Two cats appeared in my backyard a few weeks ago, and I assumed they'd come to howl "Nanny, nanny boo boo" to my two indoor cats who must look at the world from a kitchen window. The visitors showed off: stalking geckos, slurping water from the saucer beneath a hibiscus, sunning themselves.
At first, the interlopers turned up early in the morning and at dinnertime. I ignored them, even when they stuck around to watch me weed and water.
Then, the bolder of the two, a black and white with caramel-colored eyes, took to bounding toward me whenever he saw me at the back door. Intellectually, I know a human, any human, represents food source. Emotionally, the sight of him running toward me registered as You like me; you really like me.
His companion, a white with patches of gray and brown fur (pictured), was warier but began to venture closer. Eventually, both rubbed against my legs and flung themselves on their sides to be petted.
Their coats were glossy, so I didn't expect them to be hungry, but they devoured a bowl of Purina One. The next day, I put out another bowl of food. A week later, my husband caught me at it.
"They'll keep coming back if you feed them."
"They already keep coming back."
We've been married long enough to have learned to choose our battles. He didn't want any part of this one. "I hope you know what you're doing."
I didn't, of course. You like me; you really like me.
A few nights ago, husband spotted the little black and white wending around my next-door neighbor's legs. "Is that your cat?"
"No, but we've been feeding it and one of its friends."
"So has Pat."
"So has the new family up the street."
Yesterday, my neighbor and I marveled at the progressive meal system cobbled together by two small tabbies. We'll continue our feeding arrangement, but the black and white has grown partial to her patio, and the white/gray/brown mix spends most of his time in my yard. (By the way, my neighbor checked out both cats and thinks they're neutered males.)
When winter nears, the cats will need shelter.
I hope I know what I'm doing.