The Community Cat in My House
This article was written by Pet Community Center Board of Directors member and Marketing Committee Volunteer, Leanne Gossels. You can learn more about the author at the end of the post.
I named Bobo in the parking lot of Pet Community Center (PCC). I had a car full of cat traps with a contingent of meowing, hissing community cats and was filling out their paperwork as quickly as I could, then handing over the cages to PCC staff to bring inside to be spayed/neutered and vaccinated.
I had managed to trap a few of my “regular” cats. At some point in 2018, it wasn’t uncommon for me to open my door around dinner time to find more than a dozen members of my neighborhood colony waiting for platefuls of the cheapest kibble money could buy. I’d handed off the cats who’d been coming around for months if not years-- Mama Kitty, MDB, Scruff McBuff—when Katie, the Community Cat Program Manager, said, “I love that you have names for all of them.”
I love praise, so I couldn’t very well admit that the last orange tabby in the trunk didn’t have a name. I gave him one on the spot. He was a scrawny, skittish young male with an oversized tail and a lean, low crouching way of walking. His tail, through some quirk likely developed before he was even born, seemed to have a mind of its own. He looked as if someone had described a cat to a child and then that child had sketched a cat after only ever seeing a picture of a cow and a weasel. I chose the name Bojangles. (No one tell Katie I’ve confessed to this.)
A day later when I returned him along with the other cats after their successful surgeries at PCC, he shot out of the trap in a blur of orange and white.
“We’ll never see that one again,” I said.
And sure enough, for a couple weeks after, Bojangles would be spotted walking across the neighbor’s yard on the way from my neighbor’s feeding station, giving my yard a wide berth.
But there are two things in life Bobo cannot live without, and one of them is fish-flavored bulk-ordered cat kibble.
He started coming by occasionally for breakfast or dinner. It seems my neighbors were feeding out a flavor of food he didn’t enjoy as much because within months he was a full-time fixture in my yard. He was still skittish, but growing slightly less scrawny.
Over that first year of TNRing (trap, neuter, return) cats, more cats showed up to be trapped and then brought to PCC to end the vicious chicken and egg cycle. I received a donated winter cat shelter from a generous PCC volunteer and then we built a couple of our own— tweaking the designs until every cat had a preferred shelter type. I ran an extension cord under my door to plug in outdoor, pet-safe heating pads and filled boxes with straw in the bed of my truck. Bobo never ventured far but didn’t quite trust the hands that poured the food.
Until one day when Bobo discovered the second thing in life he cannot live without: scratchies.
Nearly as soon as Bobo was first touched by a human hand, he discovered that hands can provide pats, and after more than two years, in a matter of weeks, he went from never having anything but the top of his head bopped, to lying belly up on the driveway for a full body scratching.
Thus, Bojangles, had a new name, Bobo Bellyrubs.
I moved in the summer of 2020 and couldn’t leave behind the “regulars” who had become such a big part of my days for the last couple years. I had to finally accept that I no longer was taking care of a colony of community cats, I was just the proud owner of a handful of outdoor cats. I was able to afford their care due to PCC’s vaccination clinic and pharmacy, so I figured, why not.
Last winter, Bobo followed my dog through the open front door for the first time. He only stayed inside for a few minutes before growing nervous and rushing back to the door. The next time he stayed a little longer. The morning he explored the sunroom, discovered a plush dog bed in a beam of light and fell asleep, snoring lightly for almost an hour, it was clear Bobo’s days as an outdoor cat were numbered.
Today, Bobo has a third thing he can’t live without: climate control.
He’s the kind of sweet, sensitive cat that even people who don’t like cats think is a pleasure to have around. He won over his notoriously grumpy, happily-only-child dog brother and the two spend much of their days napping together.
I recently looked back at the video of him being released because it didn’t seem possible that the cat that had fled in that first batch of TNRs could possibly be the one asleep on my couch right now. I must have misremembered.
In the video it’s clearly him, though. He isn’t much older than a kitten. And because PCC had a program that made it possible for a grad student in her first real apartment to care for a coterie of community cats, Bobo is now a happy and healthy little companion who somewhat patiently waits for board meetings to be over so he can get a refill of fishy food. He may have grown up hunting for meals on the mean streets, but don’t you dare try to fill his bowl with chicken.
About the Author: Leanne Gossels
Leanne Gossels is a management consultant with a focus on business transformation. In both her career and volunteer pursuits, she emphasizes the importance of people (and in the case of PCC, by extension, their pets.)
Leanne has an ever evolving collection of animals, including a horse, pony, dog, and of course, Bobo. Her vices are messy kitchens, feeding strays, and getting lost in the woods.