This is our old cat Anthrax, named such because cats can act as an early warning detector for Anthrax spores, much in the same way that miners can use canaries to detect the buildup of methane in a mine.
She was the smartest cat I've ever seen in my life and incredibly loyal. She was abandoned when a renter down the street moved away and didn't want her anymore so they just let her behind. She started hanging around at our house since my kids were nice to it, unlike some of the other local kids.
My kids begged to keep her, so I said ok but she would be an outdoor cat. The neighborhood had a bad problem with a mouse infestation because of a field next door. They were getting into everyone's gardens, garages and sometimes homes. We also had moles digging up all our lawns. This cat singlehandedly cleared them all out over the course of a single summer. For that reason, everyone in the neighborhood loved this cat, and regularly told us so.
The cat knew our car, and when we came home no matter where she was she sprinted across the neighborhood so she was waiting by the car door as we stepped out. If we went for a walk or went to a neighbor's house, this cat followed right on our heels the whole way, and waited by the curb until we came back out of the house to follow us home.
We bought her a small dog house as a shelter in bad weather, but when winter came the kids begged to bring her inside during a blizzard. We arranged a small bed for her on the couch out of an old bathrobe of mine. I told the kids as long as she stayed on that bed, she could stay inside. By the end of that afternoon, that cat understood that she was ONLY allowed in that one spot if she was to be inside. After that, whenever we let her in, she went straight for that little bed and remained there until she was ready to back outside, then just got up and waited by the door until someone let her out. Sometimes she'd stay in that spot for as long as 15 or 16 hours, just napping and bathing intermittently.
We brought her with us when we moved, she rapidly adjusted to the new surroundings as the new neighborhood had open fields on three sides where she could catch mice. This went fine for about seven months, then she didn't return home one day. During the next week a half dozen other cats from homes on our street also disappeared. We think she got caught and eaten by a fox. It turns out there are a few living in some open fields a little less than a mile away.
She would fight any cat that trespassed in our yard. After every fight, the yard would be so full of tufts of fur that it looked like a sorority had just had a pillow fight with feather pillows. But in every case, the fur was from the other cat. She never once lost a fight or even so much as walked away with a single scratch. However she was smart (or experienced) enough not to mess with a skunk. One evening I heard a loud crunching and went out to see what it was. A skunk was a few inches away from my foot, happily munching on her cat food. I closed the door as fast as you could blink, looked out the peephole and Anthrax was lounging on a lawn chair right next to the skunk, as though the skunk was her best friend and she hadn't a care in the world. She was tough as nails, but apparently not tough enough to win against a fox.
We'll miss Anthrax.
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