Black & White Cat

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Michelle Phillips

I normally stay out of the fray of Nextdoor. I find it to be a good source of misinformation, innuendo, rumor and vitriol, for which I can normally not make the time. I had signed up for it at the urging of my neighbor, whom I met while walking the dog. 

Every time I check my personal email there are a list of posts offering free vegetables, missing pets, events, strange happenings in the neighborhood, and occasionally someone spewing venom about some minor infraction imposed on them by another. I had never made a post or even commented on one because I never open the email alerts, but we had been having a visitor at our house–a black and white cat with a little diamond shape on his nose. 

Now Matt and I had seen this cat before when he was an adolescent and we were out walking last winter. He would come up, rub up against your legs, gets a few head scratches and move on. When spring rolled in, we saw him much more frequently, but now at our house. I didn’t even know he was in the yard until my cats, especially Oscar, freaked out at the window when they saw him stretched out on the front stoop as if he owned the place. Oscar is not only the dominate cat in the house, but the dominate animal and has put huge dogs in their place, so you can image how displeased he was at the interloper staring back at him through the open window. Just seconds later I would be peeling his rigid, growling ball of fur and claws off the screen. 

Kitty, that’s what we were calling him only to find out later it was his actual name, soon became a frequent visitor and my cats started to get used to him hanging around and Matt and I petting him. I started to wonder if Kitty had a home because he was at our house more and more, sometimes twice a day. If was at that point I decided to post on Nextdoor to see if Kitty was homeless. We live in an area with a lot of apartments and duplexes and I wanted to make sure Kitty had not been left behind, especially in light of the fact that he was pretty skinny and had ear mites. 

I took his photo stretched out on the front porch under a set of Tibetan prayer flags with the header Black & White Cat. Little did I know the firestorm I would create.

Immediately a debate began over whether cats should be allowed outside with people throwing around accusations, town ordinances and garden variety hatred to make their points. People were complaining about Kitty killing chipmunks and rabbits–sorry, I’m with Kitty on that one–the fact that housecats live far longer than those that roam free and that he was harassing their cats. As I said it started out that way at our house but with a little intervention and sniffing the cats worked it out. Finally someone offered that they knew the cat, it belongs to their neighbor, and I learned Kitty’s name.  

I had commented that we don’t mind Kitty coming to our yard and keeping the rodent population down. I had also added that although my cats and Kitty were not fans of one another at first, they had learned to live together in the neighborhood. A subtle hint for everyone to take a deep breath for a second. People were really bent out of shape. 

The owner of the cat commented and claimed Kitty as her own. She added that he was insistent about going outside, so she let him out. People immediately attacked her. One person said she was concerned that Kitty would get picked up by a hawk (highly unlikely since a hawk can only lift about four pounds) and another was worried about the cars that speed past.

One of the women on the app who was particularly volatile from the start, claimed that Kitty had “slashed the screen, forced his way in and traumatized her cats.” Now I have had cats for so long I am tempted to believe that I was born with one in my hand, and I have never seen the most vicious, agile and crafty cat, rip open a screen like Jack Nicholson tearing through the bathroom door in “The Shining,” screaming “Heeeerrreee’s Kiiiitttyyy!”

Next the woman threatened to trap Kitty and take him to the Humane Society. Someone immediately pointed out that they were not open and to have a plan if she is going to trap the cat. Her next solution was taking the woman’s cat to a farm where Kitty can gallivant around all he wants. 

I felt terrible. My curiosity about whether this cat had a home and wanting to help it had turned into Kitty potential going to cat jail or a faraway farm with other cats, which he obviously does not like according to the trapper. I private messaged the owner and apologized for riling everyone up over her cat. 

What happened to people discussing the problem of a cat in someone else’s yard before going all crazy and threatening to trap their cat. If I were having an issue, I would find out where the owner lived and talk to them, not immediately rush to threats. That seems to be a novel idea in our society for at least the last decade, just sitting down and talking with someone when you have a problem. It makes me wonder, has our lack of face to face interaction because of the Internet caused us to simply hide behind the keyboard rather that dealing with our problems head on? Has it been exacerbated by staying home for months with little human contact during the coronavirus?

I don’t have the answers, but I do think that impersonal interaction has caused us to be less sympathetic, empathetic and thoughtful in our actions. I implored the trapper to consider if Kitty were her cat. Immediately she demanded that her cats would never do something so egregious–kind of like the parent whose kid would never do anything wrong. 

I haven’t seen Kitty for a few days, although my husband said he saw him yesterday. I hope that means that he is inside, not acting like a psycho slasher and enjoying a sunny spot with some fresh tuna. 


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