Pretty cat, I thought, glancing at the tabby with a white chest and feet. A one stripe ran down one side of his nose. Wonder what he’s waiting for?
I didn’t stop. I had horses to feed, chores to do. I assumed the cat was hunting in the woods. But why is he hunting so close to the edge of the road? And why is he so far from the nearest house? Maybe he’s hungry.
The next morning when I went to feed, I took some cat food, just in case. The tabby wasn’t at the edge of the woods. Had he gone home? I slowed my truck and saw him about thirty feet into the woods. I pulled over and, cat food in hand, got out of my truck. When he saw me, he came to see what I had. As he gobbled the food down, three other cats came out of hiding—a solid tabby, a calico, and a white cat. None were full-grown, but they were larger than the white-footed tabby. And they were hungry. Obviously, they’d been dumped. I fed my horses and went home. By that evening, I knew what I had to do: an off-road adoption.
The little tabby was waiting by the road. I fed the horses first and returned to where he sat. I offered food. He came straight to me. I picked him up and put him in the truck. The calico came out of hiding, and I took her, too. Further down the road, the other tabby was in a tree. After a bit of coaxing, he finally climbed down low enough for me to pluck him off the branch. By now, it was dark. I was sure the white cat lurked in the woods, but I couldn’t see it. Well, three off-road adoptions were enough.
Back home I unloaded the cats into my husband’s shop. Before he finished his protest about why we didn’t need a bunch of stray kittens, one of them caught a mouse.
“OK, they can stay,” he said. “For a while.”
The next morning, a white cat—ready to become off-road adoption number four—sat by my farm entrance. He was glad to get in the truck and ride down the road for the reunion with his brothers and sister. The little tabby seemed to be the leader of the group. The other three stayed close to him, almost as if they were keeping their eyes on him.
I found homes for the larger, prettier cats, but I added the personable little tabby to the collection of felines already in my household. He fit right in. If he wanted something, he patted us to get our attention. If gentle patting didn’t work, he demanded attention by standing and clawing us on the butt. Strangely, he never made a sound.
My two older female tabbies seemed to look out for him, and he looked to them for direction. The females always came when I called, “Cats! Cats!” If the little tabby, now named Buford, saw them come to me, he followed. If he wasn’t watching them, he didn’t follow. If he didn’t face me, he paid no attention at all to my calls.
My husband tried some experiments. While Buford was asleep, my husband clapped, shouted, and even blew a whistle. Buford didn’t react; he was totally deaf.
His deafness explained a lot: why he never meowed, why the other cats looked after him, why he had no fear of loud noises, why he didn’t mind the sound of a vacuum cleaner, why he didn’t come when called. I started calling him my “little afflicted cat.”
But he wasn’t afflicted. He did everything that hearing cats did–and sometimes better. . . .
I'd started writing the above story to send it to a Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers. Now, Buford's story will remain unfinished. He was a good little cat.