It happened early on in our care of him. A chipped tooth, he got, and lost a patch of fur which grew back. He got shaken up and he hurt. He crawled under the bed and didn’t want to come out. No wonder, he could have been killed. We took him straight to the vet and she told us, no permanent injuries. Just the tooth. What he gained is a permanent fear of vehicles and an indelible wisdom to Stay Away From All Moving Things on the Road, and because Bijou is Bijou, that lesson is priceless. Because Bijou has to be outside. The only way to keep that cat from going outside would be to lock him up and toss the key because he was born to be outside. And he’s shown it again and again and again. He can vanish out an open door before you have time to think. You won’t even see him. He’s just gone, like a magician. Like a ghost. That’s how I got him to start with.
As a kitten he was living in luxury in a large Brooklyn townhouse. He got out and when he came back they wouldn’t let him in. He became a street cat at about a month or two old. Roamed the streets and went from house to house. Fabulous hunter. Friendly. Personable. Probably had half a dozen regular stops where he got fed and watered. One of those stops was a place I used to stay when I visited Brooklyn for my work. First time I saw him he was lying in the sunny leaves of a grape arbor about 7 ft. off the ground. I was impressed. How’d he get up there? Then I saw him walk the very narrow fence with utter equanimity and grace. They fed and watered him but didn’t let him in either. He’d come, and go, and come back again,by and by.
We were dining on the patio the evening I first saw him in the grape arbor and he walked over to me and leaped into my lap. Something, I was told, he didn’t do. “He’s for you” my host said, astonished. So I brought him home to my wife who grew up with cats and loves every one of them. We live in a little village – a rural community in upstate New York and Bijou divides his time between sleeping, eating and roaming. He’s brought home many a hapless animal – baby rabbits we almost always manage to catch and let go, mostly eaten red squirrels and mice – pretty much the gamut of country rodents. And we have come home numerous times to find a terrified bird flying about the house. We think they get away from him when he comes through the cat doors. We’ve never found a dead one but have caught and freed many a live one.
And that’s Bijou. Not much of a fighter but an astonishingly good jumper and climber and hunter. We’ve seen him jump from a rocking chair five feet to the top of a bookshelf, another eighteen inches onto a crown molding, down onto the top edge of a narrow door he walked along the length of, jumped two feet down to the mantle, walked all the way along that, weaving in and out of decorative stuff without knocking anything over, jumped down to a chair and on to the floor.
He used to spend a lot of time outdoors. He’s about thirteen now and goes out several times a day but he likes to sleep a lot now, which he seems to enjoy enormously too. He makes little groans and squeaks and grunts of pleasure while he sleeps. It’s been clear from the beginning that he loves his indoor outdoor life. He wouldn’t, couldn’t have it any other way.
There are people – experts they call themselves and no doubt many are – who say no cat should be allowed out. Well they can say that. But you may as well take Bijou’s life as keep him indoors, because that is what you would be doing.
So yea. I’m glad he got hit by a car. It has kept him safe for 13 years. Ok, so maybe that wasn’t the best thing that ever happened to him. Maybe leaping into my lap was the best thing, for us and him, because that brought him to us. Gave him the life he loves so much. And us the cat we love so much.
Right now he’ sitting on the floor staring at me, wanting something. I just gave him wet and he has dry. I follow him to the kitchen. He stares at the door. Oh, it’s raining out. He wants me to stop the rain. Sorry buddy. Best go take a nap. Tomorrow’s another day in your wonderful little world – that isn’t so little.