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Rutledge: A tale of two Christmas kittens with one tail between them

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Sometime before Christmas, while my wife and I were dating, I brought her an abandoned kitten that had wandered off the street and into my office. More than 20 years later, another abandoned kitten wandered into Sharon’s office. It’s almost déjà vu all over again.

I do not actually recall the time of year when that first kitten appeared in my office. I can say it definitely was before Christmas, which works for this seasonal column.

We named that previous cat Fletcher. The new kitten has been given a different name, but I still call it Fletcher. He doesn’t seem to mind.

In her memoir, “Zero to Eighty Over Unpaved Roads,” my friend Evelyn McNeill told how her tobacco-farming family owned several mules over the years, “all of whom were named Rhody.” In memory of Evelyn, I will continue to call this cat — and any future cats that wander into my life — Fletcher.

The first Fletcher was a black and white tuxedo cat. He arrived malnourished and stunted with a stump of a tail obviously shortened by another animal. I have since read that mother cats will sometimes get confused while cleaning a kitten and mistake its tail for a snack.

No wonder Fletcher ran away from home.

He moved with us to North Carolina in 2001 and was there for the early years of raising three daughters. By all accounts, Fletcher enjoyed his life in Winterville so long as no little girls tried to roll him over or rub his belly or pull him into bed for snuggle time.

Carly, our oldest, was twice bitten attempting to pull Fletcher into her bed for snuggle time. There were trust issues, I explained, most likely due to his troubled childhood. After the second bite, Carly tearfully groaned, “tell me again about Fletcher’s childhood.”

After 12 years, Fletcher went out one day and never came back. That happens with cats. They come into your life from nowhere, and then leave just as abruptly.

Unlike the old Fletcher, the new one is more white than black. He is with tail and without trust issues. Like his predecessor, he was fur and bones when Sharon came to his rescue. Two visits to a veterinarian put him on the path to healthy living — proving once again, there is no such thing as a free cat.

Also like his predecessor, this Fletcher will live mostly outside just as soon as he gets a little bigger and the vet makes one more repair. The kitten already has communicated to me that he has no interest in being a house cat — although his survival skill of eating stink bugs could certainly be put to good use.

We know the new Fletcher is a Christmas kitten because he thinks the Christmas tree is provided purely for his enjoyment. No fragile ornaments this year. When he is not tormenting the tree, the kitten stares mournfully out the window.

Our mixed mutt, Max, believes Christmas kittens should get their every Christmas wish. All Max wants for Christmas is a pair of thumbs — so he can open that window.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com.

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