Usually, when one leaves the garage door open at night, unpleasant things end up inside: raccoons in search of trash, mice, the odd snake, etc. One day two years ago, however, something beyond wonderful came in: a large tuxedo cat. DH realized that he had left the door open all night when he left for work, so without giving it much thought he closed it and was on his way. Later that morning DS and I were on our way out; DS was at that point just big enough to walk into the garage and to the car under his own steam, so he was carefully going down the steps when we heard a cheery “Meow!” DS almost fell over and I almost tripped on him. From behind a box emerged a friendly whiskered face, who repeated his greeting: “Meow!” “Cat!” said a delighted DS. “Hello, who are you?” I asked as the stranger approached, purring. He gave DS a gentle head bunt (one of the ways cats greet someone affectionately) and rubbed against my legs as I reached down to pet him. “You must be our neighbor’s cat,” I said over the motorboat sound. Our neighbor of many years has a tuxedo cat who is free to go in and out of the house as he pleases, so I figured he had come into our garage to escape the cold when he saw the opportunity. We talked to and petted the cat for a few minutes, and then I loaded DS into the car. The cat wanted to hop in, too. “Sorry, buddy,” I said, and lifted him out and brought him outside. He was still purring.
That night, we were just finishing up dinner when we heard “Meow!” at the front door. “Cat!” squealed DS. DH opened the door and in sauntered our friend, purring. We fussed over him and petted him, and DH offered him a little dish of milk (of which he took two or three polite sips). He strolled around the kitchen and front hall, rubbing against the corners, the stairs, and us. Still assuming that he belonged to our neighbor, we wondered if perhaps his owner was away and he was locked out. We called the neighbor. “No,” he said, “My cat is right here with me.” Hmmm. “Perhaps he belongs to the other neighbors,” I said. Our other neighbors have many animals, including a number of cats who are outside most of the time. It was DS’s bedtime so we politely said goodbye to our friend and gently put him back outside. He was still purring.
The next morning, there was another “Meow!” at breakfast: our friend had climbed up some of our porch furniture and was peeking in through the kitchen window. “Cat!” shouted DS and we went to open the door to say hello again. More rubbing, more purrs, more delight, plus meowing from DS. We got him back outside when it was time to leave for school, but that afternoon he was back again. A snowstorm was just getting under way and he came to our back windows, pawing and asking to come in. We didn’t know what to do. If he belonged to the neighbors we couldn’t really make him disappear for the night, and if he were a stray we couldn’t have him come in to a house with a small child when we didn’t know his vaccination status (or whether he had fleas or ticks). Reluctantly we kept him outside. Late that night, as the storm blew hard and the inches of snow mounted up, I saw him come sprinting up the front walk and tuck himself under the porch. I was dying to open the door and call him in.
The next few days brought more morning visits. The cat also began to hang out on the porch, enjoying the sun, and would come greet me whenever I returned, always purring. We still assumed he belonged to the neighbors, and began to refer to him as “Mr. [X’s] Cat.” At school dropoff DS told his teacher about our visitor. She asked him what the cat’s name was, and he told her, “Mr. [X’s] Cat.” X is a name that sounds sort of like the word “cookies,” especially when pronounced by a toddler. DS’s teacher didn’t quite catch what he said, and replied, “His name is Mr. Cookies? What a great name for a cat!” When I told DH about it later, he agreed. Thus our friend became Mr. Cookies.
Cookies was more or less a regular around the house at this point. He would accompany us on our walks in the woods or for playtime by the stream or large vernal pools, and was basically content to just hang out wherever we were. DH broke down and brought him some cat food, which DS happily fed him by the zealous dishful. So, what to do? Cookies was determined to be our cat, and for DS’s safety’s sake we needed to get him checked and vaccinated. We also wanted to be as certain as we could that he didn’t belong to anyone, so I put some notes in the neighbors’ mailboxes asking whether anyone was missing a cat. One afternoon, my phone rang: it was one of the neighbors whom I had not yet met, explaining that he was a stray that she and her family had been caring for for six years, but that they couldn’t bring him into their home because of her husband’s allergies. She worried about him being outside in the elements, with the coyotes, etc., and was thrilled that he might have a chance at a home. It looked like everything was becoming official.
Happily, Cookies passed his checkup with flying colors, and we brought him inside. After strolling around and sniffing, he discovered a couch, curled up and passed out. He slept nearly around the clock for the next few days — probably the first sleep he had had in years where he didn’t have to keep an eye and ear alert to potential danger. I stroked him in his sleep and watched his paws twitch as he dreamed.
Since then, Cookies has become our family’s protector, my best buddy, and a kind adoptive brother to Linus. He cracks us up every day. He introduced us to neighbors whom we might not have met otherwise and who are extremely cool. But most of all, he is sincere in his love and in his own happiness. We’re grateful he wouldn’t take no for an answer — that’s what I call negotiating. And the purring is endless.