In these apartments there is a cat colony. It is a small colony since the woods surround with coyotes, and Barred and Great Horned Owls, and with a pair of Red tailed hawks who fly low over the parking sheds and the parking lots where I am certain there are no rabbits.
Whether the colony began when renters left their cats behind, or whether it started with refugees from the Great Nashville flood I do not know. I do know that I once fed chipmunks, then a possum, then a raccoon trio,( and with such delicious kibble), that it was natural the cats would come.
Last summer it was a gang of four, three black and one slate gray. They were at the kittenette stage of life and slept on my porch daybed on summer nights.Over the winter I put blankets under the day bed for them to shelter. By this spring the slate gray, who was possibly too conspicuous for its own good, had disappeared. As did an old tabby.
Now the colony is run by two sleek young Bagheeras with lustrous black fur and yellow eyes. They are as flirtatious as houris in a Sultan's harem, and their Sultan is Major Tom, who looks as though he could use a box of band aids. He is Chandler's Moose Malloy, and the females are his Velmas. As chic as Chanel models they charm him and rub him with their tails and drive him to distraction.Sometimes their charm overwhelms him and he will grab one by the neck and pin her to the ground. If a man tried that with a woman he would have had a cast iron skillet come down on his head, but the Bagheeras are there to serve and seem not to mind. Of course there are consequences to being so accommodating, and a month or so three of them arrived.
I saw them first on a weekend when Nashville had a 6 inch rain. Whether the colony lives in the drain pipes or under the foundation plantings that much rain was dangerous to kittens. The Bagheeras came streaking onto the porch with kittens hanging by their necks. Under the day bed they went. The next day they were back to where they hide.
Over the next two weeks I began to see them more often. They started to eat soft cat food and started playing through the railings with each other and with the leaves of summering house plants. All was well until it wasn't.
Two days ago I found a small chewed bone of some small animal on the porch. I feared then that the coons had gotten one of the kittens. I did not see them again until today, and there were only two. The coons come every night and by morning the kibble cupboard is bare. But maybe it was not the coons. Maybe it was Major Tom, with a preemptive strike
on a male rival to be. Tom cats have been known to murder.
I have failed to mention the third female in the pack, who I think may be the mother-in-law. I call her Shaky Cat, for she shakes and walks every which way but straight. She still manages to find the food bowl. Perhaps a hawk got her then dropped her, and ruined her life as a diva. With her long black hair and addled attitude she seems like
an old actress gone to seed.
I am more of an observer than an admirer of this colony, but I cannot say the same of my little dog Poppette who watches them by the hour from the living room window, growling and shivering. If I call out "Where are the cats?'
he will even leave his warm bed for a glimpse.
Feral cats have their admirers, though some people want to poison them with Tylenol. Not long ago the Times had a story about an Audubon Magazine columnist who proposed this, and almost ended up in Witness Protection.
As for me, I am now conditioned. The Bagheeras raise their tails and saunter toward me, and the next thing I know, I am off to Kroger at 3am for bags of Tender Centers.
* For those who have never read Kipling" "The Jungle Book", Bagheera was the black panther in the story.