Sunday, July 08, 2007


A Very New York Cat Story

I came home from nearly two weeks in California to find a stack of mail containing a letter addressed to: "Tenant." I opened the letter and found the following (paraphrased).

"Dear New Tenant.

I am your neighbor across the street in the J . . . House and have sometimes seen your cat on your window ledge looking out at the view. Oddly, last night around midnight, I saw a white cat with a black tail when I was adjusting my blinds before retiring. It was moving from the basement exit/entrance side of your building to and through the front garden area and then proceeding north. It then saunted toward X . . . Avenue and I could not see more. This morning I tried to alert your neighbor, but she was not availalbe. I also tried to telephone the superintendant from your next door house, but that proved to be an outdated contact.

I am sorry not to be more helpful if it is indeed your cat that is missing. If it is, at least you have a vague idea of the direction in which it was going and you may be able to put up some posters in the area. Best wishes. Sincerely yours, Mrs. S . . . "

The letter was nearly two weeks old by the time I found it, and included a phone number, which I quickly dialed. No answer. I gave the matter some thought. The handwriting suggested that the writer was older. She was also educated, probably alone and an animal lover. And quite possibly a book lover as well. It came to me that the best thing to do would be for one of the cats to write back to her himself. Here was his response (again, slightly paraphrased).

Dear Ms. S . . .

Thank you very much for sending a letter to my parents inquiring about my safety. Thank you also for admiring me in the window. As a very proud cat, I am very happy that someone has noticed me.

Marie just came home yesterday from a trip to California where she was looking after her parents and found your letter. Of course I kept her very busy last night and this morning because I hadn’t been played with for about two weeks. After she was done clipping my nails, she tried to give you a call to thank you, but was unable to reach you. So I decided to put paws to keyboard and send you a letter.

I wanted to reassure you that I am just fine and that I have not escaped from the apartment, though when we first moved here, I did have some adventures with the elevator when no one was looking. Fortunately I survived and was brought back into the apartment, and I haven’t tried to ride the elevator since. I had never seen an elevator before, and just thought it was some kind of closet into which Marie periodically likes to disappear. I had no idea that it moved!

I also have a brother, named Panda, who you might see in the window. He is also black and white and a little bit bigger (though I can still beat him up). He is also safe and sound in the apartment. We all like it here very much and are very pleased that our parents bought this new apartment just for us!

I am very sorry that some other cat might be lost. I was actually born in Harlem, then rescued by someone in Astoria before I finally came to live with my parents. I know it is terrible to be a lost kitten or cat in New York. You must be a lover of cats to have been so concerned about me, and I appreciate the sentiment very much.

I am enclosing one of my favorite portraits. In addition to liking windows, I am also very fond of sitting inside things: trash cans, baskets, boxes, etc. Here I am as a kitten lounging in a basket.

Please take care of yourself in these hot days.

Your friend,

Georgie the cat

Both Georgie and I were feeling good about ourselves after this letter. Georgie had had the chance to express his unique cat voice to someone who would probably appreciate it, and I was happy to have taken care of something that had been overlooked in my absence.

But then, the next day, I received the following (with Humane Society stickers and return labels):

Dear Tenant,

I have not seen your cat sitting in your window sill for the past two weeks and when I wrote to you about a possible problem when I saw a white cat in front of your building around midnight. Therefore, I don't know the outcome.

Perhaps you were planning to drop me a postcard or telephone to thank me for my concern, but haven't gotten around to it because you are very busy. I am just old fashioned enough to expect--and miss--an acknowledgment fo the time I took from my own routines to alert you.

For your convenience, I have enclosd an SAS card and envelope you can mail back to me. Just check one of the choices indicated on the card.

And now for the card, featuring kittens sitting on a window sill:

Please check one:

( ) Thank you for your time and concern. Fortunately, our cat is NOT missing.

( ) Thank you for your time and concern. Unfortunately we are still hoping to find our cat


Oh, the ill bred younger generation. Thoughtless. Lacking manners. Not brought up to say please and thank you. That's us. Yep.

Except, I'd like to think it isn't. Not really. I mean, here I am marrying this polite Scotsman and all. Not some valley dude who says, "Whoops! Whatever, dude."

I felt terrible. I wondered how best to respond. I imagined our letters crossing paths.

The Scotsman took over the matter and responded with a nice, polite, terse letter. He is, not surprisingly, the one who is better at corporate politics.

We really appreciate your concern for our cat Georgie. I am sorry that your letter was overlooked over the last two weeks while Marie was out of town. We found it on Thursday and Marie wrote you a letter of thanks from Georgie (posted by USPS, so it may arrive Monday).

Anyhow, all is well – some other cat must have been seen proceeding up XXth St. We appreciate your kind concern. Georgie has been lying low in the heat but hopefully will be making a re-appearance in our window sometime soon. Have a nice summer.

Best Regards,

I actually worried all weekend whether or not Georgie's letter had been lost in the mail. Would I have to resend it? Georgie had even gone to the trouble of signing his letter with a paw print. Would we need to re-ink his little foot?

Finally, another card, this time on stationary featuring birds.
Dear George Paws,

Delightful letter . . . well worth waiting for. You definitely would have been "tops" in my creative writing class (!!! She taught creative writing!!!). Your enclosed portrait (so photogenic) will sit atop my mantle with other favorite momentos.

I am glad your parents found your lovely apartment and hope you all enjoy it for a long, long time. Your friend. H . . .

PS Sorry about the penmanship. My paws are a bit stiff.

PSS Don't chase the birds

Georgie read the card and said of the PSS, "Don't close the blinds."

"No," I said. "She wrote, don't chase the birds."

"No, she wrote 'don't close the blinds.'"

We are still arguing about the last line. But Georgie does occasionally try to wave across the street. I imagine he may send Ms. S . . . a little packet every now and then. Maybe even a book if he finds one that he thinks Mrs. S . . . will enjoy. Certainly a holiday card. With another photo.

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