Then there's the black tomcat.
We first saw him a few weeks ago, wandering through the woods behind our house. At first, Don worried that Zinda had somehow made it outside; after all, she once squeezed through a tiny opening in the back door and stood on the back step, taking in that great, sunny room we never let her go into. That excursion was readily nipped in the bud, but still... could happen again. Anyway, we quickly inventoried the kitties (much more time-consuming now that we have four. meep. How did we end up with four? Oh, that's right: Esme's freakin' adorable. Hearts of stone would melt into marshmallow; ice-water would turn to warm cinnamon-scented maple syrup in one's veins) and found that all of ours were accounted for. The black kitty in the woods was a new visitor. I went out, of course, and called to him, squatting down despite rice-krispy knees and extending a hand in invitation for an introductory sniff. Black kitty booked. I saw him again the next day. Worried that he was a stray, I put out a handful of dry food. If he came to eat, I might get a closer look.
He came to eat. I went outside, moving slowly and talking in soothing tones (read: sounded a right eejit). Black kitty backed away a few steps, meowed at me, and moved back to the food. At last I was close enough to touch him. He sidestepped each time, but moved back in toward the kibble. From what I could see he was in good shape: well fed, decent muscle tone, but definitely NOT fixed (oh, the hairballs!). Best I could tell, he probably belonged to someone; maybe he was a barn cat. Still, judging from his wariness, I knew that if I wanted a closer look, it was going to be a long process of getting him to trust me.
When I got home from work the next day, black kitty was there. I hadn't left any food for him, but he saw me and with a bright 'mraooowr!' came trotting over to me and dropped onto his side, waving his paws in the air. So much for the long process. I skritched his cheeks and head; he purred and mrrrred and continued to writhe about on my back patio. At last, I had to go inside to tend to my own girls. Black kitty trotted off, and I figured that was that.
At roughly seven o'clock the next evening, there was a WHAP! on the sliding glass door to my kitchen. My kitties fled, wide-eyed and puffed to three times their normal size. When I went into the kitchen, I saw a pair of sage-green eyes blinking at me through the glass. Black kitty was back, and he'd come knocking for some skritches. And this has been the pattern for the past two weeks: kitty shows up at varying times and either knocks on the door or just curls up on the back step until someone comes by to give him some snugglage. Except for that first time, I haven't fed him. I have played with him, though, and I've told him he's remarkably handsome (but only because he is; in fact, that's led to me calling him Handsome Tom, and until I think of a better name, that's what I'm sticking with). Before you think I'm about to adopt another cat, know this:
1. I have four cats already. Four. FOUR!!!!
2. Handsome Tom clearly belongs to someone already (though I do wonder why they've not had him neutered; that makes me more than a wee bit cranky)
3. Even if he didn't belong to someone, Handsome Tom is an outdoor cat. He has fleas (and,very possibly, ticks, though I'm hoping those bumps are just scabs 'cause I really don't want to deal with that). That just wouldn't fly in the ladyjoust/barleymash household.
He's curled up on my back step even now, all tuckered out from a mad bout of skritching and a right good brushing. Damn if he isn't the mushiest, sweetest tomcat I've ever met.
ETA: okay, he's gone home now. And I've added pics I took the other day. They're blurry because he never stops moving: flopping over and bouncing up again and rubbing his head against my hand and so on.
and in the interest of showing why Don had cause to be alarmed at the first sighting, a picture of Zinda, for comparison (and because she's so darned pretty):
*I sort of want to give him flea and tick meds, but of course I can't since I don't know what he may or may not have alfready received. I'm thinking of getting a collar and attaching a note that reads something like, "Do I belong to you? If so, please call *my cell #* so the nice skritch-lady knows I'm getting three squares and some crash space. Peace out, yo."