Marvelous Molly

For the first year she was a figment of my imagination, a flash at the corner of my eye. Could have been a possum or rat. Might have been a squirrel. Maybe even a puny fox, mutated raccoon, lanky groundhog or mole, whatever that is. Hey, I grew up in New York City where the only wildlife was literally kept behind bars. It took some time and what I thought immeasurable patience to finally reach the conclusion that what was dashing through the yard and into the underbrush across the street was a cat. A nondescript, dingy, dismal, fiercely and ferociously feral feline. I was intrigued.

It’s funny that I thought the initial encounter was so time consuming because five more years would pass before that critter worked up the courage to barely tolerate my presence in the doorway while she ate the kibble I’d been leaving as an enticement trail. Her gender established itself when she ballooned through several pregnancies. On multiple occasions she limped by, dragging a slashed thigh, one nearly severed ear dangling, her chin raw, dripping crimson, fur absent in large, ragged patches. But she always managed to survive even when Tennessee winters turned severe and icy, or the summer months brought drought, searing heat, or surprisingly frequent episodes of tornadic activity and fearsome thunderstorms. Her name came effortlessly; she was unsinkable, so, of course, I called her Molly.

Based on the authority of experts, I did everything wrong as far as Molly was concerned. Pawprints & Purrs, Inc., a not-for-profit organization devoted to feline health care, offers an elementary online course called “Cat Wrangling 101″ which focuses on feral cats. Much of the data presented is alarming: There are, it is conservatively estimated, between 40 million and 60 million homeless cats in America, with nearly 12 million of them euthanized in the United States each year. And instead of trying to domesticate a cat such as Molly, I discovered that the more socially acceptable approach would have been to enforce a “TVNR” management tactic – Trap, Vaccinate, Neuter and Return the animal to its original habitat, however humble. Quite honestly, that would never have worked with Molly…she is a clever girl and an escape-proof cage has not been designed which would keep her confined. I considered domesticating Molly a challenge and took it on as a personal dare.

Blatantly ignoring my presence, Molly eventually began lingering at the door stoop where I silently sat, moving little, casually glancing her way. She was quite homely, her coat matted, mottled and brindled in varieties of brown, black, burnt sienna, orange, beige. But her eyes, oh, those golden-green eyes, were a shade no crayon or paint could ever duplicate. She kept them hooded, suspiciously half closed, refusing to allow them to connect with mine; contact longer than a split second was her cue to flee.

Toward the end of year six, Molly became a household fixture. She appeared at scheduled meal times, groomed and basked in the sun while I chatted nonsense in her general direction, even ventured indoors for a quick tour every day. She generally avoided the presence of others and remained quick to snarl and bolt if annoyed or threatened. But instead of disappearing for days as she previously had, Molly would merely exit in a huff, returning in time for the next meal.

Looking back, I can’t recall the exact date or season when Molly decided to grace our home on a permanent basis. One day she came in and didn’t leave. Instead she staked a claim to a throw pillow made of gold-covered corduroy proving my theory that cats innately know how to present themselves against the most flattering background they can find. While begrudgingly tolerated, she permitted herself the luxury of a quick stroke along her spine. Weeks, then months passed and Molly’s security grew, evidenced by her choice of the prime window ledge for sunbathing and her assertion as the dominant alpha leader of the pride at meal time. Molly was in charge and that was that.

I knew for certain that Molly considered herself at home by several distinct behavior changes: Without any urging or coercion, she began sleeping on my bed, stretching along the length of my leg, turning as I did. Then she instigated more physical affection by bumping my chin or rubbing her face against my cheek during cuddle time. Molly also started talking to me and it didn’t take long to understand the subtle inflections and nuances of her voice. With a whisper,  she conveys hunger, loneliness, contentment or displeasure. A narrowing of those glorious eyes and a low, back-throated growl is potent enough to ward off the bounding enthusiasm of an over-rambunctious Jack Russell terror.  The quiet, steady rumble of her purr accompanied by the lightest tap imaginable from a small front paw translates into an expression of affection, appreciation and even sympathy.

