the litter box I put back in its old spot. I hope he chooses to stay.
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