Apart from dogs, roadkill, and the occasional kamikaze squirrel, my neck of Charlotte is lacking in furry animals. So I felt more than a little compelled to pull out my camera when I spotted an orange tabby cat in the middle of my apartment complex’s parking lot.
The tabby arched his back a little as I moved around him to get the light from the streetlight at my back and avoid shadows in the picture.
“Hey there, buddy,” I cooed, crouching down about ten feet away.
I opened the camera app on my phone and frowned when he wasn’t in the middle of the frame. He was closer. I looked over top of the phone and found him trotting toward me. His little orange ears pointed in my direction; his nearly black eyes had laser focus.
Here’s the thing: I’m not a cat person. I don’t particularly have a lot of experience meeting them or handling them or reading their body language. As a result, I felt a momentary spurt of panic because I had no clue if the little guy intended to claw my face off or if he just wanted to say hi.
I froze, and the kitty molded himself around my knee before shifting to rub against my other knee. Relief mixed with pure joy that a furry creature wanted my attention unstuck my muscles.
“Hi kitty,” I said. “Hi there.”
He arched into my fingers when I scritched them through his soft fur. His attention diverted away from rubbing against my legs every so often so that he could stare off into the darkness. (It was one of my neighbors walking to his apartment. He must’ve thought I was crazy talking to a cat.)
After trying and failing to take cute pictures of the tabby while kneeling, I straightened up in the hopes of getting a bit more distance between him and I for a better shot.
It was at this point that the kitty decided to give me attitude.
“Oh,” he said. “You don’t want to pat me? You want to take pictures?”
He slunked over to where the concrete from the curb met the asphalt before flopping onto his back. He stretched and rolled, looking at me over his shoulder.
“I’m cute, ain’t I?” he asked.
“You are adorable,” I said and proceeded to center him in the frame on my camera.
Just as I pressed the button, the tabby squirmed. The picture was blurry. I took another one, and it was blurry again. I must’ve taken a dozen pictures, each one a different level of blurry. A couple weren’t too bad.
“Thanks for the pictures, buddy. I’ve got to head inside now and start thinking about heading to bed.”
“Oh, so we’re going inside?” he said.
“No, no, just me,” I said.
“Okay, we’re going inside.”
I walked in the direction of my apartment, and the tabby led the way. I paused at the curb.
“Bye buddy,” I said a bit forcefully. “Time for you to go home.”
He ignored the hint and followed me all the way to my door. Then he started rubbing against my door just like he’d rubbed against my leg.
“Oh shit, you think you’re coming inside.”
“Well I am, aren’t I,” he replied. “I’m sure you’ve got food inside for me.”
“Um, no. All I have is dog treats.”
“I can work with that.”
“Dude, you’re not coming inside.” I unlocked the door, and the clunk of the tumblers moving made his ears perk up. “No, go home.”
“Are you sure this isn’t my home? I’m pretty sure I live with you now.”
“I’m pretty sure that you don’t.”
He kept eyeing the door like he’d dart inside the instant there was even a sliver of space between the door and the jamb.
I waited, briefly considering that I was locked in a stalemate with a cat that weighed less than my purse. If he snuck inside, I had no idea how I’d get him out again. And what if he peed on my carpet? I knew how to handle dog urine; cat urine might be different. It definitely smells worse.
Then he walked away from the door. He didn’t move far, but it was far enough that I knew almost for certain that I could slip through the door before he could dart in. I took my chance.
The tabby stared at me from the other side of my welcome mat with a look of betrayal in his eyes as I shut the door. If I didn’t feel guilty enough, he said one last thing: “But you’re my new human.” Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for him), when I looked outside a bit later with the thought of maybe letting him inside, he was gone.