Of even greater charm and delight, though, is how Molly treats the kittens which frequent our impromptu animal shelter. All little ones are subject to her maternal, but no longer reproductive, nature; each is played with furiously, chased and tumbled, but when Molly has had enough, she extends a long forepaw, pins her miniature counterpart down and washes it into submission from tiny velvety nose to tip o’ tail. Purring in tandem, the duo inevitably curl together for a well deserved catnap.

It’s been almost eight years since Molly was that flash in the corner of my eye. She is now in her prime, healthy, beautiful, majestic and graceful. She remains aloof around strangers and avoids confrontation, but does not hesitate to assert her independence and feline superiority. She loves and is dearly loved in return; there’s nothing that can change her indomitable spirit. Through every family crisis or emergency – a tornado, house fire, financial insecurity, an almost empty larder, she has remained a dependable and loyal friend. Simply and clearly put, our Molly truly is unsinkable!


Debra Van Way
Debra Van Way6 years ago

Thank you for your story about Molly.

Shawn L.
Shawn L.7 years ago

I think someone needs to spay Ms Turley because such disregard for the good that others do because of a mistake unknowingly made, which in my opinion is not as huge as others make it seem, shouldn't be allowed to continue procreating either. We should be supporting people who have a kind enough heart to help even one animal in need. She did the best she could with the best knowledge she had and Molly loves her. You should be so lucky to find a true love with an animal that way. And no, nothing anyone says after this comment in the negative will bother me in the least, so you may as well save the typing. I stated my peace, end of discussion for me. But I sincerely hope I do NOT run into more of Ms Turley's comments in the future if they are going to be so judgmental of good deeds. And I am now judging her by her deeds, and I deem her unsuitable.

Steven V.
Steven V7 years ago

As a kid; our old Tomcat brought his feral girlfriend home; he eventually left; but she stayed; being the adventerous sort of kid; I eventually caught her, & mauled (alot of rubbing, & scratching her ears/back) her into submission. She stayed around for several years; she was an outdoor cat; she eventually disappeared, but we had one of her kittens; who in turn; when she disappeared left behind a kitten; this happened for several generations over 14-16yrs; we always had a surviving kitten when the mother eventually disappeared.....

Neil H.
Neil H.7 years ago

Whatever the"experts" decree is the best method for dealing with feral cats will surely be blown appart by the cats themselves,cats are as individual as we are and only they know what is best for else could Molly survive out in the world for so long.Is that Molly in the picture? she is beautiful and the smaller cat is the double of "my" cat Mindy.

Maria Hughes

Janet just forget the nay sayers their negative comments. In reality the out come of your efforts is what counts. Keep up the great job you have done and enjoy Molly to the fullest.

Janet Garey
Janet G7 years ago

LOL!! Would you settle for some catnip brownies?

But I gotta' point out that Ms. Turley did bring some very important information to light about the extreme need for responsible pet ownership in regard to neutering. I've been doing a lot of research about the feral cat population problem & it's shocking. Keep an eye out for some forthcoming articles about the fate of innumerable cats whose owners neglect to sterilize them! Thanks for your comments :)

Prevailing Wind
Past Member 7 years ago

Golly. I wish I could be as smart & perfect at Ms. Turley.

Hey, Janet...may I have some bon-bons, too?

Glyn P.
Glyn P7 years ago

We have two cats which we cherish . They are the same age , about two , yet not related . Your story about Molly is outstanding and truly describes a cats moods . Our two cats ,one male & one female have their own personalities and moments of jealousy but always remain the best of buddies (thank God).
Thanx for your story I enjoyed it .

Annie Flanders
annie Flanders7 years ago

for the record, janet, i think you are AWESOME!

the turdies of the world can just go on being turdies.

you're correct. let sleeping dogs -- or in this case cats -- lie and let's move on.

stay the wonderful, caring cat person that you are.

blessings to you and yours.

V.R. W.
V.R. W7 years ago

These self-righteous, self-appointed "experts" make me feel like puking. Janet, you did a great job and shared a heartfelt and gentle tale of love for a creature in need.