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The Great Cat War of 1998

I've always had cats in my adult life. After retiring from the Air Force, I ended up with three cats and a wife, living in Mountain View, California. 

All three cats were rescues. All my cats have always been rescues. The three sharing life with me then was Rocky, a European tabby with striking black swirls on gray fur, named Rocky because he fought and survived, the only one of his litter to make it; Jade, a scrawny domestic shorthair, then almost nineteen, her nine lives used up and now living on someone else's lives, and the street tough, Sammy. Unneutered and left to fend for himself in military housing, Sammy was a long-haired black terror. Humans, cats and dogs all feared him, but he and I bcame friends, and neutered Sammy revealed himself to be sweet and intelligent. 

We lived in a cul de sac the year of the cat war. New neighbors moved in next door, bringing two cats with them. Grace was a chubby and shy short hair black girl. Handsome and sweet, Alexander was an orange and white long hair charmer. 

Grace mostly stayed to herself but all the cats got along great, and Sammy and Alexander became good buddies. Alexander practically adopted us, staying with us, joining the others on top of me when I took a nap or read. Rocky and I had a long history of taking walks together, and now the others joined us as we went down the quiet suburb block at night and returned, four cats and me. Rocky led, with Sammy and Alexander flanking him and old Jade sort of behind and off to one side. This was the formation. They listened to my steps behind them and adjusted course. I would stop, to see what happened, and they would stop, waiting for me to resume. If I turned and headed the other way, they hurried by to take up position. When I was ready to go home, I would say, "Let's go home," and the group would wheel, take up position, and lead me back home.  Sometimes, while working in formation with these animals, I sang, to the tune of "Jets" from "West Side Story", "When you're a cat, you're a cat all the way...."

Well, the neighbor, Pat, didn't like the fact that her cat liked our home better than her home. Pat made the assumption that the cats belonged to my wife and accused her of trying to steal her cat. I wasn't home at the time but my wife said Pat was rude and abrasive. The wife was told not to take her cat any longer, and if my wife did take her cat, Pat would call the police. 

We weren't taking the cat, of course. We kept the patio door open six inches as a passage and he went in and out with our cats at will. 

The charges infuriated my wife, especially since Pat refused to hear her side. My wife told me that we were no longer to let Alexander come in and stay, which I, of course, ignored. I wasn't closing the door and if Alexander came in, I wasn't tossing him out.  That angered my wife more. A cold war settled into the cul de sac.

Jade, being old, didn't wander much. She went missing one day. We walked around, calling and calling -- and calling. No Jade. Yet...sometimes...we thought we heard her meow. She, although eleven pounds wet, had a strident, adamant meow, and she was talkative. 

Our neighbors were home. Their doors were closed. My wife was convinced they were holding Jade captive, out of spite. So I went and knocked...well, what do you know, Jade appeared to be accidently 'locked into' their bedroom. They had no idea she was there. They were so sorry. 

All of that was said with a smirk. I laughed it off. My wife did not. The cats ignored it all, continuing as they had. 

Pat and her husband moved before a few more months passed, a move planned before the cat war commenced. Although it had been tense, no blows were ever exchanged. In a post script, a few days after moving, Pat called me. Grace was missing, had I seen her? I had not. I was sorry to hear about it. I would keep my eye out for her and call Pat if Grace showed up. 

Grace showed up the next day, hiding in a box in my garage. I happened to catch her sneak into the house to eat and then tracked her as she returned to her hidey hole. I called Pat, and Pat rushed over to retrieve her cat. I told my wife about it later. 

"I would have kept her," she said. "At least for a few days, and make her suffer."

But I was happy to have the cat returned to her person. To this day, though, I only need to mention Pat, Grace, Jade, or Alexander to set off a storm. 

Naturally, they're never mentioned.