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 beena squirrel. Maybe evena puny fox,mutated raccoon,lanky groundhog or mole, whatever that is. Hey, I grew up in New York City where the only wildlifewas literallykept 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 andferociously 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 enticementtrail.Her gender established itself when she ballooned through several pregnancies.Onmultiple occasions she limped by,dragging a slashed thigh, one nearly severed eardangling, her chinraw, dripping crimson, furabsentinlarge,ragged patches. But she always managedto survive even when Tennessee winters turned severe and icy, orthe 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 ofexperts, 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 isconservatively 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, Idiscovered that the moresocially acceptable approach would have been to enforcea “TVNR” managementtactic – 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 andan 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.

Blatantlyignoring my presence, Molly eventually beganlingering at the door stoop whereI silentlysat, moving little, casually glancing her way. She was quite homely, her coat matted,mottled and brindledinvarieties of brown, black, burnt sienna, orange, beige. But her eyes, oh, those golden-green eyes, werea shadeno crayon or paint could ever duplicate.She kept them hooded, suspiciouslyhalfclosed,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, Mollybecame a household fixture. She appeared at scheduled meal times, groomed andbasked in the sunwhile I chatted nonsensein her general direction,even ventured indoors for a quick tour every day. Shegenerallyavoided the presence of others andremained quick to snarlandbolt if annoyed orthreatened.But instead of disappearing for days as shepreviously had, Molly would merely exit in a huff, returningin time for the next meal.

Looking back, I can’t recall the exact date or season when Molly decided to graceour homeona permanent basis.One day she came inand didn’t leave. Instead she staked a claim toa throw pillowmade ofgold-covered corduroy proving my theory that cats innately know how to present themselves against the most flattering background they can find.While begrudgingly tolerated, shepermitted herself the luxury ofa quick stroke along her spine.Weeks, then months passed and Molly’s security grew, evidencedbyher choiceofthe prime window ledge for sunbathing and her assertion as the dominant alpha leader of the prideat meal time. Molly was in charge and that was that.

I knew for certain that Mollyconsidered herself at homebyseveral distinct behavior changes:Without any urging or coercion, she began sleeping on my bed, stretchingalong the length of my leg, turning as I did. Thensheinstigated more physical affectionby bumping my chin or rubbing her face against my cheek during cuddle time. Molly also started talking to meand 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 ofthose gloriouseyes and a low, back-throated growlis potent enough to ward off the bounding enthusiasm of anover-rambunctious Jack Russell terror. The quiet, steady rumble of her purr accompanied by the lightest tap imaginable froma small front paw translates into an expressionof affection, appreciation and even sympathy.

Of even greater charm and delight, though, is how Molly treats the kittens which frequent our impromptu animal shelter.Alllittle onesare subject to her maternal, but no longer reproductive, nature; each is played with furiously, chased and tumbled, but when Molly has had enough, sheextends a long forepaw, pinsher miniature counterpart down and washes it into submission fromtiny 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 wasthat 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 herindependence 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 hasremained adependable and loyal friend. Simply and clearly put, our Molly truly is unsinkable!

56 comments

Debra Van Way
Debra Van Way7 years ago

Thank you for your story about Molly.

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Shawn L.
Shawn L.8 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.

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Steven V.
Steven V8 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.....

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Neil H.
Neil H.8 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 them.how 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.

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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.

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Janet Garey
Janet Garey8 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 :)

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Prevailing Wind
Past Member 8 years ago

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

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

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Glyn P.
Glyn P8 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 .

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Annie Flanders
annie Flanders8 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.

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V.R. W.
V.R. W8 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.

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