The Return of George December 2, 2014
Last summer, I wrote about our local feral cat, George, in my mashed-up blog-novel, Daily Life. George had hurt his foot and I’d tried to help. Afterward, people were concerned. How did George’s tabby-coloured story play out?
I didn’t have an answer, and it upset me.
As I was writing Daily Life, George had been coming around for about four years, usually bunking down in our neighbours’ dilapidated garage. I fed him most days, although he could disappear for months at a time. Then one day earlier this year, he showed up with a sore and swollen foot, limping badly. I had to search for a while, but finally found a vet who treated feral cats and took him to the clinic.
The vet was lovely, helpful and cheap. He also neutered George unasked. Didn’t ask me, much less George.
Not surprisingly, George held this against me. The pain, his cruel incarceration in a cat cage. I tried to keep him inside our house afterwards—tried in fact, to adopt him—but George wasn’t having any of it. He threw himself against the kitchen window trying to get out. He threw himself against the door. He did this so relentlessly, I was afraid he’d hurt himself. I let him outside, and George disappeared.
Patrolling the alleys over the next few days, I occasionally saw George flicking into somebody’s yard. I even found one of his hidey-holes in a stack of discarded wood. Yellow eyes glared out at me as George refused to come out.
Then he disappeared. I was afraid he’d got an infection and died in a pile of debris somewhere, and felt terribly guilty. For several months, in fact.
Then one day this fall, George reappeared in our backyard. He looked healthy, if still a bit skinny and rough. Someone else was feeding him; possibly a few other people. And he wasn’t limping. George’s paw seemed perfectly normal as he sat on our new patio. He wouldn’t let me get close but allowed me to feed him, ate a couple of bites and left.
I felt immensely relieved that I hadn’t killed George while trying to help him. Anthropomorphizing mightily, I decided he’d come back to tell me he was all right. He’d forgiven me. All was good, at least in one tiny corner of the world.
And so it stood until a week ago, when I heard a familiar yowl in the backyard. Outside was George with his sidekick Stanley, who lives a block or two away. Short-attention-span Stanley quickly ran off, but George sat waiting on the patio, looking not just well-cared-for, but prosperous. His coat was beautifully thick, as it’s always been in winter, but it wasn’t just the coat that gave him heft. George was eating very well.
Then I saw it. George was wearing a white collar, one of those mass-produced flea collars that I don’t think are supposed to be good for animals. He seemed to be going inside someone’s house. Not full time. The beauty of his coat suggested that he still spent much of him time outdoors. But he was going inside for long enough to someone to want to prevent him from bringing fleas in with him.
George had been adopted.
He still yowled for me to feed him, and this time, when I went outside, he didn’t edge away. Instead, he sniffed my hand and let me pat him before chowing down, finishing his bowl of food and settling onto the grass to watch the deserted bird feeder, while sparrows chattered down at him from the lilacs.
George has been coming around most days since. He seems happy. Once I looked out the kitchen window and saw him chasing a fallen leaf, although he stopped when he saw me watching, as if he was embarrassed to be caught looking kittenish.
Apologies to George’s new family. I plan to keep feeding him as long as he comes by. We’re old friends now, even if the dilapidated garage has been torn down, the pile of old wood removed, our street fixed up and blanded down. He isn’t exactly a feral cat anymore, but George gives the neighborhood character.
And keeps the bill for bird seed down to a vaguely-affordable level.
You can read more about George in Daily Life HERE.