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Our cat conundrum slowly uncurls

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My daughter Emily accused me of being hardhearted the day the stray cat appeared. She spotted him perched high on our neighbor's roof. "He's stuck!" Emily cried. "Look at him!"

I did look, and I wasn't concerned. Even from the ground, I could see this cat wore a flea collar and obviously belonged to someone. I explained to Emily how the cat could easily jump from the steeply pitched roof to the flat roof of our neighbor's garage and then climb down the tree behind the garage.

"No, he can't," she insisted. "He's scared!"

She fussed and worried until I brought a dish of cat food and jiggled it near the tree. The cat leaped down the very path I'd described and gobbled up the food.

"He's starving!" Emily said.

Actually, he wasn't thin. He looked about a year old and sported a shiny coat of brown-striped fur. After we fed him, he seemed happy to stick around. Emily petted him and carried him around our yard for hours.

It was a cold spring day, and by evening the temperature dropped considerably. I insisted that Emily come in, and the cat stay out. She hovered near the window and fretted. Outdoors, the winds howled and the cat meowed.

"He's freezing!" she cried.

I assured her he'd soon go home, to his real home. We peeked out the window throughout the evening and watched him shiver and cry on the front steps, as if he truly were freezing. At bedtime, I broke down and allowed him to come into our warm front entry.

I assured my husband this would not be a problem, because the cat had a flea collar and belonged to somebody. He was probably just lost. Emily brought him a blanket to sleep on, more food, and water. I brought a kitty-litter box.

Blackie, our family cat, who firmly intended to remain our one and only cat, paced the other side of the entry door. She hissed and growled, thinking, no doubt, that it was quite enough to put up with our family dog, let alone another cat!

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