Oh Putney!

Every so often we run into a colorful character along the way. Cut from a different cloth, maybe a bit radical, but always they add a new dimension to our lives. I’m a cat, you see, and so is Putney. Putney is one of the aforementioned: slightly left of mainstream. Unusual name, that, but I suggest you don’t tell him so. I’m Daisy, and I openly admit that my existence is quite pleasant: 


comfortable home, nice parents, plenty of good food, a whole basketful of toys, clean litter box.things could be worse.


Anyway, this crazy relationship began under somewhat startling conditions. Mom is the most considerate human; sometimes she opens the back door, leaving the screen door closed, and feeds me right there so that I can watch the birds and squirrels flitter around the yard while I dine. So one day not long ago, just up from my mid-morning nap, I’m halfheartedly dividing my attention between Friskies and Robins: A bite food, a peek at the birds, bite of food, take a peek, bite of food.and there, inches from my face, are two huge, penetrating green eyes embedded in a furry, orange skull!


“Open the door!” Said the skull. I was frozen in time and space. Where did this.thing.come from? My inclinations were to run back through the house like fire, race upstairs and under the bed where it’s completely safe. But I couldn’t move.


“I said open that door,” demanded the skull more loudly this time, “I’m hungry, and unless you want me to chew the framework away and come inside anyway, you’d better do as I tell you!” Now, being a girl-kitty, I’m not prone to violence and fighting, but believe me, I can fight if I need to. Startled I surely was, but this rude fellow was steering his ship up the wrong channel, and gradually my wits began to gather around me.


“Just you hold on a minute, Buster!” I said with authority. This was, after all, my home. “Who are you, anyway,” I asked, “and what are you doing here?”

“I’m an escapee.”


“YOU’RE A WHAT?” I screamed, shocked at his reply.


“I ran away from home a while back, don’t you know.” He said this with an air of dignity that puzzled me.


“Really! Why on earth did you do such a thing?” Personally, I wouldn’t dream of running away, and I couldn’t understand why this.


“Aw, I didn’t have it so well, that’s why. Not as well as you, from the looks of things.” He stared at my nice, clean plate piled with fresh food, then leaned sideways to gaze past me and into the house. He went on: “My parents weren’t the nicest folks, that’s why I left! Lots of times I had to eat old, ratty food that had dried up, and drink water that was dirty. I never got petted, and my litter box was.well, that’s a story I ain’t gonna share with a girl like you.”


My heart shattered into a zillion pieces. Here was this proud, handsome fellow, who had been mistreated and left with few choices.put up with all of that, or escape and take his chances for a better life. We talked some, and I learned that his name was Putney, and that he’d had a pretty rough time since venturing out on his own. And all the while, I noted, he eyed my plate of food with longing.


“Putney,” I said, “that is a terrible story! It’s a rotten shame when humans treat some of us like that. But what will you do now?” I asked, truly curious.


“Oh, I dunno. Prob’ly starve to death, sooner or later. Or maybe I’ll get ate up by a big dog, who’s to say.”


That did it!


“Not so, Putney!” I said with determination. I couldn’t guess about tomorrow or the future, but right now Putney needed me. I told him about that old outside dryer vent (which no longer had a dryer attached to it), and how to work the little flapper so he could crawl inside to the basement.


How many emotions can one have in an instant? Well, in those few seconds while Putney scampered around the house, through the dryer vent, and into my world.I ran the gamut: Fear, sympathy, apprehension, confusion, anxiety, excitement: you name it! But it was too late to back out now. I scooted into the kitchen and looked around for Mom; upstairs she hummed an unfamiliar tune, so I was safe for the moment. My heart pounded; not in all these years had another cat set foot in my domain! The door to the basement hadn’t closed tightly for more years than I can remember, and it stood slightly ajar now. With some reticence, I pawed at the bottom edge of the door until the gap was wide enough for me to pass through. Hesitantly, I squeezed through and moved to the first step. You could say I was wary, and it would be the truth. But onward I went, down to the next step, then the third, fourth, and finally my view of the whole basement was unimpeded. Careful scrutiny finally showed Putney crouched down behind an old cardboard box. Well, actually it showed the tip of an orange tail, but since the house wasn’t exactly overrun with orange tails, I assumed correctly that this was my new visitor. I called softly to him, and with trepidation he came ever so slowly into view.


