Sandy is a large orange tabby with cotton-ball paws and eyes the colour of peridot, a semiprecious stone that is lighter than emerald and clearer and brighter than jade.


Sandy appeared at my back door one evening, wild, wary, and hungry. I offered him food, and he watched me until I moved away.

Sandy had obviously been someone's pet, because he seemed to be in pretty good shape. His eyes were clear, and he showed no scratches or nicks on his face or ears. He was clean and his weight seemed healthy.

Although he was wary and even frightened, he didn't show the terror of a wild animal, who would move out of range yet not out of sight. But Sandy ate like a stray, devouring his food with the cautious desperation of a creature who had neither a home nor the assurance of his next meal.

As I watched him eat, I wondered what had happened to him. What cruelty or neglect had brought him to my doorstep?

After that first night, Sandy showed up every evening. He related to me under the implicit feline contract: He would grace me with his presence in return for food and my slavish devotion.

Since Sandy was such a handsome, well-mannered gentleman, I naturally complied. I looked forward to his visits and enjoyed watching him. He apparently looked forward to his meals, too, because he always showed up ravenously hungry.

Sandy seemed to be growing more comfortable with me. He began to stand his ground rather than back away, and sometimes he started to eat before I closed the door. Eventually he must have begun to associate me with food, if not friendship, because he would look me straight in the eye and approach, waiting patiently for his dish. If he was in a particularly mellow mood, he would let me stroke his ear while he ate.

Over time, Sandy and I developed an amicable understanding of each other. With a grain of trust and an ocean of fear, he would arrive each night to devour my offerings. In return, he offered nothing more than his attendance.

I felt flattered when he began to eat without waiting for me to withdraw. Sometimes he even stayed after his meal to wash himself or take a nap. His company delighted me, and he seemed reasonably comfortable. He sensed that he was in a safe place, but experience had taught this cat to maintain his independence.

Then one night Sandy brought me the most remarkable gift. He again appeared at the back door, wild, wary, and hungry. But this time he seemed more cautious than usual, holding me in his gaze as if to say, "Don't approach." His glance flicked away for a moment. That's when I noticed that he'd arrived with a companion; a tiny kitten in a neat tuxedo scampered nearby.

I put out a dish of food. Sandy, lion-fierce, watched me as he guarded his charge, the gentle kitten. Sandy didn't eat, and his eyes hardly left me. His gaze warned me not to interfere with the kitten's mealtime.

Sandy was hungry, of course; he was always hungry. But he didn't eat. The kitten ate, and Sandy watched, neatly feline-folded and vigilant. Only after the kitten had finished her dinner and scrambled off to enjoy a safe space and a full belly did Sandy approach his own food.

Looking back at that incident, I imagine that Sandy knew I'd given him something, even if only some food and a place to stay whenever he wanted it. I know he gave me something far more precious: He showed me how beings can share with other beings.

He'd found a hungry baby animal and chosen to share what little he had in this world with her. With extraordinary generosity and compassion, Sandy offered his food and safety to the kitten. And in the process, he taught me a lesson in fellowship.


Carole S. Cahill, from City Island, New York, is a sometime actor and therapist, a long time writer, and a lifetime lover of animals.

Excerpt from ANGEL CATS: Divine Messengers of Comfort by Allen and Linda Anderson (New World Library, 2004). Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

One Cat is Company

"One cat is company.
Two cats are a conspiracy. 
Three cats is an attempted takeover.
Four or more cats is a complete coup!"

Shona Steele (Australia)

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