The coolest thing about having a balcony that’s more or less at ground level (it’s in a bit of a trench around the building) is that I sometimes get visits from neighborhood cats. Many of the cats that have lived on and around the apartment building’s grounds have been strays who were fairly aloof, but some are cats that tenants keep (against the building rules) and then abandon when they move away. Those cats are used to being around people and are friendlier — not to mention being accomplished beggars.
I’m afraid I never got pictures of the first two I got to know. The first was a beautiful ginger tabby who was incredibly friendly; she just showed up while I was sitting on my balcony, curled up in my lap, and fell asleep there. And once I needed to stand up, I just held her in my arms for a long time and she was more content to be there than any other cat I’ve ever known. I called her Angela or Angie-Cat, after a former college friend of mine with the same gorgeous red-gold hair color and a similarly friendly manner. Sadly, Angie-Cat never came back after that one time.
The next was kind of a scruffy-looking grey tabby with a clouded eye. She was quite the beggar, always coming by and meowing for food and attention. I took to calling her Mandy, which was short for “demanding.” She showed up periodically for a few months and then stopped coming by, which has turned out to be a pretty regular pattern for the local cats. I hope they’re just wandering to other territories or ideally finding new homes.
Somehow, virtually all the cats who come to visit me are female. I wish I had that kind of luck with humans.
My favorite feline visitor was another grey tabby, but a much more beautiful one I called Gracie. Here she is at her most coquettish (click on any picture to enlarge):
Or maybe that’s this one:
Isn’t she gorgeous? I liked her because she reminded me of a cross between my family’s two cats, Shadow and Tasha (who was still with us at the time). You can see photos of them both at my website’s Kitty Pictures page. Gracie’s base grey shade looked a lot like Shadow’s and her features and behavior were not unlike Tasha’s. And she was the friendliest neighborhood cat I’ve known in all my time here, coming by almost daily. Well, every single day since I started putting out water and an occasional bit of chicken for her. For a while, it was almost like having a cat of my own. Except she kind of took turns residing on various near-ground-level balconies on this side of the building, and one other had a water dish out for her. She was quite the effective beggar herself.
It took me a while to hit upon the perfect name for her. Her color reminded me of Shadow, and it occurred to me that I sometimes called Shadow “George” (an old family inside joke based on the Looney Tunes Abominable Snowman, who in turn was a pastiche of Lenny from Of Mice and Men: “I will call him George! And I will hug him and squeeze him and pet him and love him and…”). So it struck me — George and Gracie! Plus she’s grey, see?
Did I mention she was really friendly?
Gracie eventually stopped showing up, then came back once a couple of months later, and I haven’t seen her since. I hope she found a good home. I’d be surprised if someone didn’t adopt her. If I could’ve moved to a place that allowed cats, I might’ve done so myself.
I had a few other visitors during the time Gracie was around. Here’s a tomcat who came by once, the only male cat who ever came within my camera range:
This next one was a particularly diminutive cat born and raised on the grounds.
She probably didn’t get very big because of the poor quality of food being provided. I learned once that the maintenance man fed some of the grounds-living cats with bologna sandwiches, which wouldn’t come anywhere near satisfying the protein requirements of an obligate carnivore such as a feline (cats need 5 times as much animal protein per day as dogs, IIRC — in proportion to their weight, I assume).
This little one (whom I came to think of as “Tablet,” i.e. a diminutive tabby) had interesting whorls on her sides. That’s called a classic tabby pattern, I gather, while Gracie (like my Tasha) was more of a mackerel tabby. But look what Tablet had on her starboard flank:
She’s in Starfleet!
Unlike this disreputable character:
This big calico lived across the street and sometimes came over, especially when I had food out for Gracie. She often muscled Gracie away and took the food for herself, a habit I tried to discourage. At times, she could be pretty affectionate, letting me pet her, but then she would unpredictably attack me. And not the playful kind of attack, but in earnest. I got some substantial scratches from her once or twice.
Since she had a split personality, going from friendly to violent, I started calling her Niki/Jessica, after Ali Larter’s multiple-personality character on Heroes. Niki-slash-Jessica quickly got shortened to the highly appropriate name Slash. Which became Slash Calico, which sounded like a hard-boiled detective name, so I ended up calling her Slash Calico, Cat Detective. Even though she was hardly on the side of law and justice.
Anyway, because of her bad attitude, I kind of had to shun Slash Calico, Cat Detective for my own safety (one doesn’t want to risk a bite from an unfamiliar cat, or even a familiar one) and for that of my other feline visitors that she tended to bully. She was kind of the exception to the rule that I never met a cat I didn’t like. Except it was kind of too late; Gracie’s visits tapered off before Slash Calico’s did, and I was afraid the bully might’ve run her out of town.
Anyway, I had a dry spell on my balcony for a while after that, but finally I started getting visits from another cat. This one was very aloof at first, always on edge, darting away when I reached for her. She was a small grey tabby, and at first I thought she was Tablet, but photographic comparison proved otherwise:
Plus she was too big to be Tablet. I took to calling her Edgy. But over time, she got more used to me and finally let me pet her, and it wasn’t long before we got to this stage:
Which ended up happening almost every day for a while, until I discovered that Edgy is one of those cats who drool when they’re happy. And she must’ve been really happy. Ick. Call me overly squeamish, but the excessiveness of it made me wonder if there were some health concerns, and it’s probably a good idea to err on the side of caution when dealing with unfamiliar cats (I’d say strange cats, but that’s a tautology). So I kinda made myself less available, and Edgy stopped coming around after a while, but I’ve seen her intermittently since then.
But when it comes to feline presence, my side of the apartment complex has nothing on the other side. There are more bushes and trees there, it’s away from the road, so it’s a more amenable place to supporting stray cats. I often go out of my way to walk by there to look for cats and kittens. That’s where I originally met Mandy. I usually don’t have my camera when I’m there, but one day I saw something so adorable I raced to get my camera and document it, though my lack of zoom capability didn’t help: