“Wait a minute.” I held my finger to my lips. “We don’t want to scare him.”
I inched toward the cat. “Hey, kitty-kitty.” Big green eyes stared back at me. “It’s okay, kitty.”
The cat straightened and meowed. Slowly, I reached for him. His body arched as I slid my hand across his back. He was friendly. I scooped him up and carried him back to the girls. He purred every step of the way.
“Don’t let him go! I’ll get him a piece of ham,” Taylor said as she ran to the house. But this cat had no desire to go anywhere. He was quite content with all the attention.
“Can we keep him, Mom? Please?” Madison clasped her hands together as if in prayer.
“You know Dad is allergic. There’s just no way.” The cat rubbed his forehead against my leg. Surely, this sweet kitty belonged to someone. “His family is probably looking for him,” I said. “We don’t want to get too attached.”
But the girls ignored that advice. By the end of the night, they had named him Toby.
We checked with neighbors, hoping to find his owner. Everyone knew about the “friendly, orange cat,” but no one knew where he came from.
By the end of summer, our next-door neighbors decided to adopt him. It was the perfect arrangement. Each day, he came by for a visit. Every night, the neighbors brought him inside. They even called him Toby.
While Toby charmed his way into our hearts, he also wanted to make his way into our home, especially on cold, dreary days.
“I think we have a stalker.” I smiled at Madison and pointed to the window. Toby propped his paws up against the glass and gazed into the house.
“It’s freezing out there,” Madison said. “Can’t we bring him inside?”
Toby peered in hopefully. I shrugged. “I suppose,” I said. “Just keep him on the rug—and be sure to vacuum when you put him back out.”
Madison arranged a blanket on the rug and made him a bed. Toby snuggled in, his paws pushing in and out with a slow and steady rhythm. “See,” Madison whispered, “he’s not hurting anyone.”
“If Dad sneezes during supper, this is the last time Toby comes in.”
Dad didn’t sneeze, so as the temperature turned colder, we became bolder.
“I suppose,” I said, crossing my arms. She and Toby disappeared downstairs. I followed later.
About halfway through the movie, Madison jumped up and pressed the mute button. “Is that the garage door?”
My middle daughter gasped. “Dad’s home! Put Toby out!”
Rather than boot the cat outside, Madison scooted him into a closet just as we heard footsteps coming down the stairs.
“Hey, I’m home,” Curt called out. I pictured Toby, confused and stuck in a dark closet.
Please don’t meow. Please don’t meow.
Curt walked across the room, stopped by the closet and leaned against the door.
“What’s for supper?”
“Um… chili,” I said. “It’s ready. Let’s eat.” As Curt turned toward the stairs, a little white paw reached out from under the door. But Curt hadn’t seen it. Madison and I looked at each other and exhaled in relief.
“Why is this cat running into our house?”
Uh-oh. My phone buzzed again.
"Obviously someone has been letting it in the house. It acts like it owns the place.”
I leaned over to Taylor. “We’ve been busted. Dad knows we brought Toby into the house.”
I shoved the phone into my purse. “Let’s just say that Toby let the cat out of the bag.”
My girls and I had done a good job keeping that little family secret. The only problem was, we forgot to tell Toby. In the end, we learned a valuable lesson: Tell the truth—or someone will tell it for you. Even if that someone is a friendly, orange cat.