I’m dedicating this post to my cousin Becky.
When my mom and I arrived at the beach a couple of weeks ago, we filled our arms full of all the supplies we hauled down there and headed up the stairs. When I peeked over the Costco-sized packages of toilet paper and paper towels to unlock the door, I noticed a cat sitting on the cover of the hot tub.
“I think we have a visitor,” Mom said, standing behind me with her arms full of new mattress pads.
“Oh great! I wonder how long it’s been here. Lew and Brian will die,” I said, as I fumbled to get the key in the lock.
Lew and Brian and Doug bought the house before Doug and I married and we’ve all vacationed there nearly every summer since. We rent it out the rest of the time.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to call these men “particular” or “fastidious” owners. Every time we go down, they expect a report on the house — what’s broken, worn-out or needs to be replaced, for example. In fact, it’s because they are so meticulous about the house being in good shape and well-stocked that Mom and I packed the back of my car with all those rolls of paper towels and toilet paper, only to discover the shelves and closets were already filled with those basic supplies.
So when I noticed a cat living there, I thought they would want it removed from the premises ASAP. I imagined them worrying about the cat having some nasty disease or scratching or hissing at some little beach-going toddler or people writing in the guest book that a feral cat ruined their beach vacation by hanging around the house making people sneeze or by holding the hot tub hostage.
As a dutiful wife of an owner (I know my place in this beach house triumvirate), I fired off an e-mail telling them about the cat. Then I said, “Should I call animal control?” I told them that when I woke up the first morning we were there, I opened the blinds in the kitchen window and the cat’s face was staring in at me.
“It loves sitting on the hot tub and stretching out across the door so that you have to step over it when you go out. I almost fell down the steps trying to avoid it as it wrapped around my legs.”
Then, I received this e-mail from Lew: “I didn’t know you liked cats so much. I have a new name for your new cat –“Rascal, the Raccoon Cat” or it could be “Rascal Turner” for short? Actually, there are many feral cats down there. Many of the residents feed them and certainly the tourists feed them because they are so cute. I doubt there is an animal control down there.”
So I overreacted about the cat. Then Brian replied and said, “How about writing a play about the Cat on the Hot Tub Roof? Have the setting in the south (oops, Hatteras is the south), then we can get some celebrity cats to play the keys roles.”
Doug just wrote back and said, “Send pictures!”
Clearly I was the only one with the cat problem.
The boys didn’t care about a cat taking up residence at their beach house.
And, no animal control?
I found a little story about “Basket Lid Wisdom.” It said, “Before you reach to pet a cat on Hatteras Island we suggest you exercise caution. Many of the cats roaming the Island are descendants of a breed of cats that date back to the first settlers of the island…The cats came with the ships…As the years have progressed many of the wild cats have become domesticated, but you will still occasionally run across one that has that wild look in his eye…”
This cat didn’t have a “wild” look in his eyes and he must have feasted on food at someone else’s door because I didn’t feed it or pet it. And every time I tried to take a picture of it, it eluded me.
I’m not much of a cat person. When I was in high school, we had a family cat and it loved to sleep on the top of the front wheel of my car. When I turned the car on, it jumped off and ran away. Except one day it didn’t jump off…and, well…
“Mom, remember the cat that got hurt when it didn’t get off my tire and you said it ran away?” I asked.
“Oh, well, I might have told you that so you wouldn’t feel bad,” she said, not looking up from her embroidery project. “You actually killed the cat.”
“Now you tell me!” I said. “No wonder I don’t like cats.”
And of course the beach cat liked to wrap itself around my feet every time I went outside. It never loved up to my mom like that. And it liked to rest pressed up to the storm door, staring at me while I worked at my computer. Mom looked in the guest book and saw that several renters wrote about the cat. “It was weird because a cat was here and we loved it. You will too! We found out that it’s notched ear means it’s a Kinnakeet cat descended from shipwrecks.”
“The notched ear means it was captured, spayed or neutered, and then released,” someone wrote.
I checked that out and discovered they were right. There are about 1,000 wild cats living on Hatteras Island.
“The cat was so friendly,” another person wrote. “My kids called her Mrs. Raccoon because of her striped tail. With the broken porch screen, she jumped in through the window and slept on the hot tub at night.”
Well so much for the renters hating the cat. Still, I thought the owner boys would want me to drive the darn cat to the end of the island to live at somebody else’s house.
Toward the end of the week, Mom said, “Do you think I could get that cat home? I could just sit it on my lap on the airplane. It’s so friendly, and it’s really quite pretty. What would you think about me taking it home?”
“No way are you taking that cat home. You have the worst possible history with pets! You should call Becky and see what she thinks of you taking home a cat,” I said.
Many years ago, my mom adopted a cat that made itself at home at her house. She fed it and took good care of it. Then one day she decided she’d had enough of the cat, so that night she decided to give it to my cousin Becky.
Even though Mom was in her pajamas and ready for bed, she scooped up the cat, climbed in the car, and off she went to Becky’s house.
She knocked on the door with the cat in her arms and when Becky opened the door, Mom said, “Here! I can’t stand this cat for one more minute. You have to keep it.”
Becky liked cats so she agreed to keep it.
I recently asked her if she remembered this incident. She said, “I’ll say I remember! That damn cat had three litters of kittens and then one of the kittens had a litter at the same time she did. I had 11 cats in my garage at one point!”
And the real problem? Mom found out the cat she adopted and then gave away belonged to her neighbor!
“You cannot take that cat home. Becky will not want an Outer Banks cat even if it does have a notched ear, a raccoon-like tail and a pirate or shipwreck pedigree,” I told her.
With animal control and adoption out of the question, we said goodbye to the kitty. Then as we packed the car, it followed us up and down the stairs… until I accidentally stepped on its tail, and it decided to go back to the hot tub.
“I think you like that cat,” Mom said. “Maybe you should take it home with you.”
“No way. I am not swayed by its distinguished pirate ship pedigree. And, you certainly can’t take it home and end up giving it to Becky.”
“True,” she said. So we told Mrs. Raccoon goodbye and drove back to Virginia.
But I have to admit I’m curious about whether the cat is still there, whether the renters are feeding it, loving and petting it or if they’re searching the phone book for animal control…