Oscar was named after the Sesame Street character who lives in a garbage can because that is where we first became acquainted. I was working at a pizza-delivery chain and had been assigned garbage duty. While tossing bags into a dumpster, I heard a faint meow. I began digging through the trash, and several layers down I found a cat – bruised and thin. I wasn’t sure if the cat had crawled into the Dumpster to scavenge for food or if he had been put there purposely. Our establishment sat directly behind an apartment complex, and unsupervised and abandoned pets were common.
Back on solid ground, it became evident that the cat had an injured leg. He couldn’t put any weight on his right hindquarters. The situation created a dilemma for me. Finances were tight, and I was moving back home to my parents’ house – with two cats already in tow. Dad barely tolerated the two established felines. His reaction to another injured stray was sure to be less than receptive.
I took the stray to the vet, hoping to patch him up. After shots and X-rays, the vet discovered the cat had a cracked pelvis. I posted notices, hoping someone would claim the cat or adopt him.
Meanwhile, the response at home was swift and firm: No more cats! Dad insisted I take the cat to the Humane Society immediately. I protested that the cat would be put to sleep. Luckily, my mother intervened. She agreed the injury would make the cat unadoptable, so we would keep him long enough for his hip to heal. Then he would have to go – no arguments.
Oscar must have somehow understood his situation. He seemed to study the other two cats and their interactions with my father. We suspect he bribed Tanner, our golden retriever, with table scraps in exchange for etiquette lessons. When the other cats were aloof, Oscar was attentive. He came when his name was called, and he would roll over on his back to have his belly scratched. As his injury began to heal, he would jump on the ottoman by my father’s favorite chair, and, eventually, into his lap. Initially, Dad pushed Oscar away, but persistence paid off. Soon, Oscar and a muttering Dad shared the chair.
At mealtimes, Oscar would come to sit with us. Positioned on the floor by my father’s chair, every so often Oscar would reach up with one paw and tap Dad on the knee. At first, this provoked great irritation and colorful expletives expressed in harsh tones. Oscar, however, refused to be put off. Repetitive knee-taps soon led to semi-covert handouts of choice morsels.
Oscar greeted my father at the top of the stairs every morning and waited for him at the door every evening. My father sometimes ignored Oscar, and, at other times, stepped over him, complaining the whole time. Oscar mastered opening doors by sticking his paw underneath the door and rocking it back and forth until it opened. Soon, he was sleeping in the master bedroom at the foot of the bed. My father was completely disgusted, but couldn’t stop the cat from sneaking onto the bed while they were sleeping. Eventually, Dad gave up.
Before long, Oscar, aspiring to his own place at the table during meals, began jumping up into my lap. He was allowed to stay as long as his head remained below table level. Of course, an occasional paw would appear as a reminder of his presence.
Three months passed, and the vet pronounced Oscar healthy and healed. I was heartbroken. How could I take this loving soul away from what had become his home, from the people he trusted? Sick at heart, I brought Oscar home and told my parents what should have been good news: Oscar was a healthy cat with a healed hip. “I’ll take him to the Humane Society like I promised,” I said dully.
As I turned to put Oscar in the carrier for the trip, my father spoke, uttering three magic words: “Not my cat!”
Oscar is home to stay. He now has his own chair at the table and sleeps – where else? – in the master bedroom between my mother and father. He is their official “grand-kitten” and living proof that deep within the most unlikely heart, there is a cat lover in all of us.
By Kathleen Kennedy