Remember the huge snow storm of 1998? When about 3 or 4 feet of snow fell on Toronto and brought the city to a halt? About two weeks before the storm, a big, muscular grey tom turned up on my porch, nervous but clearly hungry. He wouldn’t let me touch him but he ate everything I put down for him.
Over the next few days he came back several times and finally, warily let me pet him, before taking off again into the cold. By now I’d named him Yukon, as he was such a handsome, rugged fellow. When I heard the weather report announcing the storm, I managed to lure him into the house, where I shut him up in a basement room. He was not happy about captivity. At one point I put a 40 lb bag of kitty litter in front of that door (because it didn’t shut properly), and darned if Yukon didn’t manage to push his way out anyway!
The snow fell for two days, and Yukon cried to get out for two days. I couldn’t explain to him he’d be buried alive if I let him back outside. Finally the snow stopped, I shovelled my walk, and let him out. He ploughed along the still snowy sidewalk and disappeared for three days, then returned.
I fed him, and he took off for two days, came back for four, was gone for five. One day I spotted him slinking down a laneway a block from my house, but he wouldn’t come when I called. This went on for a while, until I got sick of worrying and decided to have him neutered. After convalescing in the basement, he made my porch home base and returned almost every day for food and petting. He soon became a favorite of visitors, who would often sit on the steps with him before ringing my doorbell.
Although I was quite in love with the guy, I could not let Yukon into my house because my alpha male, Moki the Burmese, detests other adult males and likes to show his displeasure by marking his territory — you can imagine how. So when winter came again, another ACR volunteer made a heated shelter for Yukon.
Well, there were some -25C nights last winter when I couldn’t bear to leave him out. His little shelter was heated by a mere 40 watt light bulb, so it wasn’t exactly warm in there, just not so cold that he’d freeze. I decided to let him into the vestibule, which has a door to close it off from the living room. Yukon promptly curled up right over the heat vent as if to say — hey, this is more like it!
From then on, most nights he slept inside (I kept Moki in the bedroom with me so he wouldn’t know about the invader!). Some mornings, Yukon remained glued to the heat vent, but unless it was storming I pushed him gently out, lest Moki, who would sniff the vestibule door and growl, decide to mark territory again. Evenings I took to sitting on the floor in the vestibule with this big grey critter on my lap, pressing up against me and purring like mad as I stroked him.
Two happy endings
One day a couple came to see another cat I had in foster care, a little black & white female named Zena who was recovering from having her tail amputated. (We don’t know what happened, but when she was found, there was sticky tape tied around the base of her tail, the tail was practically mummified, and she had round, open sores on her back. We suspect abuse.) Bill and Eleanor were greeted on the porch by Yukon and were totally charmed by his looks and affectionate response.
In the end, although they’d intended to adopt a single cat, they took advantage of ACR’s two-for-one policy for adult strays and adopted both Zena and Yukon, the former now renamed Molly and the latter, Ralph — but pronounced Rafe, after handsome actor Ralph Fiennes.
I miss his friendly greeting when I come home now and his funny, high-pitched meow, quite at odds with his rugged appearance. But I know he has what I couldn’t give him with my macho Burmese and my other four cats — a warm loving, indoor home. Both Zena and Yukon have settled in splendidly — not only do they get along with each other, they also get along with Candida, the elderly black feline already in residence at Bill and Eleanor’s. Zena/Molly is playful though still a bit nervous about being petted, but Yukon/Ralph now spends a good deal of time napping on laps and getting all the cuddles he desires.
[Yukon/Ralph got out of the house one day by mistake, reports Eleanor. He was back in about 10 minutes. Clearly he knows a good thing when he sees it: Yukon has finally come home.]