I was carrying the recycling bins up to the curb when I noticed my usually reticent, solemn neighbor shoveling the grass and dirt he’d edged from his lawn into a wheelbarrow. He was smiling and seemed to welcome conversation. Odd. But then I noticed Trouble, lying in the middle of the street.
“Nice day for lawn work,” I noted, beginning a rare conversation. “I guess Trouble’s here to keep you company.”
“Oh, is that her name? I don’t usually like cats,” my neighbor said. (I haven’t spoken with him enough in the past 10 years to know his name.) “But I like this one. She’s friendly.”
At that he walked to the middle of the street, where Trouble rolled onto her back in anticipation of a proper stomach rub. My neighbor stooped to pet her.
A few weeks ago, another neighbor asked about the cat. His granddaughter had been coming to his house frequently and loved to play outside with the cat.
“They seem to love each other,” Charlie told me. “The cat comes over to see my granddaughter, and they play. When she has to go take a nap, we’ve found the cat sleeping outside her bedroom window.”
As a cat parent, I’m happy that this outdoor cat of ours is so well-liked, but sometimes it isn’t such a good thing for us. Trouble sometimes disappears for hours or most of a day or night or more. We wonder. We worry. We want to see her. We want to know that she’s OK. She’s like a non-communicative teenager who shows up when she has a need but is perfectly content to stay out with her friends all day and all night with nary a thought for poor Mom and Dad.
Poor Mom and Dad, indeed. Our cat Trouble is a little too friendly and trusting — except when she’s inside our house with our other cat. (Long story and how Trouble got her name.) Then she is too quick to hiss. Outside, she’s a happy little thing, running and climbing and catching large insects and small rodents and birds. (Or climbing on the car and sitting on the precarious trunk lid while I unload groceries, as she did in the featured photo.) But Trouble also has behaviors that give us concern — such as lying in the middle of the street or the middle of the driveway to sunbathe, where she becomes nearly comatose and I have to get out of my car to move her physically out of the way before I can park. (My husband thinks she’s waiting for Mom, me, to get home from work and then simply falls asleep — just in time for my car to back down the driveway.)
On occasion, Trouble’s climbed up the brick wall surrounding our neighbor’s pool area and jumped down inside only to find no way out until he discovers her and comes to her aid — sometimes a day later.
Trouble also doesn’t seem to have the sense to come out of the rain. We have two covered porches and a sturdy garage available to her, but when rain comes, she gets wet. When Hurricane Matthew was visiting, I opened the side door to the house and she ran inside, completely soaked. I dried her with a towel and then carried her into the den, where she immediately made her way to a box of newspapers on the closet shelf. Trouble hibernated there all day while the storm raged, and I was happy to know that she was safe. But when the storm was over, she wanted to return to her outside domain.
Just this morning as I readied for work, I heard cat screams outside the house. This mama was on high alert. I quickly walked around the darkness until I saw Trouble, atop my husband’s truck, and another cat on the attack, also on the hood of the truck, creeping closely.
“Get out of here!” I screamed as I ran toward the intruder, stomping hard on the driveway. The animal jumped down and ran a short distance and then turned to look at me, as if measuring how threatening I was. I rushed at the cat and yelled, “And don’t ever come back!”
I then checked on Trouble to see if she was OK.
She was rattled, clearly, but seemingly unhurt. I reached my hand to her and let her sniff me, and then she slunk off the truck and ran under some bushes in the darkness.
I wondered if I’d embarrassed her by fighting her battles.
I told my husband about the cat fight and my antics, and he asked what the intruder cat had done after my “scary attack.”
“Probably sat at the top of the driveway in the shadows and [I mimed the cat wagging her paws near her ears and sticking her tongue out],” I admitted.
He and I have had numerous conversations about our teenage Trouble and her disappearing act. We attributed it to her lack of fear — and communication. We discussed how she can be so much like a teenager (or adult child) who wants us when she wants us or wants something such as food or shelter or money (well, if she could spend it, I’m sure she would). She is perfectly content ignoring our cries of “Trouble! Come here, Trouble!” and even our shaking of the cat food container when food isn’t her priority.
“She is so much like a child who won’t communicate!” my husband and I both concluded. And then just as we were about to embark on a conversation about actual human children who act much the same (they who shall not be named), we looked at each other and said, “She is so much like us in our relationship with our Father, God. When will we grow up?”
OK. Not word for word. Not simultaneously or in chorus. But the proverbial light bulb lit in both our brains, and we were instantly convicted about how we, too, have our own Troublesome behaviors and failures to communicate.
Teenage Trouble and will I ever grow up? Indeed.
P.S. Please don’t tell Jackson Galaxy on us. Had we known about his “My Cat from Hell” series back when Trouble literally walked into our lives, we might have two companionable house cats. Instead, we have an outside cat that makes us worry and an inside cat who sets the DVR to record “My Cat from Hell” episodes so that she appears sweet in contrast. So far it’s working.