“Mom is way upstairs folding laundry,” I told him quietly, “so we can go up now and you can have something to eat.” I paused and squinted at him: “But I warn you: Any funny stuff, and you’ll be sorry!”


He tilted his head from side to side in mockery.


“Oh Boy; I sure am afraid now! You won’t attack me while I’m eating, will you?” What a sarcastic brat he was! Here I am, being nice and giving my very own food to this .scoundrel.and he’s making fun of me! But I saw in his eyes a need to be loved and accepted; the brashness and sarcasm were merely items in his toolkit for survival out there on the streets.


“C’mon, you,” I said, and headed back up the stairs, urging him to follow along. He did, cautiously, and at the top landing I peeked around the edge of the door.the coast was still clear. As we passed through the kitchen, toward the back hallway that would lead us to the first decent meal Putney had had in quite some time, I lowered the boom on this scruffy boy.


“Look, I think Mom will be upstairs for a while, but there are no guarantees. If she catches us, I want you to keep your street-mouth and snotty attitude in your pocket, do you hear? If that happens, I want you to be the nicest, sweetest fellow who’s just here to.


“HEY! I ain’t no sweet.” He nearly yowled it.


“You are now,” I interrupted his boisterous tirade, “if you know what’s good for you! And keep your voice down!” My reply was a low growl, which I promptly ignored.


On we went: past the table, the microwave, the Fridge, and finally around the corner to the hallway. To me, that short trek was so very routine, but to Putney and what awaited him at the end, I suppose it must seem like an endless journey. Finally we reached the plate of nearly-untouched food, and I fully expected Putney to devour it like a pig! But he did no such thing. Hungry as he surely was, he gazed down at the food, then at me.


“Look,” he said, “I interrupted your lunch, which ain’t right. You go ahead and eat; I’ll just have whatever you leave over.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Certainly he was starving, yet the gentleman in him would not be denied. With misty eyes and a squeaky voice, I urged Putney to go ahead and eat, fibbed that I had eaten just recently, anyway, and assured him that I could get more food whenever I wanted. He believed me, and with reluctance began to eat, but not as the voracious animal I’d expected. He ate slowly, glancing at me from time to time, and I pointed out a few of the birds in the yard. I think he was about to enlighten me on the difference in flavors between the red ones and the black ones, but again the gentleman in him held the remarks in check. With each passing moment, I became more and more impressed with this “escapee”, and it was apparent that my initial evaluation of him had been a good one; beneath that shabby, orange fur lived a.”

“Well now.” Mom’s soothing voice said from the other end of the hallway, “.what have we here?” I froze, and Putney crouched, ready for who-knew-what. Since I had anticipated the possibility of just such an unplanned encounter, and since I knew my Mom quite well, I gave Putney my fiercest “Remember-what-I-told-you” look, and his tension eased somewhat. She stayed at the end of the hallway, crouched down, smiling and talking softly to Putney. My Mom is a smart one, let me tell you! She knew Putney was trapped at the end of that hallway, and she knew that he knew it. Quite calmly, she stood up and told Putney in a gentle voice that he was surely a handsome fellow, but she had work to do. That said, she turned, went back upstairs and resumed humming that pleasant tune.


Putney stared at the open basement door in awe. He was in shock that she had caught him dead-to-rights, and then gave him the freedom to come or go as he pleased. But I was not surprised; I’ve long suspected that she knows about that loose dryer vent, and she probably could have had the basement door fixed so it would close tightly.if she really wanted to. Putney and I stood there at the end of the hallway for quite a while, it seemed. He wandered to the screen door and gazed outside. I guessed what he was thinking: Mom had made it clear that he wasn’t a prisoner here, but that he could stay if he wished. But if he chose to stay, then he’d be giving up the freedoms of his recent past. Or would he? And what, exactly, were those freedoms, anyway? Free to starve, or eat from dumpsters? Free to be chased by dogs and other predators? Free to look for a warm place to sleep on freezing wintry nights? He turned from the door, walked to the now-empty food plate and sniffed at it, then came to where I stood. With slow deliberation, he pushed his head right up under my chin! Admittedly, I’ve not had all that much experience with head-bumps, but this was the very best one possible!

“Oh, Putney.”

Back to Newsletter Vol. 1, No. 37

Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy’s assